Corozal is the name of both a district (equivalent to a “county”) of Belize as well as the district capital, often distinguished by being called Corozal Town. Corozal District is the northernmost district of Belize and borders the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. The district capital, Corozal Town, lies about nine miles south of the Mexican border and 80 miles north of Belize City.
One of the last areas of Belize to be inhabited in colonial times, the first immigrants were Mestizos who fled the fighting in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula in the 1840s. Corozal Town is located on the former site of an ancient Maya city, commonly referred to today as Santa Rita, of which a small, intact fragment survives. Across the bay from Corozal is the ancient Maya site of Cerros (Spanish for “hills”), now mostly mounds, but archeologists have excavated several temples, ball courts, canals, and plazas along with five jade pendants. Jade was a sacred stone for the ancient Maya who believed it had mystical powers.
Today, Corozal has an estimated population of 13,500 people, including a significant population of expats and retirees. The town has three churches, a library, a hospital, and a town square replete with sidewalk cafes, shops, and restaurants. Corozal lies directly on the coast and has several beaches. Many residents of Corozal Town are native Spanish speakers, but the city is famous for the harmonious blend of different cultures.
Nearby attractions include the Maya ruins at Cerros, the enormous Shipstern Nature Reserve, the popular tourist island of Ambergris Caye, and offshore activities in and around the Belize Barrier Reef, including fishing, sailing, snorkeling, and diving.
The weather in Corozal is generally similar to the rest of Belize, although the town is favorably positioned to receive both refreshing offshore breezes as well as air currents that come in from more northern latitudes that help keep humidity and excessive heat at bay during the warmest periods of the year.
Roughly half of all the residents of Corozal District reside in Corozal Town. The rest of the district is predominantly agricultural, originally principally focused on sugar farming and sugar production, but now more diversified with other crops like papaya. Despite being relatively far off the normal tourist path, tourism is increasingly becoming important to the Corozal economy, especially the Commercial Free Zone that lies on the Belize-Mexico border.
Cerros Sands is a master-planned, gated community popular with expats and retirees located in Corozal, Belize on the beautiful Chetumal Bay.
A History of Corozal
Corozal District is the northernmost district in Belize, and it shares a border with Mexico’s Quintana Roo state, but it was one of the later areas of the country to be settled. Approximately 35,000 people live in Corozal District, 10,000 of which live in or near the capital of Corozal Town.
Most of the original inhabitants of Corozal District were either Maya people or indigenous people of Mexico called “Mestizos” (Spanish for “mixed”) who fled the Caste Wars of the mid-19th century.
The name Corozal comes from the Spanish word for the cohune palm trees that thrive in this region. The name has much greater meaning for the local Maya people, however, as the cohune palm tree is a symbol of fertility. And Corozal District is one of the most fertile agricultural areas in Belize, the primary crop being sugar cane.
Corozal District has been inhabited for at least 4,000 years and served as an important crossroads for the ancient Maya people. Today’s Corozal Town was built over the ruins of an ancient Maya city now called Santa Rita, but archeologists believe its original name was Chetumal. Corozal Town lies just nine miles from the Mexican border town of Chetumal City. Just adjacent to Corozal Town lies the coastal ancient Maya center of Cerros (“Maya Hill”) that is now partially underwater.
The first Europeans to live in Corozal District were English loggers who came to the region in search of logwood and dyewood, both important plants in creating clothing dyes. The jagged coastline and multiple lagoons and bays were also used by English privateers who used the area as a base of operations from which to conduct raids on Spanish galleons laden with treasure.
Originally, Corozal was under the jurisdiction of a Spanish governor in what is today’s Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. English loggers were allowed to operate in the area as it was considered too remote and inaccessible to properly patrol. By 1763, the presence of Englishmen in Corozal District was formally permitted by Treaty of Paris, although their numbers were very limited.
Today, Corozal Town is considered one of the loveliest urban areas in the country. An impressive mural on the side of Corozal’s town hall depicts the vibrant and long history of the area.