San Ignacio, Belize
|San Ignacio-Santa Elena|
|Twin Towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena|
San Ignacio Town
|Nickname(s): Cayo, Cayo Town, Twin Towns|
|Motto: The Best Come From The West|
|Constituency||Cayo Central, Cayo North, Cayo North East|
|• Mayor||Earl Trapp (UDP)|
|• Area Representatives||Omar Figueroa (UDP)
Rene Montero (UDP)
Elvin Penner (UDP)
|• Total||6 km2 (2.5 sq mi)|
|Elevation||76 m (249 ft)|
|Time zone||Central (UTC-6)|
San Ignacio and Santa Elena are towns in western Belize. San Ignacio serves as the cultural-economic hub of Cayo District. It got its start from Mahogany and chicle production during British colonialism. Over time, it attracted different people from the surrounding areas, which led to the diverse population of the town at present day. San Ignacio is the largest settlement in Cayo District and the second-largest in the country overall after Belize City.
The town was originally named El Cayo by the Spanish. On October 19, 1904, El Cayo was officially declared a town by the government of British Honduras. In the past a creek ran between the Macal and the Mopan rivers one mile outside of San Ignacio going toward Benque Viejo. This creek then fulfilled the definition of an area of land completely surrounded by water and thus the name Cayo, "island". There was a big wooden bridge across this creek in the late 1940s, but since the creek eventually dried up the area was filled with limestone gravel and today there remains no evidence of its past existence. This demise of the creek, however, took away the distinction of the classification 'cayo' from the venerable western town of 'El Cayo' and returned it to a regular land mass no longer an island.
San Ignacio is situated on the banks of the Macal and Mopan Rivers, about 63 miles (101 km) west of Belize City and 22 miles (35 km) west of the country's capital, Belmopan. The town has a total area of approximately 2.5 square miles (6.5 km2).
View of San Ignacio, looking towards the Hawkesworth Bridge
The population is largely Mestizo and Kriol, with some Lebanese and Mopan. San Ignacio also boasts a fairly large Chinese population, most of whom emigrated from Guangzhou in waves in the mid-20th century. A sizable Mennonite community resides near San Ignacio. In 2009 the combined population was estimated at 20,000 people but a new census in 2010 counted only 9,925 inhabitants in San Ignacio proper, of whom 4,856 are males and 5,069 are females. The total number of households is 2,593 and the average household size is 3.8.
In recent years San Ignacio has absorbed the formerly separate village of Santa Elena. San Ignacio and its sister-town Santa Elena make up Belize's second largest urban area. The two towns are connected by Belize's only suspension bridge, the one-lane Hawkesworth Bridge across the Macal river, built in 1949. The two are collectively referred to as the "Twin Towns" although San Ignacio has a larger population.
San Ignacio is currently governed by a town council affiliated with the United Democratic Party (UDP). The mayor is Earl Trapp, also of the UDP. Town council elections are held every three years to elect the mayor and council. Both UDP and People's United Party (PUP) candidates participate in town elections. The next municipal elections are scheduled for March 2018.
At the national level, the San Ignacio/Santa Elena area is represented by three constituencies in the Belize House of Representatives, Cayo Central, Cayo North and Cayo North East. All three seats are currently held by the UDP.
San Ignacio has three main colleges. Sacred Heart College of Catholic denomination is the biggest and largest institution with both a high school and a junior college division. Eden Seventh Day Adventist High School and Saint Ignatius High School (Catholic) are also found here. Galen University was founded in 2003 and is located at Central Farm, a couple of minutes away from San Ignacio. The University of Belize also has an agricultural campus next to Galen.
The city is served by the San Ignacio Hospital and the Loma Luz Adventist hospital in Santa Elena. It also has various clinics, doctors and pharmacies scattered around town.
The area around San Ignacio is one of the most popular parts of the country for tourism. Nearby attractions include the ancient Maya ruins of Caracol, Xunantunich, Cahal Pech, and El Pilar, the Actun Tunichil Muknal cave, Chaa Creek Nature Reserve, and the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve.
Visitors can tour the Mayan ruins independently by foot or by car, or by participating in the many local tour companies that provide guided tours of the ruins.
- "Census 2010 Provisional Population and Households, by Sex and Major Geographic Divisions" (PDF). Statistical Institute of Belize. Retrieved 19 May 2011.
- "Chapter 87: Town Councils Act, Revised Edition 2003" (PDF). The Laws of Belize. Government of Belize. Retrieved 23 November 2013.
- "San Ignacio Town". duPlooy Travel. Retrieved 19 May 2011.
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