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Belmopan, Belize’s Capital, Is a City of Brutalist Calm

WorldBelmopan, Belize’s Capital, Is a City of Brutalist Calm

Mention Belmopan, Belize’s capital that sits deep in the country’s interior, and many Belizeans will belittle the city as a bastion of pencil-pushing bureaucrats that’s not just dull, but also devoid of nightlife.

“I was warned, ‘Belmopan is for the newlyweds or the nearly deads,’” said Raquel Rodriguez, 45, owner of an art school, about the reactions when she moved to Belmopan from coastal, bustling Belize City.

Not exactly known as an Eden for young urbanites, Belmopan figures among the smallest capital cities anywhere in the Americas. It has only about 25,000 residents and a cluster of hurricane-proof, heavy-on-the-concrete, Maya-inspired Brutalist buildings.

The capital of Central America’s only English-speaking nation can feel jarringly different from the frenetic capitals of neighboring countries. In terms of its origins and design, Belmopan has more in common with the capitals of other former British colonies, especially in Africa.

But Belmopan is also, perhaps, a prism through which to view the development of Belize, which has emerged as something of an exception in Central America. In a region where rulers are embracing authoritarian tactics, Belize has developed into a relatively stable (albeit young) parliamentary democracy with a history of peaceful transitions of power.

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