Our City by the Sea

Our City by the Sea

Do you ever wonder what the Old Capital must look like to visitors? What do they think about when they see Belize City for the first time?  The city has a mix of modern buildings and old colonial houses tossed together across a landscape that includes palm trees, mangroves, canals, marshy areas, and concrete streets and bridges that stretch over rivers that flow into the waters of the Caribbean Sea. Sitting or walking, this city can easily feel more like an island getaway than a metropolis. It must be very interesting for first time visitors to walk past the old St. John’s Cathedral, stroll behind the compound at the House of Culture, and then down the famous Albert Street only to cross the oldest swing bridge in all of Central America. By the way, did you know the first bridge that connected the North and South side was called The Grand Belize Bridge and was partially funded by King George III in 1818? For visitors who are mostly used to seeing sky scrapers or steely glass buildings, Belize City’s wooden colonial structures, open breezy streets, and its low sun-kissed skyline must inspire all sorts of feelings.  There is beauty in all aspects of our little city by the sea.  For the benefit of Belizeans and all the visitors who get to look at its splendour, it is important that we continue to improve it. But how do we make the city better and the experience of it more beautiful?

One way to do it would be through a collaborative project that uses culture and creativity to complement the city’s natural and infrastructural appeal. Last week the Minister of Tourism and Diaspora Relations (MTDR), Hon. Anthony Mahler formally inaugurated the Fort George Artisan Alley. As days often are in Belize, it was sunny and bright as the Minister spoke of his vision for the city to invited guests, the media, and the eighteen artisans whose businesses and crafts lined both sides of the alley. This alley is one piece of a larger plan to beautify the city. It is not just a matter of adding new buildings and a fresh coat of paint. It is a matter of fostering sustainable economic development by investing in Belizean people, Belizean artistry, and Belizean culture. The minister emphasized that “when small businesses succeed, we all succeed”. This sort of investment is crucial for the cruise tourism industry. Travellers disembark at the Fort Street Tourism Village (FSTV) for their day of adventure and that journey begins when they step onto the streets of the city. Across from the ally is the Fort Street mural that was completed in 2022. The paintings and images depict “Belizeanhood”. The bright images spread across the wall like a story about our diversity. What the story tells anyone, local or visitor, is that our diverse people and cultures are testament to our true beauty.

The MTDR has similar plans for the sea front and sea wall overlooking the Baron Bliss Lighthouse. Bit by bit the city’s streets, walls, and alleys will tell the story of Belizean entrepreneurship, artistry, and diversity. Belize City has long been the country’s hub for infrastructural and business development. These and future projects will ensure that the Old Capital continue to participate in our tourism industry by improving its own tourism experience. Beautifying the city means investing in collaborations, in people, in small businesses, and in local artistry. We may not know what visitors think of when they see our city by the sea, but we can ensure that what they do see is a reflection of all us.

Chat again later.

Jasmine Anderson

For the Belize Tourism Board