Friday, February 13, 2009

Melchor de Mencos, Guatemala, Benque Viejo del Carmen, Belize, and the Belize-Guatemalan Border

A quick rundown on getting to Belize from Flores/Tikal:

Minibuses leave from the Santa Elena, Guatemala bus terminal about every hour; there are also Pullman buses that leave at 6am and in the afternoon, but the minibus will allow for more flexibility. The minibus costs 25Q as of January 2009, and takes about 2 ½ hours. The route takes one through some amazing scenery, but gets rough towards the end when the road becomes unpaved. Ask the driver to stop at the border crossing (look for the Statue); a 5 minute walk across a bridge brings one to the crossing. The crossing is pretty standard; 20Q for exit formalities from Guatemala, and free for entry into Belize. Although taxis will do the 3km after the border crossing to Benque Viejo del Carmen for BZ$5, it is a manageable walk. Get ready for massive culture shock when entering Belize. To get to San Ignacio, take a bus that leaves every 30 minutes or hitchhike with the friendly people of Belize! One can catch connections throughout the country in Belmopan.

One fascinating aspect of Belize-Guatemalan relations is the “hidden tension” between the two countries on the international sphere. From speaking to Belizians and Guatemalans, it is clear the two do not get along; Guatemala believes Belize is part of its territory (as it amply shows on its tourist map), while Belize has stuck to a self-reliance mentality. Although the border crossing is easy, according to a member of the Belize Protection Forces I spoke to in Punta Gorda nationals rarely cross, although in the eclectic mix of ethnicities of Belize one finds many new Guatemalan immigrants of questionable legality.

What, signs in English in Centro America?

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