San Ignacio is a town in western Belize that serves as the capital of Cayo District. It got its start from Mahogany and chicle production during British rule. It began to attract different people from the surrounding areas, which led to the diverse make up of the town at present day.
San Ignacio is situated on the banks of the Macal River, and the Mopan River, about 68.5 miles (115 kilometres) west of Belize City and 22 miles (35 km) west of the country’s capital, Belmopan.
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 Hawksworth 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.
Government and Institutions
San Ignacio is currently governed by a Town Council affiliated with the United Democratic Party (UDP). The mayor is John August Jr. Town council elections are made every three years to elect a new town mayor, both, UDP(united Democratic Party) and the PUP (people united party)candidate participate in town elections.
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) is 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, El Pilar, Tikal (Guatemala). the cave Actun Tunichil Muknal, Chaa Creek Nature Reserve, and the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve.