The truth about Copper Bank

July 31, 2006  
Topics: Belize, Colombia

Originally written for


We came to Belize in the beginning of March. After spending two days in Corozal town (North of the country) we decided to search for a place where we could stay for free or in exchange of work for at least one month. We got to know about one holiday resort in Copper Bank village (about 10 miles away from Corozal), and decided to try our luck there. The road that leads to this village can be found only by asking locals. There is no bus service to that direction during the day, so one has to wait for a ride. There were some gringos (“foreigners” in Spanish) who gave as a lift to Copper Bank. It is only 10 miles away, but might take up to 1 hour to reach it. In the middle of the journey one has to use a manual ferry to cross the New River, where every noon the barge from the Belizean sugarcane factory passes by. Crossing the river is for free and it is fun. You will meet two ferrymen working 12 hours a day and get the newest rumours about the residents of the area.

We were lucky. The owner of the resort agreed to host us in one of the cabañas (“huts” in Spanish) for an exchange of work. Finally, we ended up staying here about 5 months – but this is a different story… Today we are about to leave this place. We want something new! 😉

So, let’s look now at Copper Bank village… Officially, it is a peaceful and cosy fishermen village with 500 inhabitants. It is located in the end of the road and the only transport from here to Corozal 15-20 years ago were private boats. Today there is an acceptable dirty road, which turns into mud during the rainy season.

Now… how would you imagine a local community living in such a small place? They greet, help and love each other… This is what we thought at the beginning…

We have been travelling back and forth from Copper Bank to Corozal at least once a week. Most of the time we took a bus in the morning and hitch-hiked back in the afternoon. This bus is the only public transport here during the day and it brings village people to their jobs in the Free Zone – a huge kind of tax-free shopping area between the border of Belize and Mexico. The first time we got into the bus, we were about to greet each of the passengers, as we are all from the same village, aren’t we? Unfortunately, we were surprised to see that all the people are totally ignorant and arrogant to each other. It seems like everybody has his own life and pretends that every day he travels in a bus full of people who he has never seen before. “What is the problem?” – we were asking ourselves. Is it so difficult to say “hello”?


Once there were two women from Belize City driving together with us through Copper Bank, saying “Wow! All of them have cemented houses!”. They couldn’t hide their astonishment… It is true that, while in the other villages of the country dominate wooden houses with thatched roofs, most of the houses here in Copper Bank are from cement blocks, look rich and wealthy. “How do those fishermen manage that?”, is the next question. Maybe we also shall start spreading nets and catching fish.

The keyword to the answer of all the questions about Copper Bank is “White Lobster”. What’s that?! Well, most of the fishermen are aiming to catch lobster, but the ones in this village care about another kind of lobster – the white one. Everybody coming to Belize knows that this country is a major transhipment point for cocaine from Colombia. Copper Bank is near the ocean where from time to time one may observe interesting boat races, which means the police is chasing drug dealers. In this situations the traffickers have no other choice than throwing all their belongings into the water, pretending they are clean and innocent once they are caught. What these guys leave in the ocean is white lobster – bags full of cocaine.

The local fisherman’s working pattern is simple: find the white lobster floating on the sea, sell the treasure to certain people in Corozal town, and, finally, use several thousand dollars you have earned for improving your house and inviting all the family to a restaurant.

Most people living in Copper Bank village try to win this lottery, but nobody talks about it with neighbours. In the end of the day, nobody says “hello” to competitors, as nobody wants to have friends for sharing the profit in case the lottery is won.

This secret of Copper Bank village one may learn only by being an insider. Otherwise, this place will always give the impression of being a “friendly and peaceful tiny village”…

This story is based on our own observations and information shared with us by different people. After feeling so strange about contraries of this place, we believe this is the only real truth about Copper Bank.