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Benque Viejo del Carmen

Benque Viejo del Carmen is the westernmost town in Belize, 130km by road west and south of Belize City, at the Guatemalan border. San Ignacio lies 13 km to the east and Melchor de Mencos just across the border. The Mopan River runs along the town's north and west edges.Historical backgroundBenque was first settled by Maya from Flores, El Petén, Guatemala. It grew as a lumber camp on the Mopan River that flowed into the Belize River, to the coast at Belize Town. The Mayas had been catechized by Spanish Catholic missionaries, leading to the predominance of the Catholic church in Benque, which holds the earliest Baptismal records in Cayo District from Jesuit Fr. Bavastro in May 1865. In 1877 the town was served by Manuel Ignacio Santa Cruz Loidi, a Basque priest and military leader in the unsuccessful effort to defeat the liberals in Spain's Third Carlist War. During the 1880s Fr. Jose Maria Pinelo, a refugee from Petén during the presidency of Manuel Barillas, visited Benque, remaining from 1887-1889. In the 1890s the population was about 500. In 1904 a permanent Catholic residency was established by Jesuit Fr. William “Buck” Stanton.
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