Belize Birding Tours

Belize Culture - Maya

Maya Belizeans Include the Mopan, Kekchi and Yucatec. Some Maya have continuously lived in parts of Belize from ancient times. The Mopan Maya live mostly in the Toledo and WEstern Cayo district where they settled after fleeing rigid conditions including forced labor, military conscription and heavy taxes in Guatemala. Mopan and Yucatec Maya have both retained many traditions. Both, for example, maintain a strong respect for Maya gods particularly at planting and harvest time. Many of the traditional handcrafts, including the sewing and embroidery skills, beautifully displayed on Mopan Maya blouses, wall hangings, basket weaving, and calabash carving are once more being revived especially by the Toledo Craft and Pottery Association.

The Kekchi Maya live in villages around San Antonio, in rural Toledo. Most Kekchi arrived in Toledo District around 1984, as refugees from the Vera Paz area of Guatemala. The Kekchi are largely self sufficient and carry on traditional subsistence farming based on the cultivation of corn, beans, rice, and pig rearing. The Kekchi speak their own dialect and govern themselves through the Alcalde system.

Yucatec Maya refugees who migrated from Yucatan at the time of the Caste War live in the north and west of Belize. Yucatec Maya have been hispanicized being mostly Catholic and Spanish-speaking. The Yucatec Maya practiced intensive agriculture with sugar cane.

The Mopan and Kekchi have no written musical theory but certain musicians will be known throughout a region for their expertise as teachers. The flute melodies and rhythmic patterns of the drum are universal and unchanging for a particular dance no matter where they are performed. A harp, guitar and violing combo and the marimba each have its own style according to its village. Other Maya instruments include flutes and a chirimia or double-reed flute. Maya dances generally take place during the fiesta. The Alcalde picks the the dancers and this is considered a great honor. Dances include: The Cortez Dance, an epic drama which portrays the coming of Christianity to the Mayas; the Xol Moro tells of the war between the Moors and the Christians. Other Maya dances include the Deer Dance, a story about about a hunter, and the Monkey Dance where monkeys were depicted as being powerful in assisting or retarding the growth of corn and the fall of rain. Today, many ancient dances include pictures or statues of "santos" (saints).