It’s good news that the ancient Maya culture is getting more notice in the lead-up to the Winter Solstice of 2012, but it’s important that visitors to Belize and the Maya region don’t forget about today’s vibrant Maya culture, Chaa Creek’s resident anthropologist said today.
Joe Awe, who is Chaa Creek’s Mayanist at the eco resort’s Belize Natural History Centre, said he fears contemporary Maya culture is being overlooked as the spotlight is put on their ancestors during the 2012 Maya Winter Solstice celebrations taking part throughout the “Mundo Maya” or Maya world, as Belize and parts of Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador are known.
“It’s great that interest is building all over the world and so many people are finally discovering how incredibly rich and complex the ancient Maya culturewas. Our guests at Chaa Creek are just amazed when they discover the beautiful Maya temples nearby and see how magnificent cities like Caracol, which had a population of some 180,000 people, were.
“People come back from our tours, whether to Caracol, Tikal, Xunantunich, the royal palace of Cahal Pech, the Maya sacred caves like Actun Tunichil Muknal, or even just walking around Chaa Creek’s 365 acre private rainforest reserve with a greater interest in Maya culture.
“And then when we tell them some 12% of Belize’s population is Maya, and they hear Mayan spoken among our staff, the interest grows and their experience gets richer. We encourage people to learn more about contemporary Maya life and meet today’s Maya. It can be a real eye-opener,” he said.
Owner Lucy Fleming said that members of the local Maya community have been an integral part of Chaa Creek since the days when it was a small family farm on the banks of the Macal River.
“Back when we were trying to get by as farmers, we learned so much from our neighbours, many of whom were of Maya descent. From organic farming to our earliest construction methods, with pole walls and thatch roofs all done in a traditional Maya style thousands of years old, we depended on local knowledge and skills, just as we do today,” she said.
The Lodge at Chaa Creek has a strong Maya cultural element with its Natural History Centre, Maya Medicinal Plant Trail, Maya Organic Farm and the over 70 Maya archaeological sites dotting the 365 acre property. A look at the eco resort’s 135 member staff shows an abundance of Maya surnames such as Tzib, Tun, Ku, Moh, Hob, Uck, Pech, Sac and other typical Maya titles.
Arcenio Itza, a celebrated Maya master stone carver is at work completing a large stela, a type of stone monument the Maya recorded their history upon, for the upcoming December 12 Maya Winter Solstice. The stela is carved with Mayan glyphs, one of the world’s oldest written language symbols.
“We’re hoping that as people discover more about this fascinating culture, they’ll take the time to learn about today’s Maya and their challenges, aspirations and contribution to society,” Mr Awe said, “As magnificent as the Mundo Maya’s temples and city-sites are, there’s even more to Maya culture just waiting to be discovered, and 2012 is the perfect time to do so.”