The assistant manager of the Belize Natural History Centre (NHC) said that while worldwide condemnation and anger surrounding last week’s destruction of the ancient Maya pyramid at Nohmul in northern Belize is understandable and even healthy, the time has come to move on to finding solutions to prevent a repeat of the tragedy.
Brion Young, who is also a naturalist guide at The Lodge at Chaa Creek, which sponsors the NHC, said he believes that education is the key to preserving Belize’s rich Maya heritage.
“It’s only natural that all Belizeans are incensed with this wanton destruction of our Maya heritage. Our children’s children and literally millions of future visitors to Belize have been robbed of the chance to experience a magnificent part of Belize’s past.
“However, we now need to move on to developing solutions and putting systems in place to ensure this never happens again,” Mr Young said, “and education is the key to this. That’s something that Chaa Creek and the NHC has always promoted, and we’ll be ramping up our efforts in this area.”
Mr Young said that the NHC was founded as a way to showcase the natural and cultural history of this tiny Central American country on the Caribbean Sea as well as display some of the many Maya artefacts found in the Chaa Creek area, which was a major agricultural and trade centre for the ancient Maya.
Since its beginning, the NHC has grown to become a highly regarded educational resource to Belizean students as well as tourists.
“We have always believed that the more people are exposed to Belize’s Maya culture, the more they will appreciate it, and understand the importance of preserving the relics left behind by one of the most advanced societies in all of antiquity.
“One visit to the nearby pyramid of Xunantunich or the royal palace at Cahal Pech in San Ignacio, and visitors understand why we are so zealous in preserving what’s left of the Mundo Maya,” Mr Young said.
The Mundo Maya, or Maya World, refers to the realm of the ancient Maya, which encompasses all of Belize and parts of Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador. The area contains thousands of artefacts and vestiges of the ancient Maya, from huge cities, such as Caracol in Belize and Tikal in Guatemala, to small remote ceremonial centres tucked away in the region’s vast jungles.
The recent damage to Nohmul highlighted the fact that looting and destruction continues to occur throughout the Mundo Maya, despite the efforts of archaeologists and organisations to protect it.
Mr Young said that while some of it is deliberate, much of the destruction is due to ignorance.
“If people understood how precious these Maya artefacts are, and what they mean to us and future generations, they would be more likely refrain from and to report abuse when they see it,” he said.
Mr Young said that Chaa Creek will continue to reach out to schools and the community through programs such as the free annual Eco Kids Summer Camp, a nine day program that has a strong Maya culture component, and will continue to make the NHC and their guides available to schools.
“Rather than just bemoan the loss of this majestic example of Belize’s past, it’s up to all of us to work that much harder to let people know what’s at stake here.
“The Spanish Conquistadores destroyed entire libraries and so many works of art created by this magnificent culture. Let’s not be guilty of standing by while the same crimes against history are committed,” Mr Young said.