Tonight, we will feature a story that not many of us know the history of; these are the mysterious Cenotes that are found in the San Antonio Rio Hondo Village in the Orange Walk District. While the Ancient Maya believed that the rain god Chaak resided in caves and natural wells known as these cenotes, these sinkholes are giving archaeologists new insights into the sacred landscapes of the ancestral Maya.
From what we gathered during our weekend escapade to three of the many sites, cenotes are natural sinkholes that form when the roof of a cavern collapses. The Mayans believed the mysterious formations were entrances to the underworld. Reporter Maria Novelo delves deeper into the mysteries of these underworlds and bring’s you this report.
Dalila Ical – Reporting
San Antonio Rio Hondo is a small village with approximately 500 inhabitants and approximately 250 of them are children. It is a rich geographical feature with its wealth and history sparsely untold. Created over centuries and deeply connected to the enigmatic Mayan civilization, the cenotes are a complex of mysterious sinkholes and underwater caves in the porous coral limestone of this area. It’s a beautiful sight and the blue cobalt water represents a mystery for scholars, one left by the ancient Maya. What lies within these sacred wells? We got versions from young and old generations of the area. For Kevin Mendez diving the cenotes is a mystical and otherworldly experience.
Kevin Abimael Mendez – San Antonio Rio Hondo Resident
“There are four connotes in San Antonio so this is B and so from Google map we derive at the diameter which is 200 meters and we went diving 120 feet down and as we go down for 30 feet it is clear and after that it just goes completely dark and so we use flash lights and then the distance from the flash lights isn’t really much you could see so we had to, it was five of us that went down there and when you go to 120 feet down we couldn’t stay for long, we could only stay for about twenty minutes because the water since it is not mixing down there that there is no current so it is acidic so the water started trickling down our masks and then affecting our vision so we couldn’t stay for long so we had to come up but it is a really interesting place to go down there.”
Arturo Reyes – Elder, San Antonio Rio Hondo residente
“Ese cenote para nuestros ante pasados era un lugar para ellos muy interesante porque los antiguos decían que en los días de viernes santo que salía un lagarto de oro y también nos contaban los viejitos de que haya cantaba un gallo en ese tiempo, ahora yo personalmente nunca lo bidé pero eso es lo que nos contaban ellos.”
With relatively few underwater investigations to date, many theories and legends behind these sink holes caught our attention in the world of Mayan mythology.
Kevin Abimael Mendez – San Antonio Rio Hondo resident
“One of the stories that my grandfather use to tell us when we were small was that this particular connotes on good Fridays there is a golden crocodile that comes out I mean I have never been here in good Fridays to experience it but that is one of the myths that they say about this connote and also at mid-day in good Friday there is a rooster that makes it noise on good Friday and so that is another myths that I hear and also that they use to make sacrifices. Investigadores y vinieron y uno de ellos nos contó que encontró un artefacto maya en el fondo del cenote, como una joya pero eso indica bastante cosas que posiblemente nunca llegamos a saber, el lugar era bastante fértil, las aguas tenían bastante pescado y toda la dinamita y el relleno del material adentro porque no estaba como está ahorita.”
And while there is much to be discovered, Director for the Belize Institute of Archaeology, Dr. Jaime Awe says, he along with an archeologist from Minnesota, scuba-dived the cenote back in 1978 and made a few artifact discoveries.
JAIME AWE – Director, Belize Institute of Archaeology
“We scuba dive the connote and actually we found some big pots inside the connote and so these pots were likely thrown into the water as offerings that was made there in ancient times and they date for about at least 700AD so connotes have an interesting geological and as well as archeological history.”
To many nature enthusiasts, San Antonio Rio Hondo Village beckons with an enthralling, new experience. MN for CTV3!
Where there are only cenotes, as in the case in San Antonio Rio Hondo, Awe says there has never been any attempt to demarcate these to use them for archaeological sites but says that it could be something that the Ministry of the Natural Resources in collaboration with NICH could consider and develop these places as reserves.