A Panoramic History of ‘El Cayo’ presented
Joe Awe, son of Elias Awe; Dr. Jaime Awe, Head of Belize’s Institute of Archaeology; Melanie Santiago-Smith
The first Annual Elias A. Awe Memorial Lecture was held on December 7th, 2012 at the Octavia Waight Conference Center in San Ignacio. The lecture was held in memory of Elias Awe, a community member of San Ignacio, who recently passed away. Awe was a contributor to the Towns’ dynamism in history, culture and humanitarianism, especially to the aged. The lecture was organized by Melanie Santiago-Smith, a Belizean sociologist, who also lectures at the University College of Belize.
The first lecturer was Dr. Jaime Awe, Head of Belize’s Institute of Archaeology, who offered an anthropological history of the Cayo District. Dr. Awe reviewed the extensive cave systems in the Cayo District and how they became repositories to the history of the Maya. These caves, which number in the thousands, were once used by the Maya for religious purposes. The Maya used the caves, because they were portals to the underworld. They believed that the Corn God is re-born inside a cave. As a consequence, there was blood letting in those caves as the Maya offered sacrifice to the gods, as was evidenced by skeletons in several areas within the cave systems. A sword and an olive pot found in Cayo and examined by Awe signified that the Maya had eventually made contact with Europeans. In 1623, there was a major revolt by the Maya and that had tremendous significance to modern-day Belize said the Belizean expert.
Belizean sociologist Melanie Smith examined the history of the Cayo District from a sociological perspective. 'El Cayo' began in the 1860s and was eventually named the twin towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena in 1962. Collaboration between the towns eventually developed, says Smith, as two High Schools were built in Santa Elena and one was built in San Ignacio.
The third lecture was given by Don Hector Silva, who focused on the political history of ‘El Cayo.’ Silva spoke briefly about the ‘Octavia Waight Center, the home of the elderly and the contributions provided by Raleigh International in the building of its structure. He spoke about the evolution of telecommunication in the twin towns as well as electricity. The local water supply was a gift from the United Kingdom to the people of San Ignacio at a cost of a hundred and twenty six thousand dollars, he said. Silva revealed that the first Mayor of San Ignacio was the great-grandfather of the current Mayor John August.
“John August is the serving Mayor and replica of the first Mayor”, he said.