Meet Mr. Martin Choc, an 82 year old Mayan elder of San Marcos village. He considers himself one of those who continue to retrieve many of the ancestral skills that are fading away from the Maya culture.
When we met up with Mr. Choc recently, we found him making the Calabash bowl; and he gladly shared with us about this craft and how it played a vital role – and still does – in the homes of the Maya people.
For context, we note that the Calabash comes from “an evergreen tropical” tree that takes at least four years to bear “large woody gourds” from which the bowls are made; a practice that goes back centuries.
These Calabash bowls have graced the tables of Maya kitchens for generations and are used to serve drinks and even the delicious, traditional Caldo.
Making the Calabash
Mr. Martin Choc say recalls with fond memories, the days of using these traditional tableware; but alas, he laments, modern technology is increasingly pushing the Calabash out of the kitchen and sadly to the dustbins of time.
The rich traditional tools and their use, says Choc, are slowly being forgotten.
“I am sad to see how many skills that were once taught by wise men like my ancestors have vanished away,” says Choc.
He further notes that “I think we have become dependent on artificial materials, if we could only retrieve some of that knowledge in using our own resources we could make life easier.”
As we noted earlier, the Calabash has been used for centuries to make cups and bowls for the kitchen. Now, Choc points out, many Maya families have to go to the shops to buy plastic kitchenware
“I am getting old and it is sad to say that there is no more cultural values and appreciation to Mother Earth in providing us with many of its richness but many have ignored that,” says Choc.
Martin Choc says that he inherited many of the skills he now knows from his ancestors but the interest of others wanting to learn is not there.
“I would really want to see the youth especially, to take that spirit on and keep the culture alive and pass on the knowledge about the richness of Mother Earth. We cannot be losing the essence of culture, it is who we are and we must have it in the spirit and live it with pride,” says Choc.
Mr. Choc says that as he grows old, he is hoping that someone from the younger generation will step forward to take the torch and carry it forward in promoting Maya cultural practices, such as the use of the Calabash.
“I may soon be leaving this earth, and there will be a Calabash full of knowledge waiting to be discovered,” says Choc, ending by saying that “we cannot inherit nature it is nature who inherit us.”
Martin Choc: truly one of Belize’s Very Own!