In Amandala by Andy Chuc
This is a must read letter about the Northern Maya of Belize which was published by the Amandala in 2017.
Dear Nojoch Mak Clinton Uh Luna,
For many years we have heard little of the Northern Maya of Belize. Many do not know that we, the Maya Masewal in Belize, are the ones who stood up against the British imperialism during the Guerra Social Maya (Caste War).
During and after the Caste War it has not been easy for us. After our Maya villages were burned down in Yalbac in 1867 and again in 1930’s by the British, we had to move to more populated areas of Northern and Western Belize.
Our great grandparents and grandparents were punished in Belizean schools for simply speaking Maya and they were ridiculed for their culture and beliefs. They made them feel that being Maya was bad. Many of our grandparents to avoid more discrimination did not teach Maya to our parents.
500 years after the Conquest the new religious groups brought by foreigners to Belize continue to target our Yucatec Maya people, calling our religious practices, paganism and devil workshop. All this has caused the Northern Maya of Belize to become more secretive in our traditions and beliefs, making it more difficult for others to know of us. Maybe it was a way of preserving our traditions.
Our schools ignore totally the history of the Caste War and its importance in the formation of Modern Belize. Our schools and media continue to promote terms like “Hispanic” and “latino” to our Maya children in Northern Belize. These terms “Hispanic” and “latino” are terms created by the European imperialism to simply erase our indigenous roots, our Maya Masewal roots. In the streets they want to call us “Spanish”: one more colonial term used with ignorance to erase our Maya identity.
The Yucatec Maya have contributed to the sugar cane industry, tourism, cultural diversity, history, borders in the North, etc. in Belize. Today many are cane farmers, doctors, teachers, etc.
We are seeing the rise of a Masewal Movement by the Northern Maya of Belize in these years. Today we see different Maya cultural groups and Cultural Maya guardians in the villages of Orange Walk and Corozal, to mention some like To’one Masehualoon (we are Maya); U Puksi’ik’al Maya (Maya heart); Ak Kuchkabal Maya (Our Maya Family); La Academia Maya de Yo Creek, and others. This 2017 many of them got together to form the Northern Maya Association of Belize. This year they even celebrated for the first time the Maya Hero Marcus Canul with a ceremony, a Caste War exhibit by Saint John’s College, villages exhibiting their Maya history, cultural dance groups and traditional food. I can say that the warrior spirit of our Maya ancestors is with us. The Maya Masewal resistance continues today. So who are the Maya of Northern Belize? Well, check the attachment below and know who we are.
The Northern Maya of Belize belong to the Yucatec Maya group which are found in Corozal, Orange Walk and Cayo. Their native language is known simply as Maya or Màaya t’àan but it is also known as Maya Yucateco. Today mostly elders are the Maya speakers while many of the younger generation have exchanged their native Maya language for Spanish and English, putting the Maya language endangered with just a little over 2000 speakers in Belize.
The Yucatec Maya in Belize identify in different ways depending on the individual, such as Maya, Masewal, Maya Masewal, Maya Mestizo or Mayero.
The Northern Maya practice several Maya traditions like Cha Chaac, Hanal-Pixan, Biix, Jéets´Méek’ and others.
During the Guerra Social Maya (1847-1930’s), more commonly known as the Caste War, the Yucatec Maya were divided into several rebel groups which were fighting against the Europeans. These Yucatec Maya groups were known as the Cruzob Maya and Icaiche Maya, which their descendants are still found in Belize.