The Re-enactment of our Santa Rita Maya Wedding between a Spanish Warrior and a Mayan Princess presented at our Santa Rita Archaelogical Reserve exactly a week ago was just Fantastic and exciting. All the glowing photos and videos that have already been shared are just as amazing and colourful. However, what will forever be etched in these historical stones is the presentation made by our 10 year Belize History Teacher from Centro Escolar Mexico Junior College, Ms. Darleni "Nancy" Leiva of Corozal. As much as our eyes were stuck on the show, our ears were keen in listing to her chronological version of the history of our coming of the Mestizo ethnic culture in Belize. Thank you Nancy for such a wonderful and transparent rendition. Here is the entire version of Nancy's unedited speech.

Coconut Festival 2019 - The History of Chactemal (Santa Rita) and The Maya Wedding Re-enactment -Nancy Leiva, Belize History Teacher, Centro Escolar Mexico Junior College

"To reflect on and study any part of human history, is simply to learn more about yourself! Therefore, if you are a human being regardless of birthplace, remember that we are humans first and we do share a common history. I thank you for allowing me some time to share an interpretation about history that you may not quite know. Bear in mind, that it is just ONE interpretation and like this one, there are many. Should you choose to believe it or not is your choice alone. I am in no way forcing anyone to believe anything and I do encourage people to read more, investigate more, research more, analyze more and question more. Your free will decides what you want to believe or not. While I may be a Belizean History teacher, I also continue to be a student of life’s lessons- historical and of the present day.

Long before the coming of Europeans to this part of the world, many cultures SETTLED, DEVELOPED and DECLINED in this diverse land. One of those wonderful cultures is the Maya. The birth place of the Maya civilization is spread across 5 countries- parts of Mexico, ALL of Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and parts of Honduras; together these countries make up Mesoamerica. Of course, it is highly probable that the political boundaries of today were not followed by the Maya. As we zoom into our Belize- the Maya subdivided this area into three provinces. The southern part was the Manche Chol Province, the central region was the Dzuluinicob Province and here in the north running up to about Calderitas in present day Quintana Roo lay the Chetumal (Chactemal) Province.

The earliest indication of Maya at CHACTEMAL Corozal is dated to the Preclassic Period, the earliest Maya period of civilization. The name Santa Rita was probably given to the site no doubt as a result of the religious impact which always accompanied colonial rule. Chactemal in Maya means the place where red trees grow. This remarkable temple is one of the oldest to grace this earth. As Europeans came with colonial ambitions, the early Maya life transformed and in some instances, remains a mystery and a memory. However, the Maya lineage continues to live on in the Belizean Society.

Because Santa Rita lacks much of the elaborate architecture that characterizes other ancient Maya sites in Belize, it is the Maya heart of this quiet town caressed by the gorgeous Corozal Bay. Structure 7 is the tallest of all the structures at the site and one of the only few that still exist. The first investigations into this structure were carried out by Thomas Gann who recovered a burial at the summit. It is believed that our beloved Corozal Town was built on the abandoned city of Santa Rita. Historians believe that Santa Rita was the only place where a marriage took place between a Spanish Conquistador and a Mayan Princess.

So how did the Union between the Mayan Princess and the Spanish Conquistador come to be? In the year 1511, during the first years of the Spanish conquest of the ‘New World’, one Gonzalo Guerrero found himself voyaging from his homeland Spain – across the Atlantic Ocean. The ship suffered a fatal crash whereupon the vessel sunk in rough waters. Gonzalo Guerrero survived the ordeal and periled onto the mainland coastline of Chactemal whereupon he was swiftly captured by the tribe of Maya lord Nachancan, the leader of Santa Rita.

Guerrero was an open minded man; as a captive he obeyed the ruler and he quickly developed an intense appreciation for the Mayan culture and over time began to transform himself into a member of their tribe. It is said that Guerrero became a great ally to the Maya in the struggle against the Spanish conquistadors in Belize. Historians generally accept the view that in the 16th century he served as a political and military advisor to Nachancan.

He underwent a drastic transformation tattooing himself, obtaining piercings as was the custom amongst Mayan men and learning the Mayan language. He immersed himself in their ways and won the sympathy of Nachan Can and won the heart of Nachancan’s daughter, the Mayan princess – Zazil Ha which means Crystal Water.

They married and had three children. The children of Gonzalo Guerrero and Zazil Há became the first recognized Mestizos, ancestors of many, if not most, present day people of northern Belize. This union gave way to the birth of a new culture- a unique blend of Spanish and Maya. Northern Belize is home to the largest Mestizo population in the country. Almost 50% of the entire population of Belize is Mestizo. While Zazil Há nor Nachancan nor Gonzalo Guerrero are not longer with us on earth, Chactemal (Santa Rita) still stands strong as proof of times gone by- times that we must keep alive and exalt through events like the Maya Wedding reenactment".

Courtesy Corozal Daily