Sarteneja Village from the air, looking towards the sea and back towards the village
Sarteneja is the largest fishing community and the second largest village in Belize. It recorded a population of 3,500 according to a 2016 estimate. The name "Sarteneja" is a Castilian distortion of its original Mayan name "Tza-ten-a-ha", which means "water between the rocks".
According to a number of elders of the community, the phrase “Tza-ten-a-ha” was used by the Maya people that came to their shores when the village was first repopulated in 1846. The area had new settlers but it was still visited by the Maya people of the peninsula. These visitors were native to Belize and probably to the ancient city that is now Sarteneja. ‘Tza-ten-a-ha’ was the phrase used by the Maya when they asked for water. The phrase ‘Tza-ten-a-ha’ is believed to mean ‘give me some water’ and not ‘water between the rocks’ as we are told by the internet. The Maya people stopped, rested and refilled their containers with fresh drinking water from the numerous wells created by their ancestors. The Maya visited the shores so many times that the phrase became a common phrase for the new settlers. As the years went by, the people of the community began calling their own community ‘Tza-ten-a-ha’ which was then contorted and translated to the Spanish language; Sarteneja. The word Sarteneja was quickly adopted by the villagers and the rest of Belize.
Photograph by Sarteneja Drone and Realty Company
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