Marco Gonzalez - Belize’s newest reserve

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 19, No. 14            April 9, 2009

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An aerial view of the Marco Gonzalez site.

Dianne Haylock, Honorable Manuel Heredia Jr., Jan Brown and Mayor Elsa Paz.

Artifacts found within the Marco Gonzalez site.

The existence of the Marco Gonzales Archeological Site has been known to San Pedranos for decades. The site which is situated to the extreme south of the island is surrounded by dense jungle. Access to the site from the windward beach side was relatively easy, along cut trails, while the site was being excavated by archeologists between 1984 and 1994. Now, however, the trails are overgrown and visits to the site are difficult. In fact until recently, there have been little or no steps to make the site officially into an archeological park.

    Jan Brown, US National who has been living in San Pedro for years, is spearheading a huge project that seeks to preserve, develop and promote the Marco Gonzales archeological site. During the launching of her new concept at the Sun Breeze Conference Room on Tuesday night, Brown explained that by developing the site, it would result in a visitation destination for both Education and Tourism.

    “Archaeological tours, eco tours and educational tours for our children will benefit all,” stated Brown.

    What is the direction of the development proposed by Brown?

  • Marco Gonzalez is only one of 13 recognized sites on Ambergris Caye and nearby Blackadore Caye. It is the largest and most recognizable. It was proposed to work with the proper Ministries of Belize to achieve recognition of this Maya site. That proposal has been accomplished.
  • To petition for the Marco Gonzalez site to be put into the status of a National Park, thus preserving it for future education of Maya history in Belize. That proposal has been done.
  • Look for Grant Monies from foundations funding exploration and restoration of historical sites.
  • Investigate colleges willing to assist in the development of this site in order to recover and record Maya history.
  • Develop the site to be accessible for educational and tourism reasons. The development of the tourism aspect will allow a “park fee” to be charged for entry, thus assisting with the income needed for upkeep as well as necessary employees on duty. The site, being located where it is, would be accessible by both water and road.
  • Coordinate with necessary Belizean agencies (i.e.: San Pedro Town Council, Belize Tourist Board, the Tour Guide Association, and Ministries) to create the rules and regulations for charging to visit, hours of operation and general control of the site.
If all works out as proposed, Marco Gonzales Site can be open for the public in a time span of approximately two or three years. Present at the meeting was the President of the National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) Dianne Haylock who stated that, “we are happy that community groups want to work in developing Marco Gonzales Archeological Site. I think it’s a fantastic idea and NICH as well as the Department of Archeology is giving approval for such idea.”

    Those working in making Marco Gonzales open will be working very closely with the technical experts at the Department of Archeology to ensure that the history of the site is preserved. The plan includes the construction of a Visitor’s Center and a nature walk with mostly mangrove and forest wetlands. Once through the Visitor Center entry building, the visitor will have the opportunity to experience nature by walking down a raised pier boardwalk which meanders through the surrounding habitats. Along the way, there is a plan to install benches and display signage that explains the flora and fauna one might encounter in the area. The building will include an educational center and conference room which will house educational displays about the wetlands and seagrasses, live snake and fish aquariums indigenous to the park as well as a mini auditorium for seminars and training sessions.

    The Marco Gonzalez Maya Site, located near the southern tip of Ambergris Caye was first recorded archaeologically in 1984 by Dr. Elizabeth Graham and Dr. David M. Pendergast, and was named by them after their local guide. In 1987 & 1989, Graham and Pendergast found continuous occupation at Marco Gonzalez from the Late Classic into the Postclassic. For more information about the project please contact Jan Brown at
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