“At night I experienced an attack of the Benchuca, the great black bug of the Pampas. It is most disgusting to feel soft wingless insects, about an inch long, crawling over one’s body. Before sucking they are quite thin, but afterwards they become round and bloated with blood, and in this state are easily crushed. They are also found in the northern parts of Chile and in Peru. One which I caught at Iquique, was very empty. When placed on the table, and though surrounded by people, if a finger was presented, the bold insect would immediately draw its sucker, make a charge, and if allowed, draw blood. No pain was caused by the wound. It was curious to watch its body during the act of sucking, as it changed in less than ten minutes, from being as flat as a wafer to a globular form.”
As Belizeans, we are very superstitious people, and so is the rest of the Caribbean. All areas of Mesoamerica have their own traditional folktales and legends, and within the Maya territory, there are numerous characters and stories. Xtabai is what many would consider to be the most malevolent of them all. The very mention of her name is enough to bring chills to someone’s entire body. The character is not fully understood, which brings even more mystery to its motives and is best described as a demon.
Many times when we think about the ancient foods of the Maya, the first thing that comes to mind is corn, and rightfully so, corn was a major part of the ancient Maya diet, but they did not live on that alone. In fact, their diet was very wide and included a vast variety of plants and animals found in the surrounding forests. This brings us to the following question: Did the Maya clear forests completely? That may be true in the corn fields, but what about closer to their homes? If we visit a house of a present day Maya, we will find a variety of fruit trees, plants used in cooking such as spices or even those used for medicine. I believe that the ancient Maya were no different than what we are today and would have kept some plants around their huts or nearby.
The early explorers, adventurers and archeologist believed that the ancient Maya were quiet people that lived in the forests, in harmony with their surroundings. Slowly, over time, they realized that these ancient people were actually people. They slashed and burned jungles to plant their corn. They hunted and domesticated wild animals like the wild turkey, great curassow and collared picary to be used as meat. They mined large open quarries and burned limestone for lime production so that they could later make mortar and plaster. Another trait they had was that they waged wars with each other.
The Belize Wildlife and Referral Clinic (BWRC) is a registered non- profit animal welfare organization that operates country-wide in Belize. BWRC provides free medical care to injured, orphaned, neglected or otherwise imperiled wildlife. Medical care is provided at their veterinary clinic in Central Farm, Cayo District, by their staff of veterinarians and technicians. Wildlife patients are treated at BWRC, where they may undergo medical treatment and possibly rehabilitation prior to being returned to the wild.
Maya Mountain Adventure Challenge, an extreme endurance race that entails running, biking, canoeing, spelunking and certainly not limited to these, now joins Belize’s top races. It is now the longest race in Belize with over 300 miles spanning 4 days, a record previously held by Belikin La Ruta Maya at 180 miles in 4 days and followed by the Holy Saturday Cycling Classic at 130 miles in 1 day. This new adventure tests the human ability and pushes it to its very limits. It is unbelievable what the participants are put to do. This race is to be held every 2 years and covers an area of San Ignacio Town, Mopan River, Xunantunich, Macal River, El Pilar, rural farming areas, the Mountain Pine Ridge and the Chiquibul National Park.
The Chinese New Year festival is centuries old and is celebrated from China to many other countries as far south as Malaysia and the Philippines. Chinese all over the world, including here in San Ignacio, Santa Elena and all over the country of Belize, continue to honor their customs, traditions and beliefs. Although the Chinese use the Gregorian calendar, the Lunar calendar is also widely used, especially in traditional activities intertwined with superstition as it determines lucky days. Today I observed, like many other Belizeans, that a group of Chinese men from the Western Chinese Association, were visiting all the Chinese-owned restaurants and shops. As they entered the premises, fire crackers where lit, creating an instant loud noise. The Chinese lion started dancing across the parking lot into the store. It danced, moved its mouth and blinked its eyes as it interacted with the owner of the establishment. The owner then either gave the lion a small red envelope or placed the envelope on the counter and the lion appeared to eat it while dancing. The lion then danced out of the store and moved on to the next business establishment.
With social media gaining momentum, it has become easy to share information. Organizations like the Institute of Archaeology, Belize Archives, Museum of Belize and the various culture houses now have a platform to distribute information to their followers, exposing them to a wealth of information and sparking interest so that they can then visit their offices in search for even for information. I have always had an interest in history and over the years, I have gathered and stored photographs and other data, thus creating my own library. So about a year ago, when I heard that research was being gathered to create a book now known to us as “A Walk Through El Cayo”, I became excited. Shortly after the release of the book, my employer, San Ignacio Resort Hotel, pitched me an idea for a tour. This tour is to be conducted within the downtown area of San Ignacio, visiting iconic and historic places. So immediately I got to work, collecting further information and images; some I already had, but I turned to social media where I found in abundance.