“There arrived at that time a canoe long as a galley and eight feet wide, made of a single tree trunk.”
Many times, when we think about Columbus, we think about his first voyage. We think that he simply came and left, but there is more…there were other adventures. Ferdinand, Columbus’ second son, accompanied his father and his older half brother on his last voyage. He would later write his father’s biography entitled “The life of the Admiral Christopher Columbus” where he told the account of the fourth voyage, which was largely regarded as a failure in his book. He wrote of two hurricanes, being shipwrecked and marooned, but also of discovery.
The British army was the biggest purchaser of slaves. These men formed and served in the West India Regiment. In the late 1790s, Britain was defending several of its territories around the world and they were stretched thin. Between the years of 1775 and 1783, there was the American War of Independence, Anglo French War, Anglo Spanish War and the 4th Anglo Dutch War. Britain was having difficulty in the Caribbean as well. Many of the infantry men that were shipped from Britain had not adjusted well to the climate and were dying from heat exhaustion and deceases like yellow fever. The high mortality of troops led that army to form the West India Regiments in Jamaica in 1795, just prior to the Battle of St. George’s Caye. From there, they were deployed to various parts of the Caribbean.
Inigo Lopez de Loyola was born in 1491 in the village of Loyola, Spain. He was also the youngest of thirteen children. Unfortunately, his mother passed when he was 7 years old, but despite this, he was motivated and had many dreams of becoming a great leader or general. At the age of 18, he did join the military and became a soldier. He also adapted the name Ignatius of Loyola. He had a talent in the battlefield; he participated in many battles, always managing to be unhurt. A story says he killed a Moor with whom he argued about the divinity of Jesus. His talents ranked him up fast and soon he commanded his own group of soldiers.
“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.
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.