Christmas Day is certainly a great time to spend with the family watching classic movies or hosting a party with enough food to feed fifty, and plenty of drinks flowing, but for most tour guides of San Ignacio, our Christmas Day is spent dealing with rustic roads and occasionally rain. Tours leave early to Mayan sites and caves. I was so very fortunate to have spent it with the Women’s Group of San Antonio, Cayo. This is certainly a great tour and addition to tour packages at the San Ignacio Resort Hotel. It gives an insight to the anthropological side of our Mayan history as normally we visit sites and go deep into archeology. I have always thought that it lacks “daily life” of the Maya.
After making our way to San Antonio, we got an introduction by Mrs. Timotella Mesh who is part of the women’s group which has been around for the past twelve years, since 2001. The group consists of nine women that do embroidery, clay pots, figurines, and beaded necklesses to sell at their little giftshop. The project had several young people working on it, but over the years, the group seeked training and they all have gotten jobs in the tourist industry or some have received scholarships to continue studying. This shows that the Women’s Group is working hard, guiding and inspiring the youth.
On the tour, we visit a Mayan Kitchen and visitors get a crash course in the making of corn tortillas. They get a chance to grind corn with a metate and mano, a grinding stone, and they also try a molino or manual iron grinder. Later comes the making of the tortillas and the cooking of it on a comal or grill. The kitchen has evolved. Today it is the center of the house. You start building a kitchen and then build the rest of the house. In the English colonial homes, the kitchen is detached from the main house for two reasons: in case there was a fire, it would be contained to the kitchen only; and in those times they had slaves who cooked the food and you wanted little to no interaction with them. The masters would sit at the table and food was brought to them. Then the dishes were taken back. The ancient maya kitchens are sometimes hard to find and that is because it was no impressive building all that is found, just a low rectangular platform that at one time had posts supporting a thatched roof with no walls. Very little has changed, if any at all, in a traditional maya kitchen.
We are lead to the pottery workshop by Mr. Rafael Canto. He is the only male that works there and he gives you an introduction to pottery making. He gets the clay from the river side, and has a long hard process of preparing it and removing the stones and twigs from it. He shows you the process that the ancient maya would have used, basically the coiling technique. He shows you how to knead the clay and use the molds to make flutes and ocarinas. This is very interesting because ocarinas were made by the ancient maya site of Pacbitun, just outside the modern village since the pre classic times. Rafael shows you how to spin the wheel from centering your clay to production, and finally cutting your work from the rest of the clay.
After the presentations, visitors sit at well adorned tables to have lunch or an early dinner. Served is a traditional meal like Escabeche or relleno negro. It is certainly a nice time to spend learning how maya families cook their food and for you try something different. This is a great tour to do before visiting sites like Cahal Pech or Barton Creek cave. The tour will appeal to families with young children or even the elderly.