DfdIZB~ AT ORifljSTA
The Mayans and Moak Caribs, two of the most culturally
unique peoples in the Caribbean and Latin America who are
rooted in Belize add a special flavour to the CARIFSTA "cook-up
come Au ut 25 ... and what an editing flavour it will be.
Belie will bring a rich and uncommon cultural thread
to the Exposition through the colourful and artistic presenta-
tion of the Mack Carib Musicians and the Mayan Mirimba Players
with traditional instruments and movements coming down from
the times of the Maypna when they were a great civilisation
with their Sun God scientists and human sacrifice.
The two main peoples in Belize are the Black Caribs
and the descendants of the Mayans but there are also the
Minnonites living in religious oommnitees, along with the
Cantonese and Lebanese who came to the country as indentured
Ihe first people of Belize, which has always beeL.
plagued by hurricanes, are the Mayans. The Mayan Mirimba
Players will capture the ethos of these people, their beliefs,
legends and rhythms woven around the rich culture. They were
a very religious people who felt that the "gods give us life,
health and sustenance".
Their principal divinities represented those natural
forces and objects that most directly affected the temporal
welfare of the people. Such were the god of rain; the god
of the heaven who invariably took the form of the sun god,
the god of medicine; and the divine inventor of the books
and writings. In addition there were the god of corn and the
much feared god of death. The essence of the Mayan culture
revolved around things religious and its culmination in
The most powerful in the Mayan hierarchy were the high
priests "Ah Kin Mai" who were the scientists and writers of
The sciences which occupied their efforts were the
computation of the years, months and days (their accuracy has
amazed modern scientists), the festivals and ceremonies, the
administration of the sacraments, the fateful days and seasons,
their method of divination and their prophecies, events and
the cures for diseases and how to read and write with the
letters and characters, with which they wrote, and drawings
which illustrate the meaning of the writings.
Their books were written on a large sheet doubled in
folds, which was enclosed entirely between two boards which
they decorated with jewels. They made the paper from the
roots of a sacred tree and gave it a white gloss upon which
it was easy to write.
The priests were themselves like gods and owed their
influence to their assumed intimacy and power of inter-
cession with the divine beings.
The high point and most joyous occasion of Mayan life
was during their ceremonial sacrifice of human beings. Many
slaves were sacrificed to appease the anger of the gods or to
express gratitude for some of their doings. Yet for the
devoted Mayan couple it was the greatest single act of their
lifetime to give one or more of their children to be sacrificed
to the gods.
These children were locked away and given the best
to eatand purified in preparation for the greatest day of
their lives, It is said that the maidens felt that it was an
honour to be sacrificed and went to their death dancing and
singing ..o for them death meant eternal ecstatic intimacy
with the gods.
The children to be sacrificed were led from town to
town with much rejoicing, while the priests, "Chilans" and
other officers fasted. Then they came to the court of the
temple; and if the victim was to be sacrificed with arrows
the warriors with arrows danced around the victims and the
priest in golden vestments wounded the victims in the parts
of shame whether they be man or woman, drew the blood and
annointed the faces of the idols with it.
If the heart of the maiden was to be taken out they
led her with much rejoicing to the round alter where four
priest after they had driven out the evil spirits and puri-
fied the temple dashed her down on the purple sacrificial
At this time the executioner, the "Kacon", with a
jewelled Jade knife struck her, with great skill and cruelty,
a blow between the ribs of her left side under the breast,
and he at once plunged his hand in there and seized the heart
like a raging tiger and snatched it out alive, and having
placed it upon a plate he gave it, still throbbing with life,
to the high priest who went very quickly and annointed the
faces of the idols with that fresh hot blood.
Sometimes they made their sacrifices on a stone and
high alter of the temple and then they threw the body, now
dead, rolling down the steps; the other priests below took
the skin off of the dead person and put it with all its
blood on the body of the High Priest whom they danced around
The most devout and respected people in the land
ate the body of the sacrificed victim. Sometimes they threw
living victims into the green well of Chichen Itza, believing
that they would come out on the third day although they never
The Mayan walking the land of Belize still use the
instruments of their former civilisation and sing songs and
do dances which tell of their past. Much of this rich past
comes to CARIFESTA. Today we can still catch glimpses of
this past in the largest carved Jade object in the world -
head of Maya Sun God "Kinich Ahau" and at the Orange Walk
District where a large old Mayan Ceremonial site '"ohoch-
tunich" with huge masonry slabs of their ancient pyramids-
Xunantunich, Peto Ticul and Uxmal.
At Xunantunich, "Maiden of the Rock" which is part
of the Mayan ceremonial site that flourished in Peten, there
is a carved astronomical frieze from the roof facade of the
temple. It is here that the hearts of thousands of maidens
were ripped from their chests. It is here that they studied
the heavens and calculated to the nearest second, the length
of the year.
The Black Caribs of Belize are also a very interesting
people with a rich culture. It was on November 19, 1823 that
the Back Caribs first came to Belize. But their story goes
back to an earlier time ... in faot a dark day in the 17th
Century when a large cargo of Negro slaves bound for a plan-
tation in the Caribbean became shipwrecked off the coast
of St. Vincent.
A strange thing happened that day that has never been
explained. The fierce war-loving Caribs who lived on the
Island and has successfully kept the Europeans from settling
there for well over a century promptly killed every white
person on the wrecked slave ship and welcomed with open
arms the slaves as though they were gods newly arrived in some
mysterious way out of the blue Caribbean sea.
The welcome was so warm and cozy that within a short
time the slaves had become a part of the Carib tribe. Within
a short while the Cacique was black. Soon there were two races
of Caribs on the Island. The British occupied St. Vincent and
after much persecution and massacre transported them to the
Island of Roatan from whence they built large long boats and
travelled to Belize ... the "Sanctuary Land".
Today the Black Caribs, living at Stan Creek and other
places along the southern coast, and speaking their Carib/
African dialect with a mixture of French, Spanish and English
words are part of the Belizian cultural mosiac in the same
manner as the European, creole Negroes, Mayans and East Indians.
They still eat their cadeava and plait their colourful
baskets, hammocks and rugs as their forefathers did using
Henequen (sisal hemp). The biggest cultural happening in Belise
is the Jancunu dance and this festivity mirrors the cultural
influences of the Amerindian, African and European in Belize.
There are still many Mayan customs and festivals cele-
brated in the land ... the nestiso farmer on his milpa still
singsof the heroic Mayan twins Hunahpu and Xbalanque ... the
Black Carib still loves roaming the sea, thousands of miles
of it; and it is out of these people that the music, sculpture,
painting song and dance of Belize has emerged ... indeed the
Belizean coming to CARIFESTA is a living breathing work of art
of all these varied and beautiful worlds.