By Wilfrido Novelo, Member NMAB
The Battle of Orange Walk Monument situated on Queen Victoria Avenue in Orange Walk Town was the venue of an inspirational moment in the town’s history with the celebration of the Third Edition of Maya Heroes Day this past Saturday August 31st 2019. The battle actually occurred on September 1st 1872 between the forces of Icaiche Maya Chief Marcos Canul and the British West India Regiment stationed in Orange Walk. The event was organized by the Northern Maya Association of Belize (NMAB).
The NMAB is a registered non-profit Non-Government Organization that was formed to preserve and promote Maya history and culture in northern Belize, a culture that was silently withering away. The NMAB is made of Belizeans from the Orange Walk and Corozal districts.
The official ceremonies began with the beautiful rendering of our national anthem by the “Juul K’iin (“Rays of the Sun”) Children’s Group of Yo Creek Village, first Maya Escort Group of the Belizean flag, which was done in the Maya language, under the directorship of Mrs Felicita Cantun. All commands were done in the Maya language and the children respectfully responded.
The NMAB recognized two outstanding Maya Belizeans for their positive contributions to Maya culture. They were Mrs Silvina Perez of Nuevo San Jose Palmar Village and Don Octaviano Pott of Caledonia Village. Mrs Silvina Perez has been dedicated to traditional Maya healing, a great promoter of the Fiesta de San Jose in Palmar, the village’s patron saint that is held yearly in Palmar on the week of March 19th. She also facilitates anyone interested in using Maya regalia for any cultural occasion. Recognition awards were presented by Mayor Kevin Bernard, Liaison for Museum of Belize and Houses of Culture Mrs. Carla Rosado, President of the NMAB Ms Yahaira Vega and Vice President of the NMAB Arturo Cantun.
Don Octaviano Pott has been instrumental in promoting the Juan Carnaval festivities that begins on the Sunday and ends on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. His involvement began as a young boy when his uncle was the accordionist for the carnival and his dream was to one day play the accordion at said festivities, a dream he fulfilled in later life. One upon a time, in the 1960s and 1970s, carnival was a big thing in the calendar when boys went out on the streets to paint with talcum powder any girls on the streets. That no longer happens anymore. The NMAB has begun a process of reviving the carnival with the “comparsas” (dance groups) that once upon a time celebrated carnival with all sorts of revelry in Orange Walk. Elderly folks of Orange Walk say they yearn for the return of days of old.
The ceremonies ended with the laying of the wreath at the monument by Senator Osmany Salas, and Member of the NMAB Cindey Rivero. The day’s activities continued at the nearby Central Park.
After more than 1,000 years after the collapse of Maya civilization, the ancient Maya ballgame known as pok-ta-pok is seeing a revival. In 2015, Mrs. Felicita Cantun organized the first ever in Belize pok-ta-pok team named Ek Balam (Black Jaguars). In September that year the team participated in the first ever Pok-ta-pok Mundo Maya World Cup in Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico. Mexico won first and second places while Belize won third after beating Guatemala two times.
In 2017, Ek Balam won first place at the Mundo Maya World Cup in Guatemala and in 20 19 they repeated as world champs in El Salvador. The MM World Cup is held in a different MM country every two years and it will be on a rotating basis. Honduras will host 2021 and Belize’s turn will be in 2023. In 2025 it goes back to Mexico.
The grand attraction of Saturday’s Maya Heroes Day was a first for Belize: a real pok-ta-pok competition with Orange Walk’s females, “Le Ts’unu’um” (The Hummingbirds) of Yo Creek village versus “l’Binkaan” (Coral Snakes), female students of the Belize High School of Agriculture. It was a fiercely contested match with five players on either side playing under 90 degrees-plus under the scorching sun at Orange Walk’s Central Park. The match ended 10 points for either side, with extra time being allowed.
The Hummingbirds in control of the ball.
NMAB LOGO AND FLAG UNVIELED
The NMAB has adopted the above logo create by NMAB member Andy Chuc. It consists of the Maya colours: white for the north, yellow for the south, red for the east and black for the west. A male and female Maya are represented in brown colour, the original complexion of the Maya that we see painted on bark paper books, in murals of royal palaces, inside of royal tombs and on ceramics.
Each Maya holds a corn, the basic staple of the Maya. According to the Popol Vuh, the Sacred Book of Counsel of the Maya, the Maya gods tried to create humans three times. In the first creation they tried to create humans out of wood but that did not work because they could not bend and they had no feelings. In the second creation, they tried to create humans out of clay but that did not work because when it rained on them they disintegrated and washed away. In the third creation the Maya gods tried to create humans out of the kernel of the corn and that did work, so that the Maya consider themselves to be children of corn. Corn is very important in the Maya diet; corn is very sacred in Maya culture.
The machetes are symbols of Maya resistance and they are also tools of work with which the Maya work the land to produce food for their sustenance. (The machete has cut million upon millions of tons of cane in northern Belize during the past 52 years of the sugar industry). The Maya characters are crowned with a Maya temple and the sun, the sun being very sacred to the Maya. Kinich Ahau is the Maya Sun God.
THE MAYA COLORS
The Maya knew that planet earth was round and not flat. In the Popul Vuh, the Maya speak of the round face of the earth and about the four corners of the earth, the cardinal points: north, south, east and west. North was at the top and south was at the bottom. (In Egyptian culture, north was down and south was up).
The Maya associated the cardinal points with colours. North (xaman in Maya, pronounced as shaman was white (sac in Maya); south (nohol) was yellow (kan); east (lakin) was red (chac) and west (chikin) was black (ek).
I find these Maya colours particularly fascinating because in the north we have the North Pole and the Arctic Circle that are covered with snow every day of the year. The colour of snow is white. In the south we have the Republic of Argentina and its southern province of Tierra del Fuego, Land of Fire. The colour of fire is yellow. In the east, the sun rises as a big ball of red fire and it sets in the west where it disappears for the beginning of night. The colour of night is black. The Maya associated the middle of the earth as blue/green, the colours of the forests and the oceans and called it “yax” (yash).
The Northern Maya Association of Belize was founded in April 2017. Its current Board of Directors consists of Yajaira Vega as President; Arturo Cantun as Vice-President; Valentina Chi as Secretary; Cindey Rivero as Treasurer, Manuel Solis as Councillor. The Association is enthused about fulfilling its mandate and looks forward to a fruitful working relationship with the Belizean people preserving and promoting our very rich Maya history and culture. We thank our colleagues from “Toone Masehualoon”, WE ARE MAYA Group of Corozal for their very valuable contributions and collaboration with the Northern Maya Association of Belize.