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The Maya Heartland
Drive a few miles out of town, and you find yourself in the heartland of the Maya people. Half the population of Toledo is Maya, a far higher proportion than in any other region. The Toledo Maya Cultural Council has created an ambitious network of Maya-run guesthouses, and in 1995 it initiated the Mayan Mapping Project. By collating oral history and evidence of ancient Mayan settlements, the project hopes to secure rights to land that the Maya have occupied for centuries, but that the Belizean government has ceded to multinational logging companies. There's also a separate, privately run Mayan homestay program, where you stay in local homes rather than in guesthouses.
The Maya divide into two groups: Mopan Maya- and Ketchi-speaking peoples from the Guatemalan highlands. Most of the latter are recent arrivals, refugees from repression and overpopulation. Each group tends to keep to itself, living in separate villages and preserving unique traditions. Among the Ketchi villages in Toledo are Crique Sarco, San Vincente, San Miquel, Laguna, San Pedro Columbia, Santa Teresa, Sunday Wood, Mabelha, and Corazon. Mopan Maya villages include San Antonio, Pueblo Viejo, and San José.
The Maya Heartland at a Glance
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