a Mayan experienceApril 06, 2020
We continued on the Hummingbird Highway to the southernmost town of Punta Gorda in the district of Toledo. The area is one of the least developed regions in Belize, also sometimes known as the forgotten district. Toledo is home to the Mopan and Kechi Maya people and features some of the most pristine rainforests, caves and coastal lowland plains. Tourism is far and between this far south, and it promises an authentic experience of Mayan culture. We found this tiny place in the middle of the jungle in San Marco, which is only about 30 minutes north of Punta Gorda, at the Sun Creek Lodge, run by Thomas and Marissa, a very lovely German family.
To respect the family, we only took a few pictures of Cecile’s home and a photograph with her permission. The memory of that night is tucked away in our hearts!
We were allowed to park the LuvShk in a grassy area, get water, and use the beautiful outdoor shower.
A charming restaurant was on-site with delicious Belizean food cooked by Cecile, a lovely Mayan lady.
After many conversations and laughs. She invited us to come to her house at Indian Creek, about 20 km away, for dinner and to meet her family. We accepted.
Cecile lives with her parents, grandparents, kids, brothers and sisters and all their families in a traditional Mayan dwelling with multiple buildings on a hill site with no power. The family welcomed us to their home and made a delicious stew.
After dinner, we got a tour of the multi-family dwellings. Cecile’s grandfather, who was 109 years old, lived on the very top.
(Just outside Grandfathers room)
He spoke to us in Mopan Mayan Language. I held his fragile hand while he smiled at me. This beautiful man was the oldest person we had ever met, and we were so honoured. Cecile also showed us the family garden, the jungle surrounding their home.
After a beautiful evening with the rest of Ceciles’ family, we returned to the LuvShk. Thank you, Cecile, for letting us come into your home and make us feel so welcome.
Indian Creek Woman Society
“The Mayan Sacred calendar system is about connecting your pulse to the pulse of the Earth.” Mark Elmy
Cecile introduced us to this woman group in the Maya Golden Landscape; Q’eqchi’ Maya women make delicious corn tortillas and cook nutritious meals for their families over an open fire. First, the children attend school, the men visit their farms, and the women do laundry at the river bank – creating solid bonds. Then, the women collect firewood, herbs, fruits and vegetables for the next family meal.
In their spare time, indigenous Q’eqchi’ Maya women make unique handicrafts, cuxtal handbags, jippi jappa baskets, wood and slate carvings, pottery, jewellery and clothing with materials sustainably sourced from the forests. Realizing the opportunity to sell to fellow community members and international travellers, the sisters of the Coc family formed the Indian Creek Maya Arts Women’s Group.
The women shared their knowledge of living on their land without power, hauling water from the creek, cooking over an open fire, and making jewellery and baskets out of materials the jungle gave them. We learned about using all material coming from their backyard to build their houses, food, clothing, and so much more. Yet, the hardworking families fight to preserve their way of life. The town of Indian Creek has planned new infrastructures and power coming to the village, which will ease some of the daily lives but destroy the peoples’ way of living at an even greater cost.
We got to know these amazing women who proudly shared their knowledge with us, and we feel so lucky for this opportunity.
Side note: After most of the day learning about Mayan culture, the women were curious about our home on wheels. We invited all of our hosts to come inside for tea. So, it was a Cultural exchange for all of us in the end. Priceless!
Picking jippi jappa
Weaving a basket
Showing our home to our hosts- cultural exchange at its finest
The word cacao originated from the Maya word Ka’kau’, as well as the word chocolate from Chocol’ha and the verb chokola’j – “to drink chocolate together.”
Maya people believe that the gods discovered the ka’kau’.
Since the cacao is the drink of the gods, only the elite in the Maya society could afford to drink it. In addition, the cacao seeds were also a form of currency, so only the wealthy had the pleasure of enjoying the delightful taste of chocolate.
The Mayas passed on their knowledge of cacao through oral history and even in writing, documenting the use and importance of cacao in their daily life and rituals.
Cacao comes from the seeds of a fruit pod that sprouts directly from the trunk or main branches of the Madre Cacao tree. When the fruit turns green-ish to yellow or red, it is ripe and ready to be harvested.
The ripe pods are cocoa beans covered with soft white flesh and a sweet taste if sucked.
The beans are collected and put in a wooden box for fermenting for 5 to 6 days. Then, they are spread on a flat exterior surface to be sundried. When dry, they can be stored in bags or used as needed.
The beans are roasted in the comal (a heating pan)before the shell is cracked and thrown away.
Winnowing is the next step to separate the tiny shell pieces from the beans.
(Winnowing shells from beans)
The beans are now crushed in a Matate, a volcanic basalt stone, to create cocoa nibs or ground. The beans have a percentage of butter inside them. When heated with the friction of the grinding process, they turn the crushed beans into a paste. It can take 3 to 6 hours of grinding to achieve a smooth paste, depending on the smoothness desired
At this point, since the cocoa paste is in its raw form, 100% cocoa, its taste is bitter. Spices and flavours –butter, chile, black pepper, honey, and others– can be added to create a different flavour and reduce cocoa’s percentage.
Pour the cocoa paste into moulds and let dry at ambient temperature.
Or make a delicious drink.