Saints, Shamans, Sacraments, and Syncretism

In the middle of virtually every Maya town and village in Mexico and Guatemala is the Catholic Church. It’s often the largest building in town, and it’s often on the highest point, reflecting the Spanish colonists’ desire to impose their religion on the natives and dominate them (spiritually and physically). Continue reading

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The Drunken Horse Race of Todos Santos

Todos Santos Cuchumatan is a small town (or a large village, depending on your point of view) nestled high up in the Cuchumatanes mountain range of western Guatemala, near the Mexican border. It’s a simple place – one bank (with one ATM), a handful of basic hotels, and a few even more basic restaurants. And at an altitude of 2,500 metres, it can get cold, cloudy, and rainy at any time of year. The streets off the main road are dirt (or mud, after it rains), and everything’s shut by 9pm. Continue reading

Hiking in the Guatemalan Highlands

Guatemala may be only the size of England, but it has a huge variety of landscapes, from black volcanic beaches to flat, endless vistas of palm trees and banana plantations, to numerous caves, rivers, and lakes, to vast jungles full of Maya ruins and exotic animals. It’s also the most mountainous country in Central America, containing 30 volcanoes and the highest peaks between Mexico and Columbia. Continue reading

Maya Ruins of Mexico

If there’s one other thing I’ve been doing in Mexico, apart from cooling off in the lovely cenotes, it’s working up a sweat wandering round the many Maya ruins. I thought Belize was well-represented in that department, having been to six of them (including the two biggest, Caracol and Lamanai). But Mexico has about ten major ruins, and tens of smaller sites. Continue reading

¡Hola Guatemala! – Back to Petén

Less than four months after visiting The Land of Eternal Spring for the first time, I’m back for another bite of the Guatemalan cherry. I’ve decided to revisit the eastern Petén department, as not only is it the closest one to where I live in central Belize, but it’s covered in jungle and full of Maya ruins (only one of which – Tikal, the most famous – have I explored).

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The Living Maya Experience

As I’ve mentioned previously, the southern Belizean district of Toledo is home to the majority of Belize’s Maya inhabitants, with around 20,000 of them spread over 60 villages.  And while many of them seem happy to live in their thatched wooden houses and tend to their beans and corn on the farm, living the kinds of rural lives their people have lived for generations, some of them are slowly embracing the kinds of cultural tourism that the nearby Garifuna people have been pioneering. Continue reading

¡Hola Guatemala! – Flores and Tikal

Despite living in Belize for three years (and despite spending most of that time living less than 150 km from the Belize-Guatemala border), I’ve never been to Guatemala.  Shameful, I know.  I’ve not even popped across to Melchor for the shopping (regular readers may know, from a previous post, that Belize has such limited shopping options that the locals are forced to go abroad!).  I’ve been to Mexico four times (which, ironically, is further away), but not once have I visited the only other country that borders Belize.  Until now, that is – having seen just about everywhere in Belize (everywhere I want to visit, that is), it’s time to finally see The Land of Eternal Spring. Continue reading