Kekchi Mayan's In Belize
Not much is known about the lives and history of the Kekchi (pronounced Qʼeqchiʼ) people prior to being conquered by Spanish conquistadors, however, it is known that they were a Maya group located in the central highlands and northern lowlands of Guatemala. The Kekchi Maya are originally from the Verapaz region of Guatemala. Their land was formally known as Tezulutlan or “the land of war" and the Kekchi people were ruled by a king who had his own laws and government. When the Spanish began their conquest the Kekchiʼ were hard to control due to being a dispersed population.
During the nineteenth century plantation agriculture was a big part of the Kekchi people's lives. This led to the seizure of the Kekchi communal land by plantations and the services of the Kekchi people by the government. By 1877, all communal landownership was abolished and this forced some of the Kekchi people to move to Belize. Many began migrating to Belize in the later years of the 1800's.
The Kekchi settled in Belize around the lowland areas, along rivers and streams, forming small isolated villages (over 30 communities in all), throughout the Toledo District of Belize. The Kekchi people are the most populous Mayan group found in Belize. Because of their isolation, the Kekchi have become the most self reliant ethnic group found in Belize. They are a peaceful people, known for their cooperative practices in farming and cultural development.
In time, the Kekchi Mayan mixed with the Mopan Mayan through marriages. Today we see very little difference between the Kechi and the Mopan Mayan groups.
In Guatemala, they number just over half a million. In Toledo District of Belize alone, they make up (about 5 percent), of the Belize population according to the 2000 census.
Kekchi Indians - Northern America, is not the only country that took land away from the native Indians.
The history of the Kekchi Indian people (in Belize), dates between 1870's and 1880's. This was the time when large numbers of Kekchi Indians (and their families), escaped from Guatemala to Belize.
Guatemalan dictator Justo Rufino Barrios made the export of coffee the backbone of his government in the 1870s. Barrios expropriated land belonging to the Catholic hierarchy, as well as communal lands held by Mayans (by 1877), Barrios had virtually eliminated communal ownership of land in Guatemala. By 1880, coffee accounted for 90% of Guatemala's exports.
Many of the Kekchi Indian people fled Guatemala, as the government took away their land. They either stayed & were forced to become slave labor for coffee plantations, or they fled to Belize.
The Kekchi you see living in Belize today, are descendants from the families who chose to flee Guatemala to Belize. These families chose not to become part of the forced slave work force for the coffee plantations. Today you find the majority of the Kekchi Mayan people, living in the Toledo District (the southern part) of Belize.
Trent S. Turley
My name is Trenton S. Turley, and I am a Belizean citizen who has now been living in the country of Belize for the past 15 years. I am also an environmental activist. Our family moved to Belize, when I was 8 years old. I speak English, Spanish, Kriol and American Sign Language. I have a true love for the eco-system of Belize, with regards to preserving this beautiful countries resources.
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