Who Are The Maya?
The Maya people have been in Belize for at least several thousand years. Their first recorded settlements in Belize date to about 1,200 B.C., and their civilization rose to prominence from about 900 B.C. to 900 A.D. What about the Maya today? As Mayan civilizations declined, small villages, towns, and groups of people continued to survive as subsistence farmers, even as their governing cities and nobility collapsed. When the Spanish arrived, Maya civilization was already declining. The Spanish encountered very fierce resistance to their attempts to conquer Maya territories. Slowly they gained ground, but not without high consequences, including periodic outbreaks of violence against the Spanish.
The Maya populations remaining in Belize when Europeans first arrived were scattered in three provinces, running from north to south. These were know as Chetumal, Dzuluinicob, and Manche Chol provinces. In addition to the scattered populations of Maya peasants living in Belize, periodic upheavals in the neighboring countries of Mexico and Guatemala caused Maya refugees to flee into the relative security of Belize. The first of these major refugee influxes occurred with the Guerra de Las Castas, beginning in the 1840's. Like the Mestizos, many Maya fled south from Mexico at this time to settle in northern Belize. These Yucatec Maya settled into life as small farmers, and also became incolved in sugar cane production.
In the 1880's, two other groups of Maya, known as the Mopan and the Ke'hchi, fled neighboring Guatemala to settle in Belize. The Mopan Maya were fleeing from the Peten area of Guatemala because of heavy taxation, military conscription, and forced labor. They settled primarily in Cayo District. The Ke'kchi were fleeing from the Vera Pax area of Guatemala and settled primarily in Toledo District. Both were and are farmers who continue to live, for the most part, in small villages. In Toledo District, the Mopan and Ke'kchi make up the majority of the population. Today, the Maya make up approximately 11% of Belie's population.
The Maya today continue to live mainly in rural areas, with many of their villages sited along rivers and their tributaries, and to engage in agriculture, fisheries and the timber industry.
4/19/2021 12:49:23 pm
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