Letter from a Toledo Mayan

Dear friends and colleagues,

Perhaps, many of you either know me as a friend of Flavia, as the international student from Belize, or the RA on the fourth floor in Dablon. To many of you I'm just plain Monica.

I am writing because I need your help. I am requesting assistance on behalf of my people back home in Belize who have fallen victim to a catastrophic hurricane.

For those of you who do not know much about me, I am a direct descendant of the ancient Mayas that you might have come across in the history books. I grew up in southern Belize among my people. The Mayas in Belize are just one of the many indigenous groups that occupy Central America.

However, the Mayas in southern Belize like most other indigenous groups are victims of poverty, oppression and often live on the periphery of the dominant culture. From the fall of the Mayan civilization around 900 AD the Mayas of southern Belize and Central America have been struggling to secure a legitimate place in the contemporary world. However, they are at a great disadvantaged when they try to participate in our capitalistic societies, because their situation is a special situation, and therefore require special attention.

However, my purpose is not to discuss their place in the modern world. I would like to draw your attention to their current economic situation. On Monday October 8th, Belize fell victim to a category four hurricane.
Hurricane Iris pounded the shores of Belize with winds of up to 140 miles per hour. This hurricane devastated anything that came in its way.

Unfortunately for my people, friends and relatives are now left homeless (8,000 people). According to census statistics from Belize the Mayas are already considered the poorest of the poor. With this unfortunate occurrence, the Mayas in southern Belize have been swept back twenty years or more into poverty!

If they are so poor, then how do they continue to thrive, you may ask? They live communally in small villages and they plant corn, squash, beans, and also cultivate rice that they sell. However, most Mayas don’t even make at least a $1000 BZ a year, much less a $1000US. Instead, their subsistence farming practices sustain them from year to year. Moreover, their strong reliance on the rainforest helps to maintain their beautiful culturally rich livelihood. They build their homes from forest products such as palms. Even the forest on which they strongly rely has been destroyed by the vicious hurricane.

Perhaps, the fact that these people do not enjoy sophisticated brick homes or have access to the latest technology, and the fact that they are already used to having only the basics in life will help them adjust to their predicament. However, intrinsic in being part of the human race, these people, my people, deserve to be given the basics in their time of need. Many literally lost everything, not that they had much, but they are in need of basic food, clothing, and shelter.

Therefore, as young men and women privileged to be receiving a Jesuit Education who care about the welfare of the human race, I ask you to join me in promoting social justice in the world. I urge you to help in making this possible by donating financially to the plight of my people, the Mayas.

Don’t think twice about giving, because you have much more than any one of these unfortunate victims. Yesterday I woke up feeling very guilty, I looked around me, and I saw everything that have - and yet I often complain of being a poor college student. I now understand how much I have. We are blessed people. Let us not hesitate in blessing others, especially those in need.

Thank you so much for taking your precious time out to read this letter.

Monica Coc