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Angel E. Cal, Ph.D.
President, University of Belize
Dr. Angel Cal

I am honored to have been asked, with the consent of the leaders of the Mayan southern communities of Belize, to write a brief forward to these carefully assembled "windows" of the Living Maya. The sounds, pictures and words of the presentation represent a good glimpse of the life of the children, women and men whose ancestral roots hark back through the millennia.

What we find in this presentation is as accurate as the participants themselves made it, to the extent that they allowed themselves to be photographed and recorded, recalling that much of the text is actually drawn from the Maya themselves, though the lenses of the editors cannot be minimized in importance.

Social scientists will have a fairly comprehensive view of life as it is perceived in their communities today. These scenes from present day life can be used subsequently to compare the changes that the Maya themselves and the world around them are bringing about in the forests of southern Belize.

As a learning tool, the present work provides material for teachers and students to view the southern Maya from several angles. The work covers the major dimensions of life in rural communities. The work also provides a methodology that can be used to document/record life as it currently exists among ethnic groups, particularly those for whom there is little written information. It allows us to note, for example, the increasing importance of the actions that the Maya have taken in helping to shape their own lives and the communities in which they live. In between, we note the pressing impact of the forces of the outside world coming from within Belize and beyond and the ways in which the Maya have learned to cope with these agents of change.

More importantly, the record herein represents the closest example we have of a collective voice of the southern Maya at a given point in time. It is a good record for the Maya themselves. It illustrates the resilience of a proud people, who with quiet dignity have faced and continue to face formidable obstacles in the unequal confrontations they have experienced during the millennia: against the forces of the state, the church, and more recently rampant capitalism now clothed as free trade.

But the sounds, pictures, and words also signal a renewed optimism, increased expectations, and hope to the Maya themselves, that they are capable of uplifting themselves, of taking the lead in providing for themselves and their communities an improved quality of life. On the other hand, they cannot do it alone. The Ten Points of Agreement, for example, while a good beginning can only satisfy its promise if there were political will from Government to support the people's urgent call for a just share in the harvesting of the wealth of the forests they have called home for many centuries, and for the continued improvement of their human resources to make this development possible.
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