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The Maya reside in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Belize. There are 32 individual Mayan cultures that vary in language, lifestyle, and traditions.

Large numbers of Maya have continuously moved from one area to another within Central America. The agricultural practices and lifestyle of the Maya have traditionally lead them to seek out new areas to live - where soil and rivers and streams sustain life. However, beginning with the era of the Spanish Conquest, the Maya also migrated to avoid exploitation, abuse, and oppression.

Several Mayan cultures did not survive the advent of Europeans in Central America. Today, the Maya experience socioeconomic challenges in all of the countries in which they live. This fact is in stark contrast to the prosperity of their forebears.

In Belize

Maya make up 11% of the total population in Belize. The Maya of Belize are the Yucatec, Mopan, and Q´eqchi´. These groups may be found in any district in Belize.

Not only do they live specifically in Mayan villages or on reservations, but they also live in towns and villages throughout the country.

Yucatec Maya primarily live in the northern and western portions of the country.

The majority of the Mopan and Q´eqchi´ Maya reside in southern Belize, primarily in the Toledo District. However, there are also Mayan villages in the Stann Creek District. In addition to high concentrations of Maya that reside in the Toledo and Stann Creek Districts, Mopan Maya also live in the Cayo District - in a village called San Antonio. One of the two oldest Maya villages in the Toledo District is also named San Antonio.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the Mopan and Q´eqchi´ Maya of the Toledo District live in 38 established Maya villages, as well as in other multiethnic villages located in the district.

Map of Belize
Maya Villages
Stann Creek District

Maya Center
Maya Mopan
Red Bank
San Roman
Santa Rosa
San Pablo

Maya Villages
Toledo District

Big Falls
Blue Creek
Boom Creek
Crique Jute
Crique Sarco
Golden Stream
Graham Creek
Indian Creek
Mabil Ha
Medina Bank
Na Lum Caj

Pueblo Viejo
San Antonio
San Benito Poite
San Felipe
San Jose
San Lucas
San Marcos
San Miguel
San Pedro Columbia
San Vicente
Santa Ana
Santa Cruz
Santa Elena
Santa Theresa
Silver Creek
Sunday Wood

Map of Toledo
Click map to enlarge

The Toledo District

The Toledo District is at the southernmost part of Belize and is bordered by Guatemala to the south and west, and by the Stann Creek and Cayo Districts to the north and north west.

The coastal area is situated on the Gulf of Honduras, part of the Caribbean Sea.

The topography is a mixture of rolling terrain, the rugged hills of the Maya Mountains (which can reach a slope of sixty degrees), and low flat lands. There are seven major rivers within Toledo's boundaries as well as numerous smaller rivers and streams. Monkey River, Deep River and Golden Stream are in the northern area, the Rio Grande and the Moho are in the middle, and the Temash and Sarstoon Rivers are in the southernmost part of the district. The Sarstoon River has traditionally served as the dividing line between Guatemala and Belize.
The climate is humid and tropical. There is a significant difference in rainfall between Belize's northern districts and the Toledo District. Annual precipitation ranges from 40 - 60 inches in Corozol, while the Toledo District can receive as much as 180 inches of rain a year. The amount of rain this area receives makes the area lush with foliage.

There is one town of significant size in the district (Punta Gorda) that serves as the administrative center. Punta Gorda is located on the Gulf of Honduras. To the north, south, and west of this town over 50 villages exist at the turn of the 21st century. There are three different types of villages in the Toledo District:

Maya villages - There are 38 communities that are traditionally thought of as Mayan villages. They are located throughout the district. There is a larger grouping of Mayan villages in the southwest than any other part of the district.

Multiethnic villages
- Today villages throughout the Toledo District contain an ethnic mixture including Maya, Garifuna, Creole, Mestizo, and East Indian. Examples of multiethnic villages that have traditionally been categorized as Maya villages are Boom Creek and Big Falls.

Garifuna villages
- Barranco was established in the early 1800s along with smaller groupings of homes that served as Garifuna settlements along the Gulf of Honduras. Barranco is still populated by those of Garifuna heritage.