The Maya reside
in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Belize. There are
32 individual Mayan cultures that vary in language, lifestyle, and
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.
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
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.
Stann Creek District
Na Lum Caj
San Benito Poite
San Pedro Columbia
Click map to enlarge
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
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.
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:
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.