Cultural degradation is an issue that many traditional cultures, like the Garifunas and the Maya, struggle against as the younger generations become more westernized. It is in light of this that the Maya community of Toledo celebrated Maya Day on Sunday March 22nd at Blue Creek Village in Toledo under the theme “Celebrating Our Identity”. It is a huge event, and hundreds of people from all across the country attend each year. Aurelio Sho, one of the Organizers of the event, spoke to us about the importance of hosting an event like this.
Aurelio Sho – Organizer
“It’s pretty much to preserve the vibrant Mayan culture that all the different activities in the rural communities are preserved.. They all form a part of our Mayan heritage for example; earlier, we had the corn grinding competition on the grinding stone and not many people came up fron to participate in that competition. So what we encourage is to bring a lot of the activities that they do in the rural communities and we have it as a competition to celebrate to feel, as our theme for this year, its been for all the years, is Celebrating our Identity because that is what to instil in the people of Toledo and Belize, through music, through food, through the culture itself and the traditional knowledge that exists. That there is a long history behind, the Mayan people in Belize.
As part of the celebrations, the organizers of Maya Day presented Florencio Mess with a plaque acknowledging him for his contribution to the Mayan culture through his music. Mess is one of the three kings, featured, along with Paul Nabor and Wilfred Peters in a 2007 documentary film. At 76, Florencio Mess has several parts of the world sharing his music internationally.
Florencio Mess- Honoured Musician
“We’ve been to Italy, to Malaysia, to Port of Spain, to Saint Kitts, Jamaica, Maiami Florida and Mexico, Campeche. When I went to Mexico, the president told me that I should move to 48 countries, but up to yet, not yet. ”
“Sir, how old are you right now.”
“And will you continue to play music?”
” I am building a new harp now and building a new one again. Yes, I won’t forget it until the rest will come. Only God known’s when.”
And while there is the constant fear that the Maya culture is on the brink of extinction as more youths become influenced by Western music and culture, there are people like 18 year old Heraldo Pot Jr, who go against the mainstream to ensure the culture is kept alive.
Heraldo Pot Jr- Mayan Youth
“Serving all the Mayan food that we faily eat for like every day. This is the culture that we do. we have the hot tamales here, this is a homemade cake and we have fresh juice and coconut water.
“Are you one of those persons who tries to maintain the culture?’
Heraldo Pot Jr-
“Yes sir, because I am really proud of my culture. You see that marimba there, I play that. My dad is a musician, so he teaches me. We just pass on the culture.
We encourage the younger generation to embrace more and be proud of their identity. No matter where you are, what you do and whatever position you have in society. Be proud of who you are as Mayan people.”
This is the 11th year that Maya Day is being celebrated. It is the hope of organizer Aurelio Sho that one day the Parliamanet will officially recognize a day for the Maya people of Belize//.[