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May 26, 2017

San Pedro Moves Against Maya Mound Destroyers

Maya mounds dot the island of San Pedro Ambergris Caye. In recent days, the destruction of one has stirred outcry among the folks in the island. The proud mound stood at the southern area of the island. Though it was not registered among the nineteen others, its existence was well-known. The area somehow fell in private hands and recently, a private contractor bulldozed the site. A stop order has now been issued to stave off any construction. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

It might not look like much and from a distance; you may say it is simply a pile of black dirt, but this plot of land in the San Pablo area in the southern part of San Pedro Town holds pieces of Belize’s tangible cultural Mayan heritage. The mound, which was once known to have a palapa, a Stela replica, and at one point, even picnic tables for residents to use as an open space, was desecrated last Sunday after a portion of the property was bulldozed by a private contractor.

Today, various colors of Maya remnants are visibly seen scattered on the site and the Stela replica destroyed. While half of the property has been overturned, the shards of pottery predate Christ and it is believed that the site was a trading point for the Mayas.

 

Jan Brown, Marco Gonzalez Maya Site

“We did a site inspection and it is just absolutely unbelievable what you can find there. It’s just a blanket of pottery that has been overturned. We all knew that the site was there; how far it dates back is unknown until some excavation, experimental excavations, can be done by the proper authority. Some of the pottery that was found by the Institute of Archeology and a visiting archeologist, this week, has uncovered pieces of ceramics and it looks as though some of it can be what we called ‘coconut walk’ which was used in very large bowls to boil done salt water and make the salt and then the edges of the bowls were broken and they carry the salt in the bottom. There is another huge slot of the red pottery that comes from off this island.”

 

There has been an outcry from residents as well as professionals in the archeological field, primarily because the intangible Mayan culture is being threatened. Tens of thousands of Mayas once populated Ambergris Caye, leaving behind several sites; nineteen of which have been registered on the island. Jan Brown and her team operate a nonprofit organization that, with the blessings of government, manages the Marco Gonzalez Maya Site. She says the Central Park sits on a registered site.

 

Jan Brown

Jan Brown

“Department of Archeology under the direction of the then Director Doctor Elizabeth Graham; she and her team came out, they explored the whole island and the locals would direct them to what they found or knew where there was a site. In their investigation, they found nineteen sites and registered them with the government. We’re sitting in the corridor from water to water that is a Maya site that covers the Central park, the Jaguars Temple night club, the house next door is the Parham family that is an old registered family here on the island. Behind on the next street is Elvi’s Kitchen; that’s part of the excavation from the eighties. Behind that was Eddie Halliday’s house and it goes again from the front of the Caribbean Sea to the back which we call the lagoon.”

 

So how did this mound slip through the cracks? And when and how did it end up in private hands?

 

Daniel Guerrero

Daniel Guerrero, Mayor, San Pedro Town

“That land issue has popped up before in 2009 or something like that and it has been controversial since then. It is located in the San Pablo area and as far as we know it was sold out to a private person. Actually it belongs to Mister Enrique Rolando Thompson, from the mainland. It has popped up again now that Real Estate brokers sold it; that the word out there that they sold it and now they had approached our workers to go and level the land and kinda clean it. But I was very good at it and I said no, let’s not touch that property.”

 

Jan Brown

“It was originally sold by one of our town council officials. And at that point, a year or so later, someone was trying to get approval to build something on it through the authority. Minister Heredia, area rep at that time, said you can sell it all you want to, but you can’t build.”

 

Following an investigation by the Institute of Archeology in the aftermath of the destruction, a stop order has been issued against the owner.

 

Daniel Guerrero

“The council actually endorses that. It is part of our cultural heritage and it might have a connection with Santa Cruz or Marco Gonzalez or any other archeological site on the island. My suggestion for this thing to stop is to either write a letter to the Ministry of Natural Resources to just do a swap with the private owner; give him another property somewhere else and give up this one and this one can be registered as an archeological park or something.”

 

Jan Brown

“We can move on to find a group here in San Pedro to make it into a park and take it back to its natural setting and be able to move forward from there and really protect it and love it. It is their history, it’s the Maya history; it is the history of the San Pedranos.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.

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