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Oct 11, 2022

Preserving the Maya Cultural Heritage through La Fiesta del Pueblo

The Annual La Fiesta del Pueblo was hosted by the Ministry of Human Development, Families and Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs in partnership with the Northern Maya Association and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology in San Jose Nuevo Palmar, in Orange Walk District on Sunday. It was a fun-filled event for the entire family and for those who wanted to immerse themselves in the Maya culture in Belize.  There was no shortage of artisan booths, traditional dance and musical performances and games. News Five’s Duane Moody brings you the sights and sounds of the weekend festival in this week’s Kolcha Tuesday.


San Jose Nuevo Palmar, a small village on the outskirts of Orange Walk Town, comes alive every year on the second Sunday of October. Its residents, primarily the descendants of the indigenous Yucatec Mayas, celebrate their history and culture in all its forms. Following a parade into the village, a brief ceremony is held before a burst of cultural presentations. It features traditional Mayan music.  Men, women and children are dressed in cultural attire, and there are performances that include the hog head and deer dances, as well as a display of the ancient Maya ballgame, pok-ta-pok.


Arturo Cantun, Vice President, Northern Maya Association of Belize

“With the exception of the last two years, due to COVID, it is a day where we showcase our culture through the music, through the food, the dances that you are seeing. The history – we have display of our community’s history like other communities like San Lazaro, Yo Creek, August Pine Ridge. We showcase how to prepare the pibil, typical food.”


La Fiesta del Pueblo involves the entire community, from the young and the old. It was established twenty-one years ago, back in 2001, to ensure that the intangible cultural heritage of the people in San Jose Nuevo Palmar is preserved.


Arturo Cantun

Arturo Cantun

“This is the time Palmareños celebrate the founding of our village, from 1936 eight of October. And so every year, we proudly celebrate our history. San Jose Palmar dates back to hundreds of years from when this village used to be in the Yalbac areas. The village was relocated because there was conflict with the Belize Estate Company. In that process, we lost a lot of our villagers, moved to other parts of the country – some went to Mexico. But I think the essence of the community moved to present day Palmar. So this is what we celebrate. We are proud Yucatecos and we have a lot to show to the country.”


While the festival has been held for the past two decades, most Belizeans are not aware of the event or its cultural connection to the history of the country.  La Fiesta del Pueblo ties perfectly with the recent recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Resistance Day by the Government of Belize.


Tanya Santos-Neal

Tanya Santos-Neal, C.E.O., Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs

“They came here as a result of the Caste War in the past, in Yucatán and they are trying to keep alive the culture and the heritage of the Yucatec Mayas. So definitely in line with what we here at the ministry are supporting, but not only the culture, but the empowerment of our Maya people, including our Yucatec Maya brothers and sister, the Mayas of southern Belize and the Garifuna people of Belize as well. In these changing times and globalisation that has occurred, to keep that culture, to keep those cultural practices that in many communities, such as this one, is what helps to hold the community together.”


Nicole Solano

Nicole Solano, C.E.O., Ministry of Tourism & Diaspora Relations

“We talk about cultural diversity over and over again, but every time you come to an event like this, you really feel the diversity and that’s really the only way right. When you come to these kind of activities, you feel the difference between the various cultures that Belize has and we really do have significant diversity. We have to celebrate our people, we have to celebrate our cultures.”


Cofounder of La Fiesta del Pueblo and Vice President of the Northern Maya Association of Belize, Arturo Cantun says that over time, there has literally been a cultural shift and more communities are becoming proud of their indigenous roots.


Arturo Cantun

“This is one way of how we showcase and educate people – not only Yucatec Maya, but the entire country. We think that by them learning where they come from, the history of their community, they ignite some kind of interest.”


John Burgos

John Burgos, Resident, Orange Walk Town

“The Maya/Mestizo culture is so rich here in Orange Walk, in Nuevo San Juan Palmar. And I invite everybody come enjoy the food. Great food, traditional Maya/Mestizo dishes. From sweets to the cochinita pibil to the different styles of tacos, mucum – things I can’t even pronounce, but they are delicious.”


Immersing in the Maya cultural experience, not only did I sample the foods, I also learned a couple phrases.


Duane Moody [Translated]

“Reporting for News Five, I am Duane Moody.”

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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