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Mar 29, 2023

University of Belize Hosts First Ever Maya Day Celebration

The University of Belize’s Intercultural Indigenous Language Institute and a Maya Students Association organized the university’s first-ever Maya Day celebration. The event was held inside the U.B. gymnasium in Belmopan, under the theme “Learning, Protecting, and Experiencing Maya Culture in Belize”. A host of students from the university and surrounding primary schools were in attendance to witness the display of food, music, dance, clothing and language. News Five’s Paul Lopez reports.


Paul Lopez, Reporting

Mayan culture has been around for thousands of years. Traditions such as the Deer Dance is said to be unique to Belize and it is still performed at festivals and special events. The soundtrack to the dance is played by three persons on a Marimba. The rhythmic movement portrays how the marimba called all the animals from the forest and mountains to gather at one location. Dancers dressed in deer masks and colorful costumes come forward as the marimba is played. Others portray monkeys, jaguars and other wild animals. As the story progresses, the Spaniards appear. It depicts the Spaniards shooting all the deer, an act that does not end well for them. This morning, the Deer Dance was performed at the University of Belize first UB Maya Day today, on its central campus in Belmopan.  Among the attendees was Governor General Dame Froyla T’zalam.


Dame Froyla Tzalam

Dame Froyla T’zalam, Governor General of Belize

“While we’re here celebrating the three Maya groups in Belize, who are the Mopan, Q’eqchi, and Yucatech, let us not just do it for today, but every day. Let us not just focus on performative culture, but also on serious cross-cutting work to ensure that our cultures are not just for our day, but rather a way of being. One way is to continuously ask as the national university, whether the education being provided is relevant to our success as native people in Belize, my father always trusted the need for an education, an education that would positively impact the material circumstances and the future possibilities that would ensure that our people and other Belizeans would not be left behind and that we, and that we would promote economic resilience, continue to eat a balanced diet from a wide range of local biodiversity food.”

The event was organized by the university to promote cultural revitalization. Apart from the Deer Dance, another main feature of the event was a Pok-Ta-Pok match.


Pio Saqui

Pio Saqui, Professor, University of Belize

“The whole activity that’s happening here today is to tell our students that, look, your culture is very important, it is and you have to celebrate it. You need to speak your language, you need to listen to your music. You need to share your stories, talk to your elders. And today we celebrated two elders who are champions in their own right in defending the culture of the Maya people, Mr. Alfonso Tzul from the Yucatec Maya and Mr. Salucio Chiac who is a very well known Marimba player and one of his, the last that we have still living today, and for us to transmit that knowledge to our younger students to make  UB students know that if we’re truly going to make a university, that will change our view of Belize, they would have to do it proudly with their culture.”


According to Doctor Vincent Palacio, the President of the University of Belize, the student population at UB represents various ethnicities found across the country. In honor of such cultural diversity, the university organized its own version of Maya Day on the heels of the official Maya Day celebrations. There are also plans in place to celebrate other cultures.


Vincent Palacio

Dr. Vincent Palacio, President, University of Belize

“The two institutions or sub-organization that are responsible for this, we have the student group, the Inno’on Laoh Student Association, which is the Mayan student group. And we have a newly established institute called Intercultural Indigenous Language Institute here at the university. And, that institute is responsible for putting together events like these, you know, closer to November nineteenth; we’ll do one for the Garinagu. And, uh, the different ethnicities likewise, an environment where we could come together to discuss and educate Belizeans about the different ethnicities in our country, because then that will bring down the wall of racism and prejudice, and then together we learn and we could appreciate our differences.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Paul Lopez.

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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