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Jun 15, 2023

Preserving Belize’s Cultures One at a Time

On Wednesday, we brought you the story of the Deer Dance, a traditional and colourful display performed by the Mayas of southern Belize at the Lubaantun Archaeological Reserve. That exhibition represented the culture of this indigenous people and how they are trying to preserve it. They are doing so through the help of the ministries of Indigenous People’s Affairs and Culture, through the National Institute of Culture and History, NICH. The costumes that the dancers wore and the marimba instruments they played were purchased through the two ministries which jointly contributed over fifty thousand dollars. But Belize has a variety of cultures that must also be safeguarded, and that is where this week’s edition of Belize on Reel picks up the conversation with the Minister of Indigenous People’s Affairs, Dolores Balderamos-Garcia. Here is News Five’s Marion Ali.


Marion Ali, Reporting

Whether you are East Indian, Creole, Mestizo or Garifuna, you have a culture that is either vibrant or declining. The Mayas showcased only this week a part of their culture that they are trying to preserve. Today, the Minister Dolores Balderamos-Garcia, whose Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs played an integral part in acquiring the costumes and the marimba instruments, explained that her ministry and the Ministry of Culture collaborated to make it possible.


Dolores Balderamos-Garcia

Dolores Balderamos-Garcia, Minister of Indigenous People’s Affairs

“We gave the impetus and the promotion of it, and we were very lucky that the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology came right on board with us and had NICH work with us, the National Institute for Culture and History. And so they came on board with us and we were able to work together. So both ministries put together and we acquired the costumes, but Aurelio Sho, our public relations officer, as well as our commissioner, Greg Choc, went to Guatemala and did all the scouting, and then of course, the actual acquisition. The press office were able to assist us with that, but it was significant cost and we agreed to share the cost, so that we don’t have to be renting the costumes when the Maya people of the south would like to carry on the deer dance festivities.”


The Mayas are but one ethnic group that occupies Belize; hence, preserving the other cultures is also important. Minister Balderamos-Garcia says that our country’s identity is rich because of these different cultures that must all be safeguarded.


Dolores Balderamos-Garcia

“I take a very open-minded or open door approach to the preservation and the celebration of our cultures, even though the two indigenous groups, the Maya and Garifuna are there and recognized as indigenous. There would be no reason at all why we can’t extend the cultural activities to Mestizo, to East Indian, you know, to Creole. We have to, we have to preserve all our cultures. We need to be very open-minded where it comes to celebrating and preserving all our Belizean cultures. That is what makes our identity so rich.”


One Maya elder of the south felt that the emphasis being placed on preserving their culture could not be better timed.


Ernesto Saqui

Ernesto Saqui, Elder, Maya Center

“In the young days, I saw more culture. I saw more activities, more dances like this, including the deer dance, the mora dance, the Cortez dance, the monkey dance, the hog head dance. All these dances were very active, but because there’s no emphasis on continuing and then the leaders, the elders that are passing out, are not passing over to the younger people, then we take it for granted that somebody else will do it. But who will do it?”


But preserving traditions is a costly venture for a government with a limited budget, and for a ministry tasked with helping to keep what is there, finding the funding is sometimes a challenge.


Dolores Balderamos-Garcia

“Not easy at all because when you have a limited pie, you know, it is the responsibility of government to have to share that pie, and the pie isn’t growing. The pie is limited, so you have to see how you’re going to slice it. You know, and, we are aware in government that the economy may not grow as quickly as it did in getting back from COVID, so we will have to be very careful. It’s not easy, but I think that when we can identify our priorities, we can put aside out of the limited pie, we can put aside something to make sure that we remain the Belizean people that we have so proudly come to be.”


Marion Ali for News Five.

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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