The Villages

san-benito-poite-village-belize-cityThe Toledo district boasts over 50 rural villages, ranging in size from around 60 to over 1500 people.  The majority of the villages are either Mopan or Kekchi Maya communities, two of the largest and most well-known being San Antonio and San Pedro Columbia.

Many of the villages lie down unpaved and bumpy dirt roads, but with the ongoing paving of the road from the Southern Highway to Jalacte village, on the Guatemalan border, access to many of the villages is already improving.  Villages along this route include Mafredi, San Antonio, Santa Cruz, Santa Elena, Pueblo Viejo and Jalacte.  Some villages are still only accessible by boat or foot, including Punta Negra (boat), Crique Sarco (the final 100 metres is foot access only), Machakilha and Graham Creek (both boat or foot access only).

Most of the villages retain much of their traditional charm – with thatch houses, clear rivers and creeks where many local families still bathe and do laundry, and surrounding fields where the families plant their corn, beans and other staple foods.  Many of the families still live a mostly subsistence lifestyle, and have very limited transportation options, so poverty levels are high, but life is slowly improving for many.

imagesIn villages which host Maya temples, guest houses, home stays, caves or other sites and activities, local women and children will often come out to try and sell their crafts and other local items.  You shouldn’t feel like you have to buy anything, but remember to be polite and respectful, and always ask before you take a photo.  What they are selling are authentic Belizean Maya crafts…whereas in some stores in town, they are selling cheaper imported crafts from Guatemala and Mexico, so keep that in mind.

If you see people bathing or doing laundry in the river or just going about their daily lives (especially if they are children!), try to resist the urge to pull out your camera and snap away without asking first – you wouldn’t want somebody photographing you in the shower without permission!

The further you get away from PG town, the less likely it is that the locals will speak English, especially if they are over 40 years old (most of the younger ones will have attended at least  a few years of primary school, so will know some English).  Mopan and Kekchi Maya are the most common languages after English and Creole in Toledo district – Spanish is not so common.

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