As the Maya calendar cycle of 5,125 years, the 13th Baktun, came to a close on December 20, 2012, in Belize the re-enactment of the Royal Mayan Wedding between Gonzalo Guerrero and Tsazil Há was played out at the foot of the Santa Rita Archaeological Eden Park in Santa Rita Village, Corozal. It was one of many celebrations that took place in the country which celebrated the rich culture of the Maya that is evident throughout Belize.
The Corozal branch of the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) and stakeholders in the tourism industry put together the “Festival del Mestizaje” which featured entertainment by Corozal Junior College students depicting Mayan history through dances and a re-enactment of the wedding between Tzazil-Ha, the Mayan Princess and Gonzalo Guerrero, the Spanish Conquistador.
Historical information documents the Santa Rita Archaeological Park as the only place where a marriage took place between a Spanish Conquistador and a Mayan Princess. Hence, it is believed that the enhancement of this site will bring back the unique historical, cultural, social and the economic potential of this site. The revival of this center as an official Maya Wedding Garden will honor our culture and heritage and will greatly benefit our present and future generations.
With a glowing Santa Rita Maya Temple in the background, the re-enactment was a kickoff to captivate and mark Corozal as an international Wedding Destination “a la Maya”. The site itself will be undergoing major infrastructure developments in January 2013 by NICH to formalize the site as an International and Local Wedding Set as was done by the Mayas in their era in Northern Belize. The entire project should be completed in six months thereafter.
History of Santa Rita Archaelogical Site And Wedding Garden
The Mestizos of Belize are descended from the union of the indigenous Maya and the Spanish who came following Columbus’ discovery of the New World. As far as history goes, many texts indicate that the Mestizo community owes its origins to Gonzalo Guerrero also known as (Gonzalo Marinero, Gonzalo de Aroca and Gonzalo de Aroza) – a Spanish sailor shipwrecked along the Yucatan Penninsula from Palos in Spain who, despite being initially enslaved by the Maya, later impressed them with his military prowess and was embraced by the Maya.
It is said that Guerrero became a great ally to the Maya in the struggle against the Spanish conquistadors in Belize. Historians generally accept the view that in the 16th century he served as a political and military advisor to Nachancan, the ruler of Old Chetumal (Chactemal) .(Santa Rita, Corozal was probably part of ancient Chactemal, the Maya capital of the area at the time of the first Spanish attempt to conquer the Yucatec Mayas in the early 16th century).
It is said that later Guerrero married his daughter, a Mayan Princess, Zazil Há, fathering three children that would be known today, as essentially the first Mestizo children of the Americas. The Mestizo ethnic heritage is such that their appearance is decidedly Hispanic. The hair is typically black, being either straight, or slightly wavy. The complexion is at times pale, or slightly tan. In some instances the influence of the Maya is very apparent in terms of the surviving cultural aspects that have been syncretised with Christian and Catholic beliefs.
The northern districts were largely undeveloped in the nineteenth century until The Caste War (Guerra de Las Castas) changed that. Following an uprising in Mexico of the impoverished populace (mostly Maya) against the rich Spanish and Mestizo class many Maya as well as some Mestizo travelled across the border into Belize and settled there. They became very instrumental in populating the northern districts and, by extension, making necessary the implementation of a border to separate Belize and Mexico, as well as bringing with them their sugar plantations. Sugar plantations in the settlement helped to supplement an economy that historically had proven overly dependent on timber extraction.
Let it be also known that during the Caste War, some 12 Mestizo families fled Yucatan in Mexico and came to Ambergris Caye where they found a haven and founded the village of San Pedro in 1848. These Mestizos laboured tirelessly in Chicle ( chewing gum) and logwood camps, coconut plantations, and later on in the sea where they established a prosperous fishing industry. It was these same Mestizos who later on changed from fishing to tourism to develop it into our main industry today.
Today, the customs of the Mestizo are a perfect blend of Spanish customs as well as those of the Maya. The food as well, shows the influence of the Maya, as many of the Mestizo dishes make use of corn in some way or form. The Mestizos in most instances are very fluent in Spanish and though the British brought with them their Protestant faith, the majority of the Mestizo populace in Belize is Roman Catholic, having adopted the religion of the Spanish. Part of Belize’s ethnic diversity is owed to the influence of the Mestizos, who have contributed to the livelihood of Belize and certainly a part of that has meant keeping our population cheerfully fed.