Maya communities in the northern part of the country marked Maya Heroes Day over the weekend. The event, which was held in Orange Walk Town, featured Dame Froyla Tzalam as guest speaker. It marked the Battle of Orange Walk, which happened on September 1, 1872. She spoke about the importance of being agents of change in Maya communities.
H.E. Dame Froyla Tzalam, Governor General of Belize: “Anthropologists say that daily life or daily living is religion, a world view in practice. This includes the clothes that we wear. I wanted Mopan people to wear their embroidery not just three times a day or just for culture day but everyday to proudly wear their culture so that we manifest our way of being. I believe that we have been a great success in doing this. I am certain there are many opportunities in cultural tourism and opportunity development that will create jobs in our communities for this we need entrepreneurs. Recently I heard a young person talk about his livelihood opportunities in his village which are based on his culture. We need more of that entrepreneurial spirit, a spirit that is grounded on our indigenous identity. Please note that our identity should not just be used for tourism or show and tell but rather to truly serve as an engine for development of rural economies.”
The Governor General also stressed the need to preserve culture and language, even as the world constantly changes.
H.E. Dame Froyla Tzalam, Governor General of Belize: “Today we are willingly giving up our language and becoming more and more assimilated into the mainstream culture which is usually western based. What is striking to me is that even when parents speak the same language many times, they rarely do so with their children, instead choosing to speak to them in either Spanish, Kriol, or English. Globally, we have seen that such attempts to teach native languages has not resulted in an increased number of speakers or the reclamation of native identity because just teaching language on its own is not enough for language has its own ecosystem and is the medium of cultural transmission. To give an example, there is a theory that when families no longer practise milpa farming, all linked information that is vital for ecological knowledge, including medicinal knowledge, is also lost and with that goes biodiversity. So, we need to do better if we aim to keep our languages and cultures relevant.”
Honoured at this year’s ceremony was Fernando Martinez, who undertakes various activities in his home village of San Narciso, Corozal. Angelita Magana, of San Lazaro Village, was also celebrated for her work in preserving Maya culture in Orange Walk.