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Published: August 8th 2007
There seems to be a real mix of influences and inhabitants to this part of the country. Creole, Lebanese, Spanish-Maya- Mestizo, English is the primary language spoken. American retirees mingle with traditional herbalists from around the district and the globe. On every street corner there are Chinese restaurants. There is a strong presence of time forgotten Amish, it’s at least 90 degrees with 90% humidity right now as I watch the men load horse and trap with their week’s supplies without breaking a sweat or a care to what is going on in the 21st centuries modern world, wearing starched long sleeved collarless shirts, denim bib overalls finished off with pudding bowl haircuts hidden under mennonite woollen hats. The ladies wear straw bonnets and long cape dresses similar to those seen on ‘little house on the prairie’, the ladies did Lunch at a great place called Hannah’s, but they just sat there in silence, maybe it was a bad day.
We visited Xunantunich and Caracol national park which I admit on this occasion was interesting, for instance did you know that the UK did not have proper dye for clothing until the 1500, we all wore variations of creams and
off whites, then Belize sent over indigo. We had an armed escort through the national park as the thieving Guatemalans could be lurking.
THE GARCIA SISTERS
I was given an appointment with Paulita Garcia the mother of the world famous five, The Garcia Sister’s. Now 71 years young and the great granddaughter of shaman Don Elijio, Paulitas English was limited but she gave me a very special Maya spiritual cleanse which needed no words, nor nudity as this cleanse was to squeeze out negative energies, health problems and evil spirits that may have latched on to me over time, all this taken away by a prayer and two hot bare hands. After my session in Tulum with Daniel Poole Pech, I wandered what she could do to top that. She gave me two pouches stuffed with herbs to hold in each hand, green for good luck and black for protection. I sat in a chair while she fetched two oval shaped green leaves. She crossed both leaves over my radial pulse which I am pleased to say sat nicely on my wrist beneath my thumb, where it should be. She said my pulse was rapid, but I felt fine;
she asked if I was nervous? I was not.
She recited a Maya prayer that was designed especially for her and her guides, she placed the two oval leaves criss-crossed repeating it separately three times for each point as she went from right radial to left radial to third eye then to my heart centre. I started to feel my heart emptying like a sink draining of dirty water. I didn’t feel sad and there were no tears, it felt very calming. Maria could have released a whole host of issues related to my heart, the heart holds our worlds, they say the soul lives within the heart, when the heart stops you are dead, certainly after the brain ceases you are then very dead, how many times do we refer to the heart in figures of speech, to have a heart, my hearts not in it, to learn learning something by heart, confusion of the heart, matters of the heart, a whole hearted decision, to eat a hearty meal, she has a hard heart, tender heart, getting to the heart of the issue-tackling the central issue, broken hearted, the heart usually refers to love and all emotions that
tag either side of that word, courage is the Latin word for heart, to loose heart is to be discouraged, to gain heart is to be encouraged.
I took deep breaths to fill up again and felt light hearted and sleepy, very sleepy, and then a gush of wind came in and circulated around my feet clockwise, which was odd as it was hot and humid with no air anywhere. She took the leaves and folded them up placing them in a dish where she told me she would throw them to the West as the sun goes down tonight, which will take the old energy away with the declining sun. She burnt copal bark in an incense burner which made a lot of smoke; copal resin is used to ward off evil spirits and spiritual disease such as envy, fright, greed and grief, she said if I moved around the room the smoke would follow me, that this was the presence of the great Maya spirit protecting and healing me.
I was told to ask for something special, but not youthful looks, eternal life or the lottery numbers as this is pure ego. So I asked for
one thing that to me is very simple, something that I have wanted since I was 12 years old, this would cost nothing but face, just a bit of love, some lateral thinking, understanding and a sprinkle of universal forgiveness. I asked for something with pure spirit. I moved around the room and the smoke from the copal snaked around my ankles like a flag blowing in the wind. It was odd, like something from Charmed. She gave me a fresh lime from the tree outside, she quartered it with her fingernail and told me to roll it around the palms of my hands and pray for good things to happen and for the lime to take the bad things away. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday’s these days were negative bad spirit days. As I was doing all this with Paulita on a Tuesday this was a very good thing hence why I got the appointment. On Friday I was told to throw the shrivelled lime in to the sun as it goes down. Luckily we are facing west as the sunsets are incredible.
It was only a few minutes after she had finished and she left me alone when
I felt really tired. The bus was another two hours away till it passed through the village at 1pm. I was flopping all over the chair; I could not hold myself upright and slipped off the chair. There was no cab company for miles, building sites have better roads than these ones, Paulita organised her only son to drive me 10 miles back to Cahal Pech. I was so grateful for the ride even though his car over heated half way. I dozed most of the day and went to bed about 6pm. I felt amazing the next day.
I was privileged to meet Maria Garcia who is one fifth of the famous Garcia sisters the director of the Itzamna society whose purpose is to promote biodiversity conservation, cultural patrimony and community development. This organisation seeks to fulfil its goals by fostering sustainable eco-cultural tourism, promoting cooperation with both governmental and non-governmental agencies to conserve natural resources, and promoting the many cottage industries in this area. She and her sisters are also holistic spiritual healers, artists and stonemasons. Years ago they handed over $1000 to the authorities to legally be allowed to mine slate, they are also steadfast
pillars of the community of San Antonio also known as Tanah. This is the land of the ancient Maya. The Glastonbury of Belize, with its sacred sites, spirits and June rains.
Everything is natural here, botanical gardens, medicinal nature trails; practitioners of every kind visit this area to study. The Garcia’s have a mountain lodge up in the Blue Maya Mountains, accessible by horseback, but I went along to their humble home and art gallery in San Antonio. Maria told me her concerns about land being sold off, as the land they paid for to mine the slate was taken from them and they are currently fighting for the rights to mine there again. The temptations these Belizean families face with a single transient sniff of the US dollar is sometimes too great to resist. Belizeans are given land upon their birth, either handed down by generations or it is bought for them as insurance for future prosperity. But many are now cashing in on their insurance policies and Maria’s fears are that soon the independent Belize will not be owned by the people but by many nations with new holiday homes and super stores. Her message is 'please
respect our heritage please don’t buy our land' Development threatens the natural Belize rainforest and its natural resources in so many ways I previously had not even thought about before now. I found out that the Macal River can rise up to 65ft and floods everywhere; the reason is that one deeply rooted large mature tree can hold up to 1000 gallons of water, in its roots trunk and leaves. Trees act as a natural water barrier on hillsides; same as our hair does on skin and all the rainwater also eliminates the thin topsoil, turning the rivers into mudslides, leading to local and global flood devastation.
We drove to Jaguar Paw 37 miles east of the capital Belmopan. To enter these sacred caves in Maya times you had to be royal, elite, a shaman, a human sacrifice or a bat. Today all you need is a simple rubber inner tube a swim suit and nerves of steel if you’re terrified of deep dark water creepy crawlies and the darkness itself. Luckily it was Wednesday, a good positive scared day, apparently on evil Tuesdays the cruise ships come into town and the caves are swarming with over
a thousand loud moaning uncool disrespectful tourists. It is said to be hell on earth.
We walked through the thick jungle to the fourth level and got into the clear blue water, so far only little clear fish swimming with me! As we paddled with our arms and hands upstream heading into a cave I could feel something brush my hands, the headlamp on my head went on full beam. Leaves-phew. But then I felt nips on my sub-merged bottom; I could not see what that was so I paddled harder. The more I paddled the darker it got in the cave, the rapids took hold and I had no control. I just had to trust, I bounced off the side of the walls and back into the rapids path. It was all very calming and natural.
The limestone and crystal formations were impressive at either end of the caves. Suddenly while in the second cave, the wind blew strong, my rubber ring would not move, it was getting darker, the echoes louder, I had to move like a crab to push myself in to the flowing water and the smell of burning rubber worried me silly. I
made it, the tube didn’t burst, once the other side the heavens opened and the river was rising. My fear of deep dark water, sea creatures and darkness lifted for now.
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