Our day at the Marco Gonzalez Spring Equinox

Our day at the Marco Gonzalez Spring Equinox
Added Date
Friday, 23 Mar, 2018
Belizing Adventures
Forty-five minutes south of San Pedro Town, lies an area where Mayas built their community and established a different way of life on the island of Ambergris Caye. Not knowing what to expect, the Marco Gonzalez Spring Equinox was truly enlightening. We enjoyed ourselves from our tour of the site with Tony from the Institute of Archaeology (NICH) to having a taste of delicious pork tacos with fresh beans and pico de gallo.
After a long week of work, anyone’s plan is to sleep in and relax on Sunday. Nope, not with Belizing! The adventure never stops – we never stop Belizing! A few minutes before 7:00 a.m., Raul and I met Ms. Janet, the coordinator of the Marco Gonzalez Spring Equinox, at Marina’s store. She was kind enough to give the both of us a ride to the Marco Gonzalez Maya Site. While Ms. Janet was gathering a supply of ice for the event, I went inside the store to grab bottles of water and some snacks for the day. After Ms. Janet and I got what we needed, we hopped in her golf cart and started our forty-five minute drive south of Ambergris Caye.

On a rather semi-smooth dirt road, we passed several resorts and privately-owned lands. The ride didn’t seem to take forty-five minutes at all. I was kept entertained by Ms. Janet. Since it was my first time traveling south of the island, Ms. Janet explained the area to me and even pointed out where Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley were. I was fascinated with everything that she was telling me. I was amazed at how much she knew about the island and the lands here. Engrossed with our conversation, I didn’t notice the sign that printed “Maya Site” with an arrow pointing right that marked our destination.

Ms. Janet pulled into the parking space of the welcoming center and we all came off the cart. What welcomed us were two houses, one made from wood – the welcoming center – and one made from zinc sheets – the laboratory – and the restrooms. Before we set off to the actual Maya site, Raul and I sat on a long plank by the welcoming center and had our breakfast. After eating our stuffed fried jacks, Ms. Janet took us in the lab and showed us the different clay artifacts that she and her team had collected. There were so many pieces of broken clay laid down on the trays. Initially, we thought all of the pieces were from pots only, but each individual piece was from different molds that served different purposes. As Ms. Janet explained to us where the pieces were from, and how they were used, we were able to see that the Maya people who once inhabited this land, were very intelligent and innovative with their resources. We learned that the Maya people on the island were all traders and sailors – something that we weren’t aware of. This was quite interesting as we had the idea that all Maya people were subsistence farmers that depended heavily on hunting and farming for survival. It was naïve of us to think so and stereotype the Maya people as such. So when Raul and I learned that the Maya people were sailors and traders, it was an eye-opener for us.

After our tour of the lab, Ms. Janet walked us to the actual site. It was about a ten minute walk on a boardwalk made from scraps of recycled wood pieces that businesses or resorts had no need for. On both sides of the board walk were trees, bushes and mangroves. Along the way we met a few birds that were frolicking at a nearby pond. Pointing at a little pathway on the dirt under the boardwalk, Ms. Janet explained that this is where the crocodiles would normally come and pass by. Intrigued with seeing a crocodile, I asked, “What are the chances of spotting a crocodile here right now?” Ms. Janet answered, “Little to none, the pond is too shallow for the crocodiles right now.” Taking another look at the pond, I realized that it has dried up from previous sunny days. We continued along the path, asking questions about the site and the area before meeting the entrance of Marco Gonzalez.

At the entrance there were a few signs and a pile of hand-cut fans placed on the ground. Unlike other parts of the island, the ground is composed of “black dirt,” which is a result of human activities and inhabitance on the site. To Raul’s and my amazement, broken pieces of clay and sea shells were littered and embedded into every inch of the soil and countless holes where sand crabs would hide in. Each step that we took, we were walking on fragments of history. Raul and I followed Ms. Janet to the Main Plaza. Along the way, she showed us the different structures that were built. There weren’t any houses or buildings there, but rather the foundation of where those structures once were.

We followed the trail of blue ribbons that were tied on to the trees. We were warned to keep an eye out for the “Chechen, Chechem” trees (Black Poisonwood Trees) as they can cause irritations and rashes when someone that is susceptible to the tree comes in contact with it. However, as nature provides, “Tourist” trees (Gumbo Limbo Tree), which is a natural antidote of the Black Poisonwook, grow close by. It is interesting how nature works. Finally reaching to the main plaza, Ms. Janet went to the tent that we set up for food, drinks and souvenirs and Raul and I went to explore the nearby structures before resting on the seats that were set up. There were numerous conch shells scattered around the area. We were rather intrigued by the lifestyle of the Maya people that were living here. They were surviving on what was available to them, which, from what we could notice, were coconuts, fishes and other sea life, and what they had traded from the other Maya Sites. Ms. Janet had mentioned that Marco Gonzalez was related to Lamanai Archaeological Site economically and politically.

After walking around for about fifteen minutes, we sat for a bit before we were introduced to Tony from the Institute of Archaeology by Ms. Janet. Tony took us on a tour and explained the site to us. He mentioned that a main plaza is an area that has structures built on each cardinal points – north, south, east and west – which was exactly what we saw around us. We were shown where the royals would live, which was on the highest part close to the main plaza. Tony explained some of the history and the lifestyle of the people that once lived there. Along the way there were couple of signs that warned visitors to not take the artifact; and, Tony stated that it was to preserve the story of the pieces so when they would excavate, they could get a more accurate story. Walking along we were met with several other structures and piles and piles of conch shells. There was even a structure that used conch shells for the foundation! Conch shells were in abundance in Marco Gonzalez. This shows that the Maya people living there were good divers to be able to gather so many shells. There were at least two very large piles of shells and reef stones.

The entire tour around the site was very interesting and educative. Realizing that we were going in a circle, we got back to the main plaza. We were just in time for the prayer and blessing ceremony. By this time, more people had arrived and the Maya priest was setting up candles that he had made himself with beeswax. He burned incense that was of a sap from a tree that smelled like eucalyptus oil. Tony said that whichever way the smoke of the incense burned meant that the person(s) at the direction is favored. For the entire prayer and blessing ceremony, the smoke blew in our direction. I felt pleased to be the favored one. The priest blessed around the main plaza with holy water before proceeding to prayers. He prayed for health, safety and prosperity of the island and the people on the island. After the prayers Ms. Janet spoke a few words of gratitude to her sponsors for the event and everyone that attended.

The Marco Gonzalez Spring Equinox was fun and educational event. We got to learn a lot about the Maya people that were living there and it definitely made us see an untold side of the Maya Civilization. Alongside the adventure, learning is also encouraged and is a part of Belizing. While we get to have fun, we also get the opportunity to learn something new – which was what we did. The Belizing Team would like to thank Ms. Janet and her team for extending an invitation to us for attending the Marco Gonzalez Spring Equinox. If you ever get the chance while you’re in Ambergris Caye, we highly recommend you visit the Marco Gonzalez Archaeological Site. What’s the hold up? Let’s go Belizing!
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Angela Wu
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Departs From:
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