The Villages within the Park
Tanah Village / San Antonio
San Cristo Rey Progresso
Welcome to Tanah where everything is different! Visit the mountains,
forest, caves, waterfalls, wild animals, birds, rivers, farms, and people.
Enjoy our warm hospitality, our rich Mayan culture and our beautiful
flora and fauna.
A two hour drive from the international airport will take you through
forested hillsides and across winding creeks to San Ignacio, Cayo district.
From there, you can reach the small village of San Antonio. Known locally
as Tanah, it means "our home". It is isolated deep in a valley
surrounded by rolling hills and jagged peaks of our blue Mayan Mountains.
It is our wish that you enjoy the peace and tranquility without the
isolation and share with us our culture, the beauty of our village and
Tanah was once inhabited by the ancient Maya, whose presence can still
be felt through the traces of pottery and majestic Mayan temples to
be seen all over the area.
In 1842 new Mayan settlers came to Belize to live in union with the
indigenous Maya people. They were running from the race war in the Yucatan
of Mexico. At first they built their homes in the north side of our
country. There were only four families, including the Tzib, Mai and
Pech. But, they could still feel the vibrations of the war so they headed
for the deep south west part. There, in Tanah, they found their sanctuary,
a place where there was no terror of attack from the loggers entering
Belize along the rivers.
Tanah has no rivers nearby, which is one of the reasons why it remains
so different. It is said that the first people to settle the area, while
farming the fertile soils of the valley, lived way up in the Pine Ridge
Mountains where water was plentiful. Then one day, while hunting a wari,
the animal led them down to Tanah, to a spot where the soil was sodden.
On reaching the water the wari miraculously disappeared. We strongly
believe that he was the Mayan god Yum Kax-Ku, leading the men to find
what was needed to make the settlement of Tanah possible. They dug a
well, the beginning of their new home and it has served our village
for many generations.
Today our village population is 2,500 inhabitants, all Mayan Yucatecan.
Pumps and a pond water system complement the traditional method of
obtaining drinking water via springs, wells, and rainwater. The ponds
were built to raise animals such as cattle and pigs, and to irrigate
the traditional crops grown by the people of Tanah. These crops include
corn, peanuts, plantains and yams. Thus, we maintain a self-sustained
existence and are now supplying the whole of Belize with fresh produce.
Among the villagers, many are old chicleros, and 90% are farmers.
Our traditional health careers include the chiropractor, herbal doctor
and midwife. They take care of the local people through their knowledge
passed down from our ancestors, using hundreds of varieties of medicinal
plants, prayers and secret stones known as "Zaas tun". Presently,
we have a definite cure for asthma, rabies, tetanus, baldness, and arthritis,
amongst many others. People travel from the entire world to be treated
by our herbal medicines and traditional practices.
It is our wish that you might learn our ways of medicinal healing
and survival in the jungle and gain a knowledge of the wide variety
of valuable plants to be found in the area. For this purpose we will
be establishing a botanical garden and research area within the Elijio
Panti National Park. Among other plants, it will contain a vine that
can quench a days thirst and nutritious fruits, nuts and berries, many
of which have no scientific names. For example, the cohune palm is very
important to our way of life and can be seen in abundance throughout
the area. The nuts are used for gunpowder and jewelry or to extract
oil for cooking. The young shoots, when boiled or fried, make delicious
snacks and roots can be used for a blood tonic. A stroll through our
garden can teach you all these secrets passed through the generations
of our Mayan ancestors.
In Tanah you can visit Tanah Mayan Arts Museum where you can see Mayan
utensils, musical instrument Mayan artifacts from the area. Students
come here from all over Belize and abroad to learn about our Mayan culture
past and present. Plus, it hosts the Garcia Sisters Gift Shop. We have
been sculpting traditional themes in slate stone for eighteen years
and are well known nationally and internationally. Here you can purchase
indigenous arts and crafts made from slate stone, ceramic, wood and
woven baskets, all produced by the villagers. Also newly opened is the
Dr. Elijio Panti Museum in the heart of the village, where the display
includes instruments that our Mayan healer used for his healing and
his belongings. His grandson runs this place. There is also Sac Tunich
site Mayan gift shop about 1-1/2 miles from the village.
Everyone in the village is aware of the importance of preserving their
language, which is Maya Taan or the so-called Yucatec Maya. This is
our mother language still surviving from our ancient Mayan ancestors.
Spanish, Creole and English are almost unheard of in Tanah except in
our two schools. However, when a visitor enters our village we use these
languages to communicate so we can share our culture with others.
When you visit San Antonio you will hear the words:
'Bish-a-bel' - How are you?
'Bish-a-Kaba' - what's your name?
'Tuush-ca-bin' - where are you going?
The Masawal Maya people of San Antonio or Tanah now wear western clothes
and participate in regional, political and economic life. However, we
still maintain the ancient customs and beliefs of our ancestors.
We believe that Itzamna created everything on earth and Yum Kaax-KU
guides and protects our mountains and animals. Mother Ixchel protects
and heals her children on earth.
These guardians permit man to kill animals and use our forest product
only as is necessary for human subsistence. They are our principal Gods
as they grant us corn from which we believe man was made and herbal
plants to heal ourselves and others.
In the village, a number of legends have been preserved through our
grandparents, who sit long in the evenings relating stories to the children.
Many residents are happy to informally share with our visitor's knowledge
of their people's history, talents and folklore. Listen out for the
lady spirit, Liorona, who's crying and wailing, when heard in the mountains,
means certain death for someone in a village. Be sure to check the manes
of the horses in the mornings. If they are perfectly trimmed then the
dwarfs from the hills have ridden them through the night wrapping their
feet amongst the hair.
Our Music and Rituals
A number of the villagers still practice the music of our ancestors
and play the haunting Latin American melodies of the marimba to accompany
the traditional Mayan dances. There are various fiestas and rituals
held throughout the year including the favorite custom of the hog's
head dance to celebrate Saints day on June 13th in memory of Saint Anthony
of Padua. Festivities begin nine days before when a pig's head is baked
in a pibil (a hole in the ground covered in plantain leaves). Then,
each villager decorates the cooked head with sweet bread and colorful
paper flags. This is paraded on the shoulders of a man in traditional
dress being led on a rope and tempted by the shaking of corn in a wooden
Most of the ancient Mayan rituals take place in our sacred caves and
temples around the area, such as those found in the nearby Mayan sites
of Pacbitun (meaning stones set in the earth) Junction, on river sides,
mountains sides, etc..
Our staple diet is corn from which we make XIT or "Tamalitos"
boiled in green corn leaves, "bollos" boiled in plantain leaves
and tortillas, porridge and desserts. Since a mix of Creole and Mayan
food grace our tables, rice and beans is a popular dish served with
spiced, stewed chicken. Our chickens run and breed freely in the village.
In Tanah, we have a special method for hatching the chickens, which
we invite you to see. By selecting special leaves with which we line
the nests, the flies and parasites that would otherwise infect the hen
and her eggs, are kept away.
Local tea is brewed from the corn or other herbs such as lemon grass,
ginger and pimiento leaves. Our homemade wine from sugar can form the
perfect accompaniment to any meal, although its potency is a prime example
of quality not quantity prevailing.
The Holistic Noj Kaax Meen Elijio Panti National Park
The Masewal indigenous people rely on the plants and animals of the
forest for their daily needs and are therefore committed to protecting
the remaining forest from exploitation and destruction. In the last
15 years the people of San Antonio have become aware of the excessive
cutting of cohune palms for their thatches and timber for fuel and construction.
The 13,006 acres of holistic Mayan National Park has been established
to protect the way of life of our indigenous people and the two other
villages in addition to the natural resource important for our existence.
Reforestation and conservation projects will be done, including the
planting of a number of endangered vegetation species. The area includes
acres of virgin forest that is home to the baboon (black howler monkey),
coatimundi, agouti, paca and many other species of animals typical to
Belize. In addition, there is a diverse range of flora and avifauna
such as our National Bird, the Keel Billed Toucan.
Whatever your quest, be it research or a casual desire to be in contact
with the natural world of our Mayan Yucatecan tribe, your visit or contribution
will contribute greatly to the preservation of the mountains and our
people for future generations. For this reason we welcome you to share
in the gift of Tanah, the other villages and the Holistic Noj Kaax Meen
Elijio Panti National Park.
With the recent improvement in communication, San Antonio or Tanah
enjoys easy access with regular bus services from Belize City along
the western Highway direct to San Ignacio Town. From San Ignacio, busses
run daily to Tanah or San Antonio Village. Alternatively, you can take
a taxi or arrange pick up or rent a car from any car rental company
in Belize City.
Accommodations are offered by a bed and breakfast women's group in
the community of San Antonio, and Chichan Kaa lodge. Ideally positioned
on the top of the hill above San Antonio Village,<the lodge> it
enjoys a breathtaking panoramic view of the blue Mayan Mountain and
the lush farmlands surrounding the area. Sactunich Place as well offers
accommodations. These places extend a welcome to you to try your hand
at patting out the corn tortillas in typical Mayan style.
Contact: 501-091-2023 e-mail
Weather in the mountains of Tanah is comfortable and a welcome change
from the heat of the Belize coast. The driest is April and May, however
you should always be prepared for intense sun anytime of the year (sunblock,
visor or cap) and outbursts of heavy rain during the wet season, October
to February. Visitors are advised that they can not stay in the village
or National Park without prior permission given by the alcalde (or village
chairman) or by the Itzamna Society.
Contact: 501-91-2023 (fax/tel) firstname.lastname@example.org
In case of emergencies, the village has its own public telephone,
092-3266, a police station and health clinic.
Our Code of Ethics
There are a number of ways in which you as visitors can help us protect
our village, our culture and our park.
- You are advised that it is prohibited to record or document any
information shared by the villagers. You can only do so by asking prior
permission from the Itzamna Society in charge of the preservation of
the National Park and Tanah and villages. Small charges will be made
for this privilege that will contribute to the management of the National
Park and the communities.
- We do not accept nude bathing and would appreciate it if shirts
were worn over bathing suits while in or near the villages.
- Please remember we are a community and are concerned for the safety
of our children, so drive with care.
- Please ask before taking photos which can be humiliating and an
invasion of privacy.
- Broaden your horizons. Discover the enrichment that comes from seeing
another way of life.
- Cultivate the habit of listening and observing.
- Feel the wonder of being with people who have different time concepts
and thought patterns.
- Reflect daily on your experiences, seek to deepen your experiences
and seek to deepen your understanding.
- Discover the richness and wisdom of the ancient ways as they continue
to be practiced today.
Mayan eco-culture system
This is a place where children are handed down the tradition and knowledge
of their ancestors, a place where communion with nature is understood
and honored. This is a place where the Yucatecan Mayan language is spoken
daily, where children follow their parents into the rainforest in search
of healing herbs and where the past is brought to life through the words
of the elders.
We open the door to the past as well as to the future, opening the
eyes to true self sufficiency, where planting and harvesting is sacred,
where prayer and thanksgiving have great purpose and where life is rich
and whole. The Mayan way: where today's moments come to life within
the mysteries of the past and the future.
San Cristo Rey
Progresso 7 miles