Belize Invests in the Maya Deer Dance and Marimba

In a joint effort to safeguard and celebrate the vibrant heritage of the Maya people of Belize, the Institute for Social and Cultural Research (ISCR-NICH) and the Ministry of Human Development, Families, and Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs worked to acquire a new set of Deer Dance attire and a marimba for the benefit and stewardship of Maya communities in Belize. This substantial government investment, valued at over BZ$50,000, includes 25 intricately crafted Deer Dance attire and a traditional marimba sourced from Cobán, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. The ceremonial unveiling of these cultural treasures took place at the Lubaantun Maya Archeological Reserve in San Pedro Columbia, Toledo District, on June 14th. Against the backdrop of this sacred site, 23 dancers of Santa Cruz Village adorned in vibrant attire, accompanied by 18 copal incense bearers, graced the plaza with a captivating display of the sacred Deer Dance. For over three decades, this festive celebration has been an integral part of Maya communities, often relying on rented attire and marimbas. These treasures will be stored at the NICH, ready to be utilized upon request from specific villages across Belize. The Deer Dance holds profound cultural significance, rooted in pre-Hispanic Maya traditions. It symbolizes the resilience of indigenous peoples and their relationship with nature, particularly with sacred animals like the deer, jaguar, and monkey, which are prominently featured in the dance.

The newly acquired marimba is inscribed with the phrase “Li Xwajleb’aal Kalebaal” in Q’eqchi Maya and “Uh Pax Kah” in Mopan Maya, meaning “The Community’s Marimba” in English. With its melodious tunes, the marimba will serve as a conduit for passing down the heritage of the Maya. Since the acquisition, the Deer Dance has graced several communities in southern Belize such as Santa Cruz Village, San Roman Village, and Bladen Village and making a special appearance at the Benque Fiesta on July 14th, 2023. By providing these attires and the marimba to cultural custodians, Belize ensures the safeguarding of the beliefs, rituals, skills, and grandeur of the Deer
Dance and Maya culture for generations to come. Look out for the Deer Dance at the upcoming celebrations in Blue Creek Village, Tambran Village and Armenia Village in the months of March and April 2024.

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