The summer solstice (June 21st), is the longest day of the year. At noon, the sun reaches its most northern point in the sky. The Mayan civilization understood this and a host of other astronomical facts as evidenced in their art and architecture. To welcome the summer solstice this year on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a Maya ceremony took place at the Marco Gonzalez Maya Site on Saturday, June 21, 2014.
The event was presided over by Maya priest Martin Choc who lives in the village of San Marcos deep in the Toledo District. He traveled to San Pedro with his grandson, Jose, who did all the translation for Mr. Choc from Ketchi Maya to English. Mr. Choc and Jose arrived several days before the 21 and toured the site with site manager Jan Brown so that he could get the feel of the area and decide where the ceremony would take place. Traditionally, ceremonies are done close to the east building/structure and that is exactly where he chose to do the blessing.
In preparation for the ceremony, Mr. Choc obtained the blessed Copal incense from the local trees in Toledo. He personally made a large red clay pot for the burning of the incense at Structure 13 (luck number for us!). These were accompanied by special candles and all were brought to Marco Gonzalez for the offering.
The day was beautiful; the actual solstice had occurred at 4:51a.m. Belize time, but the ceremony was conducted at 10a.m. so as to give time to guests to arrive to the location. The ceremony was attended by around 40 people with several volunteers bringing the total to over 50 people for the first ever event at Marco Gonzalez Maya site.
Guests arrived on site and walked through the jungle trails where they were greeted by volunteers at several points who explained the surroundings and interpreted the ancient Maya site for the guests’ enjoyment. Upon reaching the Main Plaza and site of the ceremony, they were greeted by the beautiful sounds of re-known flautist Pablo Collado. As the ceremony started, Mr. Collado lightly tapped a drum to accent the prayers given by priest Choc.
Mr. Choc commenced the ceremony with a blessing for the site with a prayer and the anointment of Holy Water. He then proceeded to bless the circle of people, each holding a lit candle, and prayed along with them with hands outstretched a holy place. His grandson explained that the prayer asked for a restful place for the ancient Maya who were buried there, blessed Jan Brown to direct and manage the site with no harm from the spirits, creatures or outside influences so that it could be a place for everybody to enjoy. He prayed for San Pedro to be a peaceful place to live and also that no storms would harm us. After the ceremony, the guests were instructed to place their candles in the burning incense that was ritually left in a bowl that would remain on site for three days.
Following the ceremony, there were beverages and tamales available to enjoy while Mr. Collado entertained with his Maya flute, drum, maraca and guitar. Guests were encouraged to continue their visit around the park.
Mr. Choc was extremely happy to have been invited to come to San Pedro and was happy to learn that the Maya had lived in the island. However, he did wonder as to how they got to Ambergris Caye and stated that he was more than certain that they lived here for a very long time as he could feel the presence of the spirits of the Maya.
There are bigger plans for next year’s summer solstice celebration so be sure not to miss next year’s event.