Field report from MDP Ntalo, Belize

Field experience update from MDP student Erin Ntalo (Belize team includes Adriana Arce Martinez and Julia Fair): "There are many aspects of Maya heritage and custom I could write about, but the one that stands out as primary in the nearly two months I've spent in Southern Belize is the importance of land. Maya people value their land for providing everything they need to sustain life and make it enjoyable.

They grow staple crops like maize in plots located in their fertile forests, which are communally-owned. They forage wild foods like ginger, building materials for their homes like the cohune palm that makes the thatch roof, craft supplies like the jippi jappa for weaving baskets, and medicinal herbs. Many of the 39 Maya villages have rivers within their boundaries and people not only use the water for washing, bathing and drinking, but also find time on the weekends to relax with a swim.

From what I have seen and experienced firsthand, Maya people are connected to the land for what it can provide them, but they don't merely extract its resources, which are bountiful; they steward the soil and trees to ensure abundance for generations to come. The Maya are fond of saying that they may be cash-poor, but they are rich in everything they need to survive. Having walked their farms and forests, I can attest to the fact that there is no lack of useful and beautiful natural resources. 

The attached photo is of some of my teammates and our host, Pablo Mis, planting maize on his father-in-law's plot. The maize seeds were gifted to him by the head alcalde (chief) of the Maya people. We helped plant the seeds so that they would survive for many generations. The photo I'm sending is property of the Maya Leaders Alliance and I have permission to use it" 
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