Belize today is a melting pot of cultures consisting of the Maya, Mestizo, Garifuna, Creole, Mennonite, Spanish and English who all live in harmony among each other. The Maya were here long (since 2500BC) before the Spaniards came to our shores. It is estimated that as many as 400,000 to 1,000,000 Maya inhabited the country at one time, which is more people than we have in Belize now!
The Maya knew how to use and make all they needed from the forests around them. This traditional knowledge was handed down from generation to generation as part of their cultural identity. For the Maya this meant knowing how to survive from the forests, pray to the gods, heal the sick and make household items from the earth’s soil. Some practices are still used today mainly by the older inhabitants but most of it is being lost since younger generations seem to be uninterested in these practices.
William Mesh is Belize Botanic Gardens’ medicinal plant expert. Walk with him through our Plants of the Maya medicine trail and learn about how native plants have been used used by the native people of Belize You’ll see what plants were used for clothes, storage, tools, building, ritual and medicine.
Our traditional Maya House is built from sustainably harvested materials grown on the property and is modeled on the house where Mr. Mesh grew up.
Book a traditional healer’s experience and learn to make tamales over an open hearth and a craft from palm leaves.
Call us to reserve this the healer’s experience. Visit the trail any time and if William is not there, our other guides are also knowledgeable about the plants of the Maya. Come for the day and enjoy a guided walk through the gardens, do some birding, have a swim in the lovely Macal River and eat lunch at adjacent duPlooy’s Jungle Lodge.
Corn tortillas were, and still are, a staple in the Maya diet. Tortillas are made using Masa. Masa is ground corn which is first boiled and mixed with stuff called ‘white lime’ or ‘cal’. Using their metates, the Mayas would grind the corn, then mix it into dough before flattening and baking it on a hot comal. White lime is made by baking limestone which is acidic. Once it is baked, the limestone turns into fine powder and alkaline. The white lime added to the corn to make Masa for corn tortillas actually makes the tortilla more nutritious. How do you think the Mayas figured this out?
Plants of the Maya – Culantro
This an herb commonly used in cooking local Belizeanwhich grows wild all over the place in Belize. It is treasured by local people as a flavorful herb and used in many dishes. Not to be confused with cilantro, it has a completely different taste