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Ethnography:

  • benque

The modern period for the communities in western Cayo District goes back to mid 19th Century when the Caste War broke out in Yucatan resulting in thousands of Mestizo and Yucatecan Maya refugees coming to Belize.  Many migrated first into the Peten in Guatemala via Tabasco and gradually made their way into Benque Viejo and surrounding communities.  Benque Viejoand San José Succotz were resettled in 1867 as a site for mahogany camping, attracting Maya Indians, particularly Mopán and Itzá, from the Petén in subsequent years.  Arenal and Calla Creek are more recent communities having originated as chicle and logging camps, respectively, which led to farmland settlements at the turn of the 20th Century.

 In a district with a majority of inhabitants professing the Catholic religion (Roman rite), the people are highly conservative and zealous of their faith tinted still with the syncretism of Maya practices and belief. Fundamental evangelicals, however, are steadily gaining grounds.  Close to 95% of the 11,500 inhabitants in these communities are of Hispanic descent or Mestizo, as people of Spanish and Maya ancestry are referred to in Belize.  Given their indigenous roots, Mestizo are people of extremes: taciturn and festive, withdrawn and spontaneous, loyal and ill-tempered. Spanish is the home language yet a majority of the younger population has a fair command of English Language in its oral and written forms. In the last decade, the area has seen the arrival of young Asian families, mostly from mainland China, who have been aggressively engaging in commerce (groceries & dry-goods) and restaurant services.  To date, they have established their families in Benque and Succotz.

Belize is unique in that it is a country of very young people.  This is evident, at first sight, in the age profile and the demographic growth experienced in these communities over the last 20 years with the coming of Central American migrants. In this respect, Benque Viejo del Carmen alone had a percentage growth in Intercensal Population (1990-2000) of 42.1 against 39.5% for the entire district.  The rural communities in the Cayo District experienced a growth of 20.8% .

The presence of Central American families has accentuated the Hispanic fabric in the constituency. Migrant families have settled in areas in the periphery of these communities, giving rise to new “barrios”.  The process of integration of these families into the socio-cultural fabric has been facilitated with the growth of services into these “suburbs”.  This has been prompted also by young local families who have chosen to establish households there.  Benque Viejo del Carmen and San José Succotz have practically grown into each other and are only separated by a thinly forested area of private land that is fast disappearing, causing the communities to grow eastwards.  Calla Creek and Arenal, though growing stealthily, have experienced growth towards the principal roads of access. 

The development of tourism over the last 15 years is evident in the establishment of several resorts along the principal access roads next to the Mopan and Macal Rivers.

Wednesday the 1st. La Bacadilla Language School 2014(C)
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