Ambergris Today had the privilege to re-visit the National Archeological Reserve – Marco Gonzalez Maya Site in the kind company of the students from La Isla Bonita Elementary. What was noticeable this time around was that the site has undergone many changes since our last visit; some good welcomed change and of course the unwelcomed vandalism and theft.
Ambergris Today checked back with Ms. Jan Brown to find out on what ground does the Marco Gonzalez Maya Site stands. It was quite interesting to find out that the board of directors is moving on several aspects in finalizing plans with the Institute of Archeology and National Institute of Culture and History (NICH), including proper management of the site and most importantly having the site recognized as a park and to be able to charge an entrance fee.
Once all documents are signed and completed the next phase will be hiring locals to work. Guides must be licensed and they will be trained in conducting informed tours after which information will be distributed to resorts about the site tours. Tour guides will be able to start extending their water tours to offer Marco tours as well.
Ms. Brown also commented that major funding is being sought for several projects including building the proper walkway into the site; obtaining property for a parking lot, restroom and covered picnic tables for the SPTG and obtaining permission to use an existing pier close by.
With the permission obtained last August from Dr. Jaime Awe, Director of the Institute of Archeology, Ms. Brown has been conducting “Eco-visits” to persons who are interested in visiting the Maya Site. Although there is no fee being charged by Ms. Brown for her service, a donation of $20Bze per person is requested, which goes towards the project funding. A very important part of visits is involving the island schools. Nine schools in the island have received letters of invitation to take small groups of children on a field trip at no cost.
In 2010 students from The University of London, England and The University of North Carolina Wilmington, USA, concentrated on the large plaza in the middle of the 7.57 acres. Several areas were clear cut for their work. Recently trails on the west side of the site have been opened to enhance the experience of the visitors. When the re-growth of the forest starts taking over, local men are hired to go in for a day or two to gently chop, rake and burn. Sometimes Ms. Brown does some of the cleaning when the regular guys are not available. The board liked the idea to form a “Friends of Marco Gonzalez” who will go in once a month to clean. The group will be adults, as well as perhaps high school students, who need community service time to graduate. The students will hopefully develop a sense of pride in this project and learn more of their Mayan history.
Security in the Area
In our trip to the site it was obvious that black soil was being stolen from the area and of course vandalism was taking place. Ms. Brown commented that several piles of sifted excavation dirt had been taken without permission. She is constantly in the area and quickly a notice when an artifact has been made into someone’s “personal collection” has been moved. Vandalism is definitely a big threat to the area, but guards cannot be employed until proper documentation is obtained. Until then, the board would like to thank the SACNW Security for keeping an eye out when they can.
Other Updates and Plans for the Site
Jan Brown mentioned that the first official brochure has been completed with the help of Dr. Elizabeth Graham. Although Dr. Graham will not be hosting another field school this year at Marco Gonzalez, she will be coming this summer with Ms. Zoe Goodwin, Botanist, and they will study the flora and fauna of the site before further excavations are carried out.
Also, a major fundraiser for the Maya Site is in the works as a 2012 Marco Gonzalez Maya Calendar is being worked upon. Everything from collection of pictures, aerial photos and ad sales are being carried out so that the calendar can be available by September 2010 for sale. “You’ll just HAVE to get this calendar for yourself and friends,” commented an excited Ms. Brown.
The Board of Directors would like to thank Minister Heredia for contributions pledged from his office and NICH. These funds will allow meeting the Challenge Grant from the Upton Foundation. She also extends thanks to SPTC for fixing problem spots in the road by the site entrance before rainy season arrives; and to La Isla Bonita Elementary School for the delightful day with the children and adults. There was no charge for their visit, but Ms. Brown was humbled by the little hands giving a $5 donation to their future.