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Maya 2012 events are well underway in Belize as the country has arranged various events throughout the year to celebrate the history, culture, language and the people of a civilization that has still not completely died out. The Maya heritage of Belize is very prevalent in its cultural practices, food influences and lifestyle habits to this day.

On the road to Maya 2012 (or the end of the Maya Calendar) was the celebration of the spring equinox, a time when the Earth's axis is tilted neither towards nor away from the sun because the center of the sun is in the same plane as the equator. As a result, night and day are of equal length.

In Belize, the National Institute of Culture and History (NICH) sent out an open invitation to the world for those who would be interested in celebrating, along with the Maya of Belize, the coming of spring solstice. Ambergris Today, along with about 60 people from Belize, Canada and the United States took advantage of the invitation and experienced a glorious event that carried much significance in our day and age. The event took place on March 20 – 21, 2012.

Spring Equinox at Caracol Maya Ruins

Spring Equinox at Caracol Maya RuinsSpring Equinox at Caracol Maya RuinsSpring Equinox at Caracol Maya RuinsSpring Equinox at Caracol Maya RuinsSpring Equinox at Caracol Maya RuinsSpring Equinox at Caracol Maya Ruins

Caracol is located on the western edge of the Maya Mountains on a large plateau 2,000 above sea level. This elevation makes the site the loftiest of all lowland Maya centers. The remains of extensive hillside terraces suggest the presence of a large farming community that provided sustenance for a sizable population. The city was settled around 600B.C. and flourished for over 1,000 years before it began to decline around 900A.D.

Caracol is one of the most impressive sites in the Maya world. Its large, multi-purpose building, known as Caana, rises about 145 feet above the plaza level, and remains the tallest human-made structure in Belize. Structure A6, which served astronomical purposes, has well-preserved wooden lintels that were dated to the first century A.D.  Numerous carved monuments establish that Caracol was a major player in the geopolitics of the Classis period Maya world. It was an ally of Calakumul in Campeche, Mexico and engaged in several wars with neighboring polities such as Tikal, Naranjo and Ucanal in Guatemala.

Today, Caracol rivals Tikal and Chitzen Itza as a major Maya culture destination. Providing a two-hour tour of the site was Belize’s leading archaeologist, Dr. Jaime Awe, who first began working on this site during the 1970’s. His total involvement in the project made him the best guide and he delivered a most interesting tour; he is extremely knowledgeable, smart, witty and most comical. It was a privilege to be in his presence and have such a personal and intimate experience.

After the tour, night fell on the site and the campers gathered under a tent to enjoy a traditional Maya buffet that included chaya soup, pork and chicken pibil, tortillas, tamales and ducunu. Before bedtime, those eager for more excitement, headed to the main Caana temple to scale it in pitch black conditions. At the top was a celestial experience where it seemed as if the Milky Way was at arm’s reach; nothing short of breathtaking and spectacular.

By 2:30a.m. the campers were awakened by the call of the Howler Monkeys. Like clockwork they howl into the dead silence of the night; it’s an eerie sound while you are asleep in the middle of the jungle, but an amazing experience all at once.

Shortly after Maya shamans from Guatemala, Honduras and Belize commenced a traditional Fire ceremony where campers participated in a healing ritual that included embracing the rising smoke and adding candles and incense to the fire that burnt herbs, corn, cacao beans, cinnamon sticks, each a symbol of Maya cosmology. This was the first ever held at the Caracol site. The ceremony ended as the sun gave way above the jungle canopy and rose just behind one of the temples at Caracol, bringing light to the first day of spring.

- by Dorian Nuñez (Click here to read his personal blog about his experience at Caracol)

Spring Equinox at Caracol Maya Ruins

Spring Equinox at Caracol Maya RuinsSpring Equinox at Caracol Maya RuinsSpring Equinox at Caracol Maya Ruins

Spring Equinox at Caracol Maya RuinsSpring Equinox at Caracol Maya RuinsSpring Equinox at Caracol Maya RuinsSpring Equinox at Caracol Maya RuinsSpring Equinox at Caracol Maya RuinsSpring Equinox at Caracol Maya RuinsSpring Equinox at Caracol Maya RuinsSpring Equinox at Caracol Maya RuinsSpring Equinox at Caracol Maya RuinsSpring Equinox at Caracol Maya RuinsSpring Equinox at Caracol Maya RuinsSpring Equinox at Caracol Maya RuinsSpring Equinox at Caracol Maya RuinsSpring Equinox at Caracol Maya RuinsSpring Equinox at Caracol Maya RuinsSpring Equinox at Caracol Maya RuinsSpring Equinox at Caracol Maya RuinsSpring Equinox at Caracol Maya RuinsSpring Equinox at Caracol Maya RuinsSpring Equinox at Caracol Maya RuinsSpring Equinox at Caracol Maya RuinsSpring Equinox at Caracol Maya RuinsSpring Equinox at Caracol Maya RuinsSpring Equinox at Caracol Maya Ruins
Photos by: Jose Luiz Zapata Photography


Upcoming Maya Camping Trips
The Maya site of Caracol was the first venue of four overnights of camping, music, presentation, and history to commemorate the ending of the 13 Baktun on December 21, 2012. The remaining overnights shall take place on the following three other dates to coincide with the annual solstices and equinoxes:

Tropic AirJune 20-21
September 21-22
December 20-21

The tickets are priced at $150USD per person and include an evening meal, breakfast, a Maya fire ceremony, as well as a tour by. Dr. Jaime Awe. Visitors to this event are responsible for their own camping gear as well as transportation to and from the site.

This event is a once in a lifetime experience for any visitor, to not only take part in a momentous occasion in both Maya and Belize history, but to live the wonders of a Maya site at night. To become part of it reserve your spots now. Email [email protected] or call the Institute of Archaeology at 501-822-2106. Visit their website for more information.

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