Human activity during centuries of occupation significantly altered the landscape inhabited by the ancient Maya of northwestern Belize. In response, the Maya developed new techniques to harvest the natural resources of their surroundings, investing increased labor and raw materials into maintaining and even improving their ways of life. In this lively story of life in the wetlands on the outskirts of the major site of La Milpa, Julie Kunen documents a hitherto unrecognized form of intensive agriculture in the Maya lowlands—one that relied on the construction of terraces and berms to trap soil and moisture around the margins of low-lying depressions called bajos. She traces the intertwined histories of residential settlements on nearby hills and ridges and agricultural terraces and other farming-related features around the margins of the bajo as they developed from the Late Preclassic perios (400 BC-AD 250) until the area's abandonment in the Terminal Classic period (about AD 850). Kunen examines the organization of three bajo communities with respect to the use and management of resources critical to agricultural production. She argues that differences in access to spatially variable natural resources resulted in highly patterned settlement remains and that community founders and their descendents who had acquired the best quality and most diverse set of resources maintained an elevated status in the society. The thorough integration of three lines of evidence—the settlement system, the agricultural system, and the ancient environment—breaks new ground in landscape research and in the study of Maya non-elite domestic organization. Kunen reports on the history of settlement and farming in a small corner of the Maya world but demonstrates that for any study of human-environment interactions, landscape history consists equally of ecological and cultural strands of influence.
Trading was the favorite occupation of the Maya, according to early Spanish observers such as Fray Diego de Landa (1566). Yet scholars of the Maya have long dismissed trade—specifically, market exchange—as unimportant. They argue that the Maya subsisted primarily on agriculture, with long-distance trade playing a minor role in a largely non-commercialized economy.
The Ancient Maya Marketplace reviews the debate on Maya markets and offers compelling new evidence for the existence and identification of ancient marketplaces in the Maya Lowlands. Its authors rethink the prevailing views about Maya economic organization and offer new perspectives. They attribute the dearth of Maya market research to two factors: persistent assumptions that Maya society and its rainforest environment lacked complexity, and an absence of physical evidence for marketplaces—a problem that plagues market research around the world.
Many Mayanists now agree that no site was self-sufficient, and that from the earliest times robust local and regional exchange existed alongside long-distance trade. Contributors to this volume suggest that marketplaces, the physical spaces signifying the presence of a market economy, did not exist for purely economic reasons but served to exchange information and create social ties as well.
The Ancient Maya Marketplace offers concrete links between Maya archaeology, ethnohistory, and contemporary cultures. Its in-depth review of current research will help future investigators to recognize and document marketplaces as a long-standing Maya cultural practice. The volume also provides detailed comparative data for premodern societies elsewhere in the world.
Becoming Creole explores how people become who they are through their relationships with the natural world, and it shows how those relationships are also always embedded in processes of racialization that create blackness, brownness, and whiteness. Taking the reader into the lived experience of Afro-Caribbean people who call the watery lowlands of Belize home, Melissa A. Johnson traces Belizean Creole peoples’ relationships with the plants, animals, water, and soils around them, and analyzes how these relationships intersect with transnational racial assemblages. She provides a sustained analysis of how processes of racialization are always present in the entanglements between people and the non-human worlds in which they live.
William Setzekorn weaves the folklore, facts, history, culture, economics and geography of Belize into an exciting mini-encyclopedia. His portrait of this proud new nation is painted with humor, gentleness, fact and empathy presenting a credible picture of modern day Belize. Reading with the ease and excitement of a novel it is more than a history book, a travelog or an encyclopedia giving the reader a feeling of kinship with the struggles and joy of this tiny new nation.
A mixture of Africans, Mestizos, East Indians, Europeans, Syrians, Lebanese, Mayans, and Chinese; Belize has grown into a heterogenous mosaic of a strong and brave country which is no bigger than Cambridge, Massachusetts. Studying the influences of British domination and Spanish intimidation up to the recent movements for self-government and independence, Setzekorn presents to the reader an accounting of Belizean social and political vicissitudes—a long and tortuous, yet coherent, struggle for national and cultural identity.
The prevailing view of the lowland Maya during the Postclassic period (A.D. 1050-1500) has been one of an impoverished, "degenerated" society devoid of cultural accomplishment. However, Marilyn A. Masson offers a fresh interpretation of this society as one that represented a complex, sophisticated, extensive organization of semiautonomous units that were closely integrated, yet embraced a decentralized political economy.
In the Realm of Nachan Kan opens a window on Postclassic Maya patterns of cultural development and organization through a close examination of the small rural island of Laguna de On, a location that was distant from the governing political centers of the day. Using diachronic analysis of regional settlement patterns, ceramic traditions, household and ritual features, and artifacts from the site, Masson tracks developmental changes throughout the Postclassic period. These data suggest that affluent patterns of economic production and local and long-distance exchange were established within northern Belize by the eleventh century, and continued to develop, virtually uninterrupted, until the time of Spanish arrival.
In addition, Masson analyzes contemporary political and religious artistic traditions at the temples of Mayapan, Tulum, and Santa Rita to provide a regional context for the changes in community patterns at Laguna de On. These cultural changes, she maintains, are closely correlated with the rise of Mayapan to power and participation of sites like Laguna de On in a pan-lowland economic and ritual interaction sphere. Offering a thoroughly new interpretation of Postclassic Mayan civilization. In the Realm of Nachan Kan is a must for scholars of Mesoamerican history and culture.
In 1983, zoologist Alan Rabinowitz ventured into the rain forest of Belize, determined to study the little-known jaguar in its natural habitat and to establish the world's first jaguar preserve. Within two years, he had succeeded. In Jaguar he provides the only first-hand account of a scientist's experience with jaguars in the wild. Originally published in 1986, this edition includes a new preface and epilogue by the author that bring the story up to date with recent events in the region and around the world.
Jacobi's groundbreaking osteology study uncovers the history of the Tipu Maya of Belize and their subsequent contact with the Spanish conquistadores and missionaries.
Two cultures collided at Tipu, Belize, in the 1600s: that of the native Maya and that of the Spanish missionaries, who arrived with an agenda of religious subjugation and, ultimately, political control. Combining historical documentation with the results of an archaeological exploration of a Tipu cemetery, Keith Jacobi provides an account of the meshing of these two cultures and the assimilation of Catholic practices by the Tipu.
In particular, Jacobi focuses on the dental remains recovered at this site. A tooth may be the last tangible evidence of a living creature, so teeth can reveal information about an individual's health, diet, cosmetic alteration, trauma, and genetic structure. From the genetic structure the researcher can learn information about an individual's relationship to others in a particular population and between populations.
Jacobi's research reveals how these European and Spanish Catholic practices were assimilated by the Tipu Maya and enables the first description of the prevalent attitudes toward death and burial customs. Through this study of Tipu Maya dentition changes through time, Jacobi sheds light on Spanish intermarriage, Maya familial relationships, and the Tipu genetic affinity with other prehistoric, historic, and modern Maya.
The citrus industry in Belize could be said to exist primarily to satisfy the needs of people in other countries. A business that is highly dependent on global markets and the geopolitics of international trade, it comprises some 500 farmers, many hundreds of wage laborers, and two processing companies that produce frozen juice concentrate for export. This new study examines how those farmers, laborers, and companies define and pursue shared interests, and how they respond differently to the impact of national development strategies and global economic and political forces. Laurie Kroshus Medina analyzes the development of the citrus industry in Belize over fifteen years to explore the relationship between the production of collective identities and the negotiation of development policies at the interface of global and local processes. She shows how citrus farmers and workers, processing companies, and politicians compete to construct shared identities, how they mobilize collective actors, and how their collective action shapes the goals, policies, and practices associated with development. Taking an ethnographic approach, Medina describes how the Belizean citrus industry responds to cycles of boom and bust, and the implications of such cycles for workers and growers. She offers a close look at the major actors—workers, union members, small and large growers, and politicians—as they respond to global changes in the citrus industry. Her analysis is made more compelling through an account of two open struggles in the industry over the formation of a rival union and the attempt to buy the processing company, owned by the multinational corporation Nestlé. She also includes a discussion of the impact of NAFTA on the industry. Medina's research demonstrates how collective agency in Belize has pushed the citrus industry's development in directions that simultaneously conform to and diverge from the trajectories laid out by foreign agencies. Negotiating Economic Development provides a bridge from old to new studies of Latin American social movements as it offers key insights into competing forms of identity for a wide range of social scientists concerned with the human and social aspects of development issues and globalization.
“Kosakowsky’s book, produced in the clear, easy-to-read and well-designed format . . . is a substantive contribution to Maya ceramic studies. She details the significant changes in the ceramic sequence and in so doing provides the kind of information that enables other ceramicists, and other Mayanists, to compare the Cuello phenomenon with developments elsewhere. Studies such as these are the building blocks of any larger-scale structural understanding of Maya cultural change.”—Journal of Latin American Studies
Cave archaeology in the New World, now a focus of intense research, was still a peripheral area of inquiry just fifteen years ago. Stone Houses and Earth Lords is the first volume dedicated exclusively to the use of caves in the Maya Lowlands, covering primarily Classic Period archaeology from A.D. 100 through the Spaniards' arrival. Although the caves that riddled the lowlands show no signs of habitation, most contain evidence of human use - evidence that suggests that they functioned as ritual spaces.
Demonstrating the importance of these subterranean spaces to Maya archaeology, contributors provide interpretations of archaeological remains that yield insights into Maya ritual and cosmology. Compiling the best current scholarship in this fast-growing area of research, Stone Houses and Earth Lords is a vital reference for Mayanists, Mesoamerican specialists, and others interested in the human use of caves in the New World. Contributors include: Juan Luis Bonor, James E. Brady, Robert Burnett, Allan B. Cobb, Pierre Robert Colas, Cesar Espinosa, Sergio Garza, David M. Glassman, Christina T. Halperin, Amalia Kenward, Andrew Kindon, Patricia McAnany, Christopher Morehart, Holley Moyes, Vanessa A. Owen, Shankari Patel, Polly Peterson, Keith M. Prufer, Timothy. W. Pugh, Frank Saul, Julie Saul, Ann M. Scott, Andrea Stone, and Vera Tiesler.
This engaging ethnography is set in the remote district of Toledo in Belize, Central America, where three women weave personal stories about the events in their lives. Each describes her experiences of motherhood, marriage, family illness, emigration, separation, work, or domestic violence that led her to recognize gender inequality and then to do something about it. All three challenge the culture of gender at home and in the larger community.
Zola, an East Indian woman without primary school education, invents her own escape from a life of subordination by securing land, then marries the man she's lived with since the age of fourteen--but on her terms. Once she needed permission to buy a dress, now she advocates against domestic violence. Evelyn, a thirty-nine-year old Creole woman, has raised eight children virtually alone, yet she remains married "out of habit." A keen entrepreneur, she has run a restaurant, a store, and a sewing business, and she now owns a mini-mart attached to her home. Rose, a Garifuna woman, is a mother of two whose husband left when she would not accept his extra-marital affairs. While she ekes out a survival in the informal economy by making tamales, she gets spiritual comfort from her religious beliefs, love of music, and two children.
The voices of these ordinary Belizean women fill the pages of this book. Irma McClaurin reveals the historical circumstances, cultural beliefs, and institutional structures that have rendered women in Belize politically and socially disenfranchised and economically dependent upon men. She shows how some ordinary women, through their participation in women's grassroots groups, have found the courage to change their lives. Drawing upon her own experiences as a black woman in the United States, and relying upon cross-cultural data about the Caribbean and Latin America, she explains the specific way gender is constructed in Belize.