Belize is gearing up for a year of reflection, renewal and celebration when the winter solstice of 2012 arrives.
“Imagine a New Year’s party that comes only once every 52,000 years, and you’ll get an idea of what this means to those of us living in the Maya heartland,” said Dr. Jaime Awe, director of Belize’s Institute of Archaeology, yesterday at a preliminary launch of a new Belizean website dedicated to the 2012 celebrations planned for this Central American nation.
Seleni Matus, director of the Belize Tourism Board, said, “This region is where the Maya Calendar began and continues to be read. You won’t find too many people worried about 2012 here. In fact, we’re looking forward to a year of celebrating and highlighting Belize’s vibrant Maya culture and history.”
Belize, on Central America’s Caribbean coast, has a large per capita Maya population and a huge number of Maya archaeological sites. Three Maya dialects are still spoken in Belize, and traditions such as farming methods and cooking have continued largely unchanged for centuries in Maya villages.
Belize will be hosting scientists, academics and an expected influx of visitors throughout 2012, with a range of special tours, cultural activities and Maya themed sporting events planned. One initiative, for instance, involves visitors being issued with commemorative Maya “passports” and collectors’ cards, which give entry and are stamped at each of Belize’s Maya temples and archaeology sites. Along with information kits and knowledgeable guides they ensure visitors a well rounded and memorable Maya experience during 2012.
There are also special tour packages on offer, with most resorts enthusiastically participating in the national celebrations. Events such as the annual La Ruta Maya canoe race, one of the longest in the world, will emphasize Maya culture as it passes through the country.