Na Luum Caj – Mother Earth Village

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to spend five nights with the Sho Family at their house in Na Luûm Caj, a small village in Belize’s Toledo District.  My visit, coordinated by the Maya Village Homestay Network, was an amazing opportunity to learn about Mopan Maya customs and life.   The coordinators stated that I would be treated like a family member, “not as anyone ‘special,'” and I found this to be true.  I was thankful for the family’s openness in authentically sharing their life with me.  Around the dinner table the family spoke Mopan (translating into English for me occasionally), and I was welcomed to the Sunday church service they hosted on their patio.

Na Luûm Caj, which means Mother Earth Village in Mopan, is home to approximately 125 people.  According to the Maya Atlas: The Struggle to Preserve Maya Land in Southern Belize, a project for which Mr. Sho was a community cartographer, the village was founded in 1986 by a group of progressive farmers from nearby San Antonio.  They received land grants from the government and set up their model community, complete with environmental and ecological protections such as riparian buffer zones, just down the road from the village of San Antonio.

I arrived by bus on a Friday afternoon.  After introductions with the mother, father, and five children, I sat down to a late lunch of corn tortillas, beans, and ginger tea.  As I expected, fresh handmade tortillas and beans were a staple; I ended up having them at twelve of fourteen meals with the family.  On a couple of occasions, I tried grinding the corn and shaping the tortillas; my efforts towards the latter inadvertently resulted in some creative shapes.  By the time I left early on the following Wednesday morning, I was most grateful for the family’s laughter; after weeks of traveling, staying with a family in a home full of laughter was a centering experience.

Mr. Sho took an interest in my project and we spent a few afternoons talking to some of the local bus owners (including his brother).  Other highlights included washing my clothes in the river (steering clear of a scorpion on the rocks), using the outhouse (and steering clear of a tarantula on the wall), and hikes through the mud (and not being able to steer clear of some deep mud).

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