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The Living Cultural Experience

The Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE), a non-governmental organization, was founded in 1997 to meet the growing environmental and development needs of Toledo District, the southernmost district of Belize. In 1999 its subsidiary TIDE Tours was formed to promote eco-tourism opportunities and alternative livelihood programs for the Toledo District. With such rich and diverse cultures to highlight here in Toledo, TIDE Tours partnered with the Belize Tourism Board to develop a Toledo Cultural Trail which will provide for more cultural attractions for our visitors to enjoy. This trail program will allow for the continuation of cultural preservation for the five main cultural ethnic groups in Toledo which are the Mestizo, Maya, East Indian, Creole and Garifuna. The trail will be marketed as a one day tour, which tourist will be able to purchase a package from a tour operator or just walk into the established culture houses at these families’ homes. They would spend one hour with each family, learning about the history, food, dances and all other aspects associate with their culture, including some interactive traditional activities. Here is a description of how what can be done on the trail at the different cultural stops:

The Creole Experience: The Creoles of Belize played an instrumental role in the colonial days as logwood cutter and those that fought in the battle of St. George’s Caye. Stopping in at one of Belize’s most dynamic creole artist’s residence, Ms. Leela Vernon, visitors will be able to view several antiques, traditional musical instruments, learn about the history of Creoles to Belize, view the traditional clothing and listen to original creole songs.

The Mestizo Experience: The Mestizos of Belize has significantly contributed to our economy with their skill in agriculture and clothing and textile among others. Visitors will be able to try their hand at embroidery, weaving bags, making earrings and other craft by upcycling plastics and tires. Ms. Mendez will enlighten you about other aspects of the Mestizo culture including history, food, clothing and traditional beliefs.

The Living Maya Experience: A scenic twenty minutes’ drive will take you to Big Falls Village where the Cal Family warmly welcomes visitors to immerse themselves in the authenticity of the Maya Culture. Here you will view the different tools which the Maya used for daily survival, musical instruments, learn about the history and traditional beliefs of the Mayas and tour short medicinal trail. You also get a once in a lifetime experience to prepare a tasty Maya lunch from corn and other vegetables. The Living Maya Experience is also part of the Toledo Adventure Trail.

The East Indian Experience: The East Indian Experience- A fifteen minute drive from Big Falls will take you to a small historic community of Forest Home, home to a vast majority of East Indians who first came to Belize as indentured workers to work on the sugar plantations in the 1800’s. A replica of a traditional East Indian home has been well preserved by one family who has many tools and antiques from generations ago. Learn about the history, traditional beliefs and how the East Indians have contributed to the growth of Belize’s economy.

The Garifuna Experience- Punta Gorda is home to a large and vibrant population of Garinagu people. Ronald McDonald is well versed with playing the Garifuna drums and will have you dancing ‘Punta’ by the end of your session at the Warasa Garifuna Drum School. Well identified with the upbeat music from the Garifuna drums, you will learn how the Garinagus settled in Belize, their traditions, language and also spend quality time learning to play these drums in all forms of musical rhythms within its culture. View traditional gift items for sale at the Warasa Drum School.

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