Santa Teresa, Graham Creek,Crique Sarco, Conejo,Midway are Q’eqchi Maya villages and a Garifuna Community (Barranco). The Q’eqchi Maya are originally from the Verapaz region of Guatemala but came to Belize in the late 1800’s after losing their land and freedom to German coffee growers. After the Q’eqchi Maya emigrated to southern Belize, they established the community of San Pedro de Colombia and branched out into the rest of the Toledo district. Over the years they have mixed with some Mopan communities. They practice subsistence slash and burn agriculture and have a self-governing Alcalde system. The Q’eqchi are renowned for their cooperative practices in farming and town development and rich in terms of cultural traditions and autonomous pride.
Barranco is a Garifuna village. The history of the Garifuna people (Garinagu) begins in 1635, when two Spanish ships carrying Nigerian slaves sank off the coast of St. Vincent. The people that survived and swam ashore found shelter in the existing Carib Indian settlements. Over the next century and a half, the two people intermixed, intermarried and eventually fused into a single culture, the Black Caribs or Garinagu.
By 1773, the Black Caribs were the dominant population of St. Vincent. But, European politics began to exert its influence throughout the Caribbean. A series of wars between the French and British on St. Vincent culminated in a final battle on June 10th, 1796, where the French and their Carib allies where forced to surrender and leave the island.
The exiled Garinagu landed on the island of Roatan, Honduras. Shortly after, the entire marooned population migrated to the mainland of Honduras and allied with the Spanish in the fortress town of Trujillo. Unfortunately, a brief civil war in 1832 found the Garinagu on the wrong side and once again many were forced to flee to neighboring British Honduras (now called Belize).
According to tradition, the first Garinagu arrived in then British Honduras on November 19th, 1802. This day is now a national holiday in Belize celebrated with drums, dancing and pageantry. Today, there is one town in Toledo – Punta Gorda – that is considered a Garifuna town, and one Garifuna village – Barranco (the oldest Garifuna settlement in Belize).
SATIIM would like to expand its work to include more villages in the Sarstoon-Temash region who use the resources in and buffering the national park. Some of these communities are Machakilha, Dolores, Corazon, and Otoxha.