“Jankuno” Garifuna Dance

JanThe “Jankuno” dance is a traditional dance performed during the Christmas season. The dancer wears a mask which resembles an English face topped by a hand-made hat similar to the English naval hats of the 18th century. It is said that these dances have their origins in the days of slavery and were intended to make fun of the white masters and their lack of rhythm.

Dum, du-dum … dum du-dum, is the rhythm of the drum that seems to be coming from across the village. It is an insidious beckoning to become a part of the music. As you draw nearer, the drumbeats become more distinct and there is the rising accompaniment of “shingling” shells. Above the crowd you are approaching is the wild movement of brightly colored feathers that adorn the head of dancers you are yet to see. The urge to be a part of whatever is happening gets stronger.

It is early January, the end of the Christmas celebrations and the final phase of a fortnight of dancing culminating in “Dia del Rey”, observed January 6th (or the weekend closest to that date,) by the Garinagu. It is another activity that helps to validate Dangriga’s self-imposed title, “The Culture Capital of Belize”.  picture

You know that the dancing of the Jankuno is drawing near when you see a young man here, a young boy there, gathering colorful feathers, assembling an attractive crown, or putting the finishing touches to the painted face masks that will be worn. You might be lucky to see a fully dressed dancer or two heading in the same direction as you, in search of the drums and their captivating rhythm.

Moving slowly to the front of the crowd you are suddenly faced with 5-10 costumed dancers wearing long sleeved white shirts, white gloves, knee length black pants and the occasional skirt, stockinged feet with black or white shoes. Green, pink or black ribbons criss-cross their chests and wrap their waist. At the knees, hundreds of tiny shells strung into knee pads make that “shingling” sound that accompany the dancer’s every move. The heads are wrapped in colorful cloths and the face is covered with painted masks depicting the features of a Caucasian male.

Inside the ring of onlookers is a loose circle of dancers awaiting their individual turns to perform, beginning with the youngest. With forearms extended, the incessant hypnotic movement of the dancer’s feet matches the rhythm and pattern of the two drummers. But it is the dancer’s movement that dictates the drummers’ beat and not the other way around. Paying keen attention, the drummers know when to pause, when to change the rhythm, and how to keep the flow. Each dancer brings his own unique style and flavor so the dancing is not repetitious. The Jankuno has the added richness of the Garifuna history and culture.  dancing

“Facts on the lion-fish”

lion-fish

Lionfishes belong to the scorpionfish family, which includes some of the most venomous fishes in the oceans. The lionfish has striped colours and spines of about 15 inches. They tend to take advantage of their camouflage to stalk their prey and when they are close enough, the lionfish quickly open their jaws to snap up their prey.  Its prey are usually small fishes, shrimps and crabs but it feeds on almost anything that can fit in their mouths and they always swallow their food whole. They feed all day long which allows them to consume much more than the average fish!

The lionfish has a lifespan of about 5-10 years and its native to the tropical Pacific and Indian oceans, but have recently been found in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea near our barrier reef, far from their natural home. They live among the coral reefs and shallow bays. This unique fish has few predators. Some fishes may try to eat them, but lion fishes’ venomous spines protect them from most predators.

This family of fish, including the lionfish, are external spawners. The male expels sperm immediately after the female releases her eggs, and the eggs are fertilized as they float in the water. These eggs and the newly hatched larvae drift in ocean currents for 25 to 40 days. Once the hatchlings are large enough to swim, they leave the currents to hide among corals and rocks. It probably takes 1 or 2 years for these hatchlings to reach breeding age. A female can lay one million eggs in a year.

Lionfishes are in no way threatened, but they have recently been found in the Caribbean and along the East Coast, as far north as Long Island, NY. The presence of these Pacific fishes in the Atlantic threatens many species that have not yet evolved defences to these voracious predators.

Our warm waters are being invaded as we speak. The dangers of the lionfish are yet unknown but from the facts we know about them, we can assume that they will soon become detrimental to our second longest Barrier Reef. They live long and multiply by millions, along with that they are not prone to many predators which give them maximum chance of survival and the oomph to live.

Although there is no written law as yet to enforce this, many of our local fishermen, dive masters and environmental organizations are now taking it into their own hands to kill the lionfish. It is nature’s law that the lionfish should not be a part of our ecosystem in such prevalence. Many different dive shops have begun doing this to preserve the reef.

Here at Hamanasi we have made the first step that we believe can save our reef system.    This picture is one of the lionfish that we have came up with to spread the awareness. We have created posters that we have placed in our dive shop and on our dive boats to show guides and guests. So if you see any lion fish, be sure to let your dive master know! It will make a safe dive today and help our reef system to last longer for more exiting dives in the future.  The Hopkins Divers dive crew are monitoring and logging each fish killed, its location and the date since this fish is still under research in the US.

Here’s another idea! It has also been said that it makes a good meal for the people who have tried it; therefore the lionfish will soon be a part of many Belizeans’ menu. Think of a fish that is so plentiful with no season of when to catch!



“Saving Bromeliads”

Citrus

About 20 years ago a container of ornamental bromeliads were shipped to Florida from Central America.  Inside these bromeliads were weevils that escaped into the forests of Florida and now have spread throughout the southern half of the state.  There are hundreds of species of bromeliads in Central America.  In Florida, there are only sixteen bromeliad species and twelve of them are endangered by the weevil.  Now, in many places around the state, once lush communities of bromeliads have been wiped out.

Biological control is the use of a specialized organism to control a pest organism.  A group of scientists led by Dr. Howard Frank from the University of Florida and was here in Belize, searching for a parasite of the bromeliad weevil.  Their  goal is to develop a new biological control to reduce the impact of bromeliad weevils and to protect Florida’s bromeliads.

After a long day of weevil hunting, all four of them looked forward to coming back to Hamanasi to enjoy the rest of the evening kicking back and discussing bugs!

Read more about bromeliads and the weevils that feed upon them at:

http://entnem.ifas.ufl.edu/frank/savebromeliads/

Bromeliads

“Urban Birdwatch 2010″

Belize Audubon Society held its Urban Birdwatch 2010 on Sunday October 10th in Dangriga.  The birdwatch tour was headed by Mr. Dirk Francisco who is the Public Relation for the Belize Audubon Society.  Two of our  inland guides Golden and Pedro were very eager and happy to attend this session of the countrywide bird count.  A total of 15 people participated in the event.

Total bird count was 64 different species and the  highlights  of the birdwatch  was none other than our National bird “Keel- Billed-Toucan” and the “Green Heron”.  The Belize Audubon Society is already planning to do the Christmas Bird count 2010  in the Jaguar Reserve – Cockscomb Basin and we do look forward to participating in that one as well.

Belize International Film Festival 2010

Belize Film Festival 2010

THE SILENT ARMY will open Belize’s 5th International Film Festival…

A Carnival like excitement is growing across the country as the BELIZE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL’S Red Carpet Opening Night Gala set for Friday, July 16th at the Bliss Centre draws near. International celebrities like Daryl “Chill” Mitchell and Anthony Anderson are confirming their attendance and so are the BelAms, with comedienne Lauren Burgess leading the bunch returning home to be a part of this glamorous JULY SUMMER EVENT being promoted by NICH and its many partners in the tourism sector. The Festival will open with red carpet events in Belize City at the Bliss on the 16th, San Pedro at the Reef Village Resort Paradise Theatre on the 17th and San Ignacio’s Ka’ana Boutique Resort on the 21st of this month.

The real heart of this festival, however, is its wide diversity of films, industry workshops and seminars. And the long awaited list of selected films was revealed. A sneak peak, however, reveals that The Silent Army, a Dutch film, has been selected to open Belize’s Festival this year.

National Geographic Daily News

National Geographic Daily News

Underwater Mayan World

Why is this diver burrowing into the bottom of this mini-lake? She’s literally disappearing into the sand and gravel of the water’s floor.  Only debris and the occasional bubbles from her breathing tank are visible.

She’s part of a project, largely funded by National Geographic, to dive into the sacred pools of the ancient Maya.

SOUNDBITE: Patricia Beddows, Northwest University, Hydrologist & Geochemist: “Our exploration team discovered this upwelling. It’s an underwater spring upwelling. And it provides this magical experience because it’s located at the bottom of a very large crater. And you can come down, down, down, down into this large crater, and in the bottom is this boiling mass of sediment that’s actually being rolled and boiled. It’s almost like a natural lava lamp. Went in over the lip of the crater, descended down into the bottom, and I didn’t want to have any interference with the water already in the pool. And so it required a little bit of digging, and frankly it was extremely low visibility down there but below the actual base of sediment, there’s about one and a half meters more space. The water coming out of the bottom of this spring, is chemically quite distinct from the water in the pool.”

But this is just the beginning. The dives also revealed clues to past life here, and a first for the country of Belize.

Scientists discovered several fossil beds around 60-to-90 feet below the surface, including femur bones the size of a bowling ball. They also found tusks and pelvic bones. These are the first recorded fossils ever found in Belize.

SOUNDBITE: Lisa Lucero, Archaeologist, Project Leader: “We left those in place. We only removed a few small fossils so we can determine, are they fossilized? Or bone? They are definitely fossilized, so we know they have to be of a certain age. But were they here , were these megafauna present during occupation by humans 20,000, 15,000 years ago? Or are they much older?”

The dives were made in several pools in central Belize earlier this year in an area known as Cara Blanca. The researchers found evidence that the eight pools of the 25 they studied are likely connected through underground passages.

Principal Investigator Lisa Lucero says the major goal is to look for archaeological remains underwater.

SOUNDBITE: Lisa Lucero, Archaeologist, Project Leader: “Because the Maya considered openings in the earth – caves, water bodies – as portals to the underworld of Xibalba. And because the thousands of caves that have been found have offerings, ancient Maya offerings , we just knew there’d be offerings at the bottom of the pool. So we came with the goal of trying to dive to look for these offerings.”

Though they didn’t find offerings on the first dives, they did find ceramic sherds in a pool near remains of Maya buildings, constructed around 1100 to 1300 years ago. Lucero says there is no indication this area had many residences, but rather was likely a pilgrimage site, with Maya traveling here from hundreds of miles away.

Because at least one of the pools was found to be around 200 feet deep, and littered with trees and silt, more sophisticated diving equipment is needed for future dives. And Lucero believes there are more significant Maya offerings at these depths.

The research is being conducted under the auspices of the Belize Institute of Archaeology, and the scientists plan to return for more exploration.

4th Belize International Film Festival Underway

Belize Tourism Industry Association

The fourth Belize International Film Festival is taking place from July 17-24, 2010 and tickets are now on sale!

This is not the regular Hollywood screening…in the past, shorts, documentaries, and other film types have been shown highlighting powerful issues, e.g. from Brazil, Mexico, India, Canada, Belize, and other countries.  It is fun and enlightening for adults and kids alike.  Some of the actors and producers also come to Belize for the screenings during the Festival.

For the first time, the Film Festival will be hosted in three locations….Ka’ana Resort near San Ignacio, in San Pedro Town, and in Belize City.  Check out www.belizefilmfestival.com for more information.  Also, HOTEL DEALS can be found on the website.

Prices for the passes are as follows:

MOVIE PASS – $50

(Access to all movies in Belize City, San Pedro and San Ignacio except Opening Night Films)

Belize City: Princess Cinemas, July17 – 24

San Pedro: Paradise Theatre, July 18-19                        San Ignacio: Ka’ana Boutique Resort, July22-23


OFFICIAL RED CARPET OPENING GALA – $50

6 p.m. Fri., July 16 (Bliss Centre, Belize City)

(Red Carpet Entrance, Cocktail Gala, Opening Ceremony, Screening of Opening Film)

SAN PEDRO ALL WHITE AFFAIR – $50

8 p.m. Sat. July 17 (Paradise Theatre, Reef Village Resort)

(Red Carpet Entrance / Opening Ceremony, Screening of film, Pool Side After Party)


RAINFOREST EXCLUSIVE – $50

Wed. July 21 (Ka’ana Boutique Resort, Benque Rd.)

(Red Carpet Entrance, Cocktail Reception, Opening Ceremony, Screening of film)


AWARDS CEREMONY & TRIBUTE TO HAITI BENEFIT- $50

Sat. July 24 (Bliss Centre, Belize City)

(Red Carpet Entrance, Closing Ceremony and Awards, Screening of Haitian films)

New discoveries at Cahal Pech reveal plenty about Mayas

Passageway in Mayan Ruins

As reported June 17, 2010

Cahal Pech is one of the oldest Maya sites in western Belize.  Thirty four structures of the site were home to an elite Mayan family, and most of its construction falls within the Classic Maya period.   Though habitation can be traced as far back as 900 B.C., recent excavations revealed plenty about the last inhabitants on the hill.  News Five Jose Sanchez took a journey of discovery with Dr. Jaime Awe, Director, Institute of Archaeology, NICH, through the unwritten history of Cahal Pech.

Archaeological work at Cahal Pech began in 1988 and the site was made a reserve in the 90’s.  While much has been uncovered during previous decades, new exploratory work has revealed equally amazing discoveries on the fringes of the site.

Dr. Jaime Awe

“Often like you rightly put it, we excavate some of the larger buildings because when people come to visit sites, those are the things that they want to see.  So, we focus on them first.  In the past, we decided that there were sections of Cahal Pech that we should perhaps spend some time looking at.  And this area that we are in is on of those.  About a year ago, we were excavating just opposite from where you’re looking at, and in fact you see all these stones, we found them covering this large tomb.  you have to understand, you don’t find tombs in these small little places.  You find tombs in the big pyramids.  So we couldn’t believe when we came across that this tomb was lying out here.”

Jose Sanchez

“The dead do speak.  By using carbon dating techniques and examining the type of pottery  made during a particular period, Dr. Awe and his team were able to find out more about the life and death of the Mayans between 850-900 A.D.”

Dr. Jaime Awe

” The Mayan had laid this male individual inside this tomb with thirteen different pots all around him.  There was a necklace made from dog teeth.  We know that at least fifty-two puppies had to be killed to make that necklace.”

Jose Sanchez

” That means he was someone important.”

Dr. Jaime Awe

” Without a doubt this guy was well-to-do because he also had a nice jade pendant and some jade ear flares.  Had had some obsidian blades – quite a bit of materials.  And like I said, it was interesting because of where we found it.  Another reason why it was very interesting is because of the date of that burial.  That burial dates to close to between 850-900 A.D.  This is a time when most sites have been abandoned.  And it’s like we know that there are some people who are still clinging on here at Cahal Pech, don’t want to go.”

Jose Sanchez

” Would it be far-fetched to say the place was abandoned and they decided to live the remainder of their lives here?

Dr. Jaime Awe

“Oh, without a doubt.  I think these people realized that this may have been the home of their ancestors, and they did not want to leave.  Most people leave, but a few remain.  They are hanging on.  They are hoping that things will improve, and they are still trying to live a lifestyle like they did in the past, but eventually that also fails.  They are not able to produce a lot of food, so there are some levels of malnutrition.  They can’t come up with the type of technology to produce more, and then you get hit by drought.  So the drought is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.  It affects the production of food.  It affects nutrition.  People now start to compete for resources, which increases warfare.  Eventually, the system couldn’t sustain itself and the system collapses.”

The greatness of the civilization continues to be written through each sift and shift of sand.  Reported for News Five by Jose Sanchez.

Belize National Agriculture & Trade Show 2010

NATIONAL AGRICULTURE AND TRADE SHOW 2010

04/30/2010 – 05/02/2010
National Agriculture Showground’s, Belmopan

The National Agriculture & Trade Show (NATS) is Belize’s leading agricultural show which is organized by the National Agriculture & Trade Show Committee in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries.  Held in the Nation’s Capital this show welcomes more than 80,000 visitors over three days. The main objective of the show is to educating the public on the importance of agriculture and its contribution to the Belizean economy and food security.

The weekend was filled with exhibitors of all kinds, great food and fun rides for the children!

The Hopkins Kite Festival Flies High in Belize!

The Hopkins Kite Festival was a huge success Saturday!  Kids of all ages had a great time and enjoyed the prizes of backpacks and school supplies donated by guests of Hamanasi.  Congratulations to all of the participants and winners for excellent work on the creative and beautiful kites of the day.  If you’re traveling to Hamanasi soon, you can bring new or gently used backpacks for our “Backpack Project”.   The backpacks are put to great use!

-the Hamanasi “Green Team”

Hamanasi's Audrey McCaulay hands out backpacks as prizes! Beautiful!