The 5 Musketeers of the Organization of the Mayan World: Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras

Bea Palop
Bea Palop

‘All for one, and one for all’ as Alejandro Dumas said in his novel The Three Musketeers. Alright, Dumas said 3, but this time are 5. The union make the strength, and know well the countries of Mayan descent of the Organization of the Mayan World: Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras.

Nattule has been very involved in the union of different countries, since we seek to connect our passion for sustainable tourism activities and adventure that bring nature closer to the public, not only in Spain, but in the rest of the world. And discovering the initiative of the Organization of the Mayan World on the other side of the pond has been a pleasure.

If you want to know why, who they are and what their organization consists of, you are in the right article. But first, a little bit of context.

The Organization of the Mayan World was created in 1992 to join forces between the territories in which the Mayans expanded to strengthen their strategies and generate new ones always based on the line of sustainability. These countries are Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras.

They actively seek the participation of both public and private entities for greater integration and development of the regions, as well as promoting greater responsible and quality tourism in each country. Guatemala is currently president ‘pro tempore’ during the years 2018-2020. And the objectives to attract potential multi-destination tourists in these two years that the Organization has in mind are:

  1. Creation of different direct routes to and from the main destinations in southern Mexico and other countries in the region.
  2. Strengthen and improve the connection by land to consolidate interregional tourist circuits.
  3. Create maritime circuits that, starting from Cancun, travel the Caribbean Coast through Quintana Roo and Belize to end in Guatemala and Honduras.
  4. Promote commercial agreements between transport service providers, as well as between receptive tourism operators and Destination Management Companys, to create new intraregional tourist routes and circuits.

And now that we know a little better who they are and what they are looking for, we are going to meet each of these amazing musketeers. And if you end up reading this article aloud, for every mispronounced name, one shot. Let’s get started!

GUATEMALA

As we have commented before, Guatemala is the pro tempore president for the period 2018-2020. The Mayan World calls it ‘The Heart of the Mayan World’. And when you look at everything it has, you understand that qualification perfectly.

The Guatemalan state has a deep heritage of Mayan culture throughout its territory. What’s more, Guatemala’s largest natural protected area is called the Mayan Biosphere Reserve and occupies half of the department of Petén (also the largest in the state). The Reserve is also the largest protected area of tropical forest in Central America. And there are incredible national parks such as the Tikal National Park.

To the north of Petén, Tikal is one of the most emblematic and extensive Mayan cities, which is why it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. Within it you can see impressive monumental architectures of the time such as its pyramidal temples (Temple of the Great Jaguar, the Temple of Masks, the Temple of the Jaguar Priest, the Temple of the Bicephalous Serpent, Temple 5 and the Great Pyramid of the Lost World), its acropolis (Central and North) and among other sets that are worth admiring.

Tikal dominated almost all the Lowlands during the entire Early Classic and had its moment of glory. Hence, there are so many vestiges to marvel at. Although not only north of Guatemala we find this National Park, but there are more places to visit as the Blue River with its caves dug into the rock, among other incredible places. And that’s only in the north. Imagine yourself in the south, east and west. What madness!

HONDURAS

Honduras is one of the most important parts of the Mayan World. It is located at the southeastern end of the countries that make up the Organization, between Guatemala, El Salvador and below and borders Nicaragua.

This country is characterized by spectacular beaches, but also has important vestiges of Mayan culture. Places like Copán, near Guatemala, are the Ruins of Copán or ‘The Mayan Athens’, located in the heart of Honduran jungle and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There is also the Rio Amarillo Archaeological Park, very close to Copán, which attracts attention because it reflects how the Mayan Empire declined due to some of its unfinished buildings. Although, not for that, they are less impressive.

Nature is also a protagonist in Honduras, with 15 national parks, 2 biosphere reserves and 100 biological reserves that protect more than 200 birds and more than 20 mammals. This can be summarized by the fact that approximately 50% is covered by forests. It is the dream of lovers of the natural environment.

MeXICO

The Mayan world marked its footprint in southern Mexico. Specifically in the Mexican states of Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatan and Quintana Roo. Among the five, there are more than 150 sites of Mayan origin!

In Chiapas are the deposits of Izapa, Bonampak, Palenque, and Yaxchilán, among others. In terms of nature, Chiapas contains the Sumidero Canyon and Las Lagunas de Montebello National Parks, the Lacandon Jungle, the Selva del Ocote Biosphere Reserve, and the Agua Azul Waterfalls Forest Protection Zone and Wildlife Region.

Tabasco has many water-related natural resources, such as the Pantanos de Centla Biosphere Reserve, the Agua Blanca State Park, or the Usumacinta River Canyon, for example. Here is the monument 6 of Tortuguero, whose inscription made a strange reference to December 21, 2012.

As we mentioned earlier, Calakmul was one of the largest Mayan settlements of this culture, and it is located in Campeche. But in addition to Calakmul we can find many other places of archaeological interest such as Becán, Edzná and many more. But on top of that, this State does not fall short of the natural environment. It is home to the Los Petenes Biosphere Reserve and the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, as well as an amazing Petrified Forest.

Yucatan is probably one of the most familiar places to us. It contains the most important and best preserved nucleus of the Mayan culture, the Chichén Itzá, place of the famous temple of Kukulkán. It was the most outstanding Mayan city between the years 900 and 1300 of our era, and the place so demonstrates it. In general in Yucatan you can soak up the Mayan culture since there are multiple sites in addition to the mentioned one. In its nature the Cenotes of Samulá, X’Batún and X’Kekén, precious to admire, attract attention.

Finally, Quintana Roo is special both in its sites and its natural resources. Here you can visit Chacchobén in the region of Los Lagos, El Rey in Cancún or Tulum, for example. And if you go to Quintana Roo, visiting and diving in the Xcalak Reef Marine Reserve is the finishing touch to know the State, both for its surface and its depth under the sea.

EL SALVADOR

El Salvador, bordering Guatemala and Honduras, is an important region of Mesoamerican culture. It has marks from the Preclassic, Classic and Postclassic periods of occupation. That is why it is one of the great places to discover the culture that was present in the world for so long, being one of the most advanced.

The Ruins of Quelepa near the city of San Miguel, Cihuatán towards the North of El Salvador, Joya de Cerén in the department of La Libertad and which is known as ‘La Pompeya de Centroamérica’, The city of Chalchuapa, with Tazumal and Casa Blanca, Santa Leticia and San Andrés, are all the great archaeological stars of El Salvador.

In addition, you can find several tourist routes that this region has provided for the traveler as the craft route, flowers, sun and beach, crafts, volcanoes, the thousand summits, among others. You won’t get bored in the Salvadoran region, there’s always something to do.

BELIzE

Belize, which borders Mexico to the north and Guatemala to the southwest, shares many of its geographic characteristics with its neighboring Petén and the East Coast of Mexico’s Quintana Roo. With the Belize River dividing the country in half, the lands of Belize formed an integral part of the Maya Lowlands. So its Mayan cultural heritage is quite rich.

One of the most touristy spots is concentrated on its coast. This is because it contains the second largest barrier reef on the planet, about 298 km. Since 1996 it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and that’s just as well, as it is essential for the marine ecosystem.

In addition to the natural and fauna wealth that keeps Belize alive, we should not forget its cultural load of Mayan descent. Currently only 10% of its inhabitants are of Mayan origin, which are located mainly in the District of Toledo and Cayo. Their way of life is very similar to that of other Mayan groups and their agricultural practices help the sustainability of the region.

Near the Guatemalan border is the Mayan settlement of Caracol. It is one of the largest settlements, along with Tikal and Calakmul. And the surrounding environment is the Chiquibul National Park. Other places that are essential are Lamanai, Altun ha, Xunantunich, to cite a few examples. In short, although Belize is a small country, it is full of nature, culture and adventure.

It is fascinating to see how time works. The persistent roots of the ancient and marvelous Mayan Empire are now between civilization and the surface of the American continent. We may not be able to see the Maya at their peak again, but thanks to the Maya World Organization, we can make sure we don’t lose that part of our humanity that was with us for three centuries.

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