San Miguel, Belize

The mayan community of San Miguel, Belize

By Sergio Camalich

Whenever I thought of Belize, I mostly thought of it as a Caribbean paradise, an odd mix between English and the Garifuna culture. Never did I realise that—now obvious—it must have had an old indigenous past, as well.

Deep inside the Toledo District in Belize, you’ll find a very special kind of Mayan communities: small towns spread through the jungle, not very well developed, with customs similar to many of the Mayan towns around Mexico and Central America, but with English as their second language and no Spanish at all.

This might struck you as a minor difference, but I found it as a really peculiar situation, specially after I tried to speak with them in Spanish the first couple of times and received blank stares as an answer.

San Miguel, Belize

Welcome to San Miguel

San Miguel is a small agricultural town, right in the middle of the Toledo District. Of all the towns in the area,  it is also the most welcoming for backpacker, thanks to their T.E.A. Guesthouse—a community-owned guesthouse that hosts foreigners and invites them to interact with local families, eating at their houses, learning the ways of working the land and, of course, playing with all the curious kids that may appear at any sudden moment.

T.E.A. Guesthouse in San Miguel, Belize

The building where we stayed was a cute wooden house, in the middle of the town and right across one of the many churches spread around the village, where music could be heard everyday at different hours.

Everyday, different families would call us in for breakfast, lunch or dinner, served at their tables, where we would spend a lovely time, talking about all our different lifestyles.

Around the area

San Miguel location makes you feel a complete disconnection of the world. No Wi-Fi, no cellphone signal or anything similar, but a lot of interactions with the locals and the wilderness that surrounds the area.

You can take a small canoe from the Guesthouse and paddle up the river, where you’ll see the kids playing, women doing laundry and huge iguanas falling from trees—yep, that’s a common sight.

For all those archaeology buffs, like me, the site of Lubaantun is located just a couple of miles outside of town—a small site right next to a cocoa field.

San Miguel is connected to all the other nearby towns thanks to the local chicken buses—the cheapest way of traveling in Belize—and a day tour to Ixcacao, Blue Creek and Río Blanco is more than recommended.

More pictures of San Miguel

Welcome to San Miguel, Belize
Welcome to San Miguel, Belize. Population: 560.In front the T.E.A. Guesthouse in San Miguel, Belize
The front of the T.E.A. Guesthouse.Marcos giving us fresh sugar caneMarcos—our guide—giving us bits of fresh sugar cane. The fields outside of San Miguel, BelizeThe crop fields outside of San Miguel, BelizeVincent in San Miguel, BelizeVincent, after we managed to save the canoe and our bags from the water.Kids playing in San Miguel, BelizeKids from San Miguel, playing in the river.Eating with the locals in San Miguel, BelizeEating at Maria’s house—one of the lovely ladies that took care of us.Playing with the local kids in San Miguel, BelizeLearning how to play some card games with Floyd.

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