Anglo Maya contact in northern Belize: a study of British policy toward the Maya during the Caste War of Yucatan, 1847-1872
Once part of the ancient Mayan province of Chactemal, the Maya of northern Belize resisted Spanish domination mainly by retreating into inaccessible areas of the peninsula. The arrival of the English in the mid-17th century did not initially pose a threat to the inhabitants of northern Belize until mahogany as opposed to logwood extraction became the dominant activity of the English Baymen. Thus, by 1847 the northern Belize Maya had been pushed to the north west extremities of the Settlement. In the Yucatan peninsula itself, a massive Mayan rebellion had by 1848 almost succeeded in expelling the Yucatecos from south eastern Mexico. The tide eventually turned against the rebels, however, and by 1849 they had been forced to retreat into the more remote south eastern portions of the peninsula. The Belize Maya after 1848 became inextricably mixed with the Icaiche. They made peace with Yucatan in 1851 but continued to claim a corner of Belize's far north west. Tacitly backed by Yucatecan authorities, they demanded rent from British firms operating in the area, backing up their demands with occasional raids into British held territory. The Santa Cruz Maya (Cruzob), on the other hand, continued to defy the state of Yucatan militarily, having reorganized in the Quintana Roo forest around their capital Chan Santa Cruz. That they were able to do so was due in part to their ability to obtain arms from their neighbours in Belize. Of course the English government officially claimed it was neutral in the Yucatan conflict. However, it was not long before the conflict was brought to the very door steps of the local Belizean authorities which eventually forced them to adopt a clear lYpro- Cruzob policy. Yet this was not an easy course to pursue because the interests of the landowners, the sugar cane farmers, the gun-runners, the Legislature not to mention those of the newly arrived Yucateco refugees had to be balanced off against the overall need for security of the Northern District and its development. Security could not be maintained by merely resorting to the military might of the United Kingdom as officials at the Colonial Office did not consider the Colony merited such a commitment . By befriending the Cruzob, the local authorities calculated, they would remove the potential danger of a Cruzob invasion while neutralizing the Icaiche threat. But as a consequence of this policy, the Icaiche, who themselves suffered periodically from Cruzob raids mounted with British- supplied arms, were further incensed. So were Yucatecan state authorities as well as the resident Yucatecos of Belize. In addition to Icaiche raids on the Settlement, the English local authorities had to contend with Yucateco machinations to promote an English confrontation with the Cruzob. Strained relations with the Icaiche prevailed until disease, crop failure and military defeat reduced the Icaiche threat by 1872 . The Cruzob, however, continued to successfully defy the Yucatecos to 1901.
Bibliography: p. 248-261.
Cal, A. E. (1983). Anglo Maya contact in northern Belize: a study of British policy toward the Maya during the Caste War of Yucatan, 1847-1872 (Master's thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from https://prism.ucalgary.ca. doi:10.11575/PRISM/18832