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Santa Cruz Village defends Uxbenka Maya sacred site

Santa Cruz, Toledo - On the 20th June 2015, Santa Cruz villagers, the Village Chairman and Alcalde
enforced their decision to protect Uxbenka Maya sacred site. The action was taken as a last resort only
after Punta Gorda Police, the Belize Defence Force (Fairweather Camp) and the Belize Institute of
Archeology (NICH) were notified in advance of the Villages decision to dismantle an illegal structure built
by Mr. Rupert Myles on Uxbenka.
Since late 2014, Mr. Myles has been building a structure on the archeological site without the consent of
Santa Cruz village. In December 2014, at a village meeting, the Village decided that Mr. Myles actions to
build within the village, especially on a Maya sacred site, was illegal. Village leaders asked Mr. Myles to
remove the structure and repeated their request in January 2015 giving him 21 days to do so. Mr. Myles
was also informed of the procedures to seek permission to live in the Village. However, Mr. Myles
repeatedly ignored the requests and warnings of the community. Mr. Myles went even further and
bulldozed a road to the sacred site and extended the structure.
In May 2015, the Director of Uxebnka Archaeological Project, expressed his concern in a letter to NICH
that Mr. Myles had: "bulldozed into the archaeological platform (). He has also built new buildings, and
has burned vegetation to the very edge of the steel plaza, further endangering the ruin. The bulldozing
activity has irreparably damaged the platform." For over 10 years, the area has been managed as an
archaeological site by Uxbenka Kin Ajaw Association (UKAA) in partnership with the University of New
Mexico, Uxebnka Archaeological Project who has been excavating the site.
On Saturday, June 20th, before the traditional fajina, a series of issues were discussed at the village
meeting. Before Mr. Myles situation could be discussed, he stormed to the front of the room and
slammed his hands on the head table. At the villagers request, the Alcalde informed Mr. Myles of the
village meeting rules of order and asked that he show respect to the villagers. At that time, Mr. Myles said
he had a firearm outside in a vehicle and challenged the villagers. As he approached a parked vehicle,
owned by Joseph Estefan who was present at the time, the Alcalde ordered his village police to restrain
Mr. Myles. Mr. Myles fought off the village police and it took the support of other villagers to restrain Mr.
Myles and handcuff him. As previously documented and shared with authorities, Mr. Myles has threated
the use of a firearm against villagers. Because Mr. Myles was approaching the vehicle where he said he
had a gun, the Alcalde had no choice but to take the violent threat seriously. Mr. Myles was in no way
physically harmed.
Ultimately, although Mr. Myles was detained by the village authorities he was not arrested because he
agreed in writing to remove the structures and his belongings within two weeks. He further expressed his
understanding that there is a process to seek permission to live and build in Santa Cruz.
According to Maya customary law, all persons, Maya and non-Maya, must comply with the Village rules.
The Village Meeting is the fundamental and primary authority for making decisions such as whether or
not to accept new residents. Mr. Myles has been repeatedly warned to stop his blatant disregard for
village rules. Maya people have lived and worked with many non-Mayas and recognize and appreciate
their contributions in the villages. Maya customary law is part of Belizean law and exists to protect our
communities.
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