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The Garcia Sisters

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Mayan Experience

He whosoever forgets his past in his present has no future.

A Mayan village house

Broaden your horizons. Discover the enrichment that comes from seeing another way of life. Feel the wonder of being with people who have different time concepts and thought patterns. Seek the richness and wisdom of the ancient ways as they continue to be practiced today.

Located in the heart of the rain forest on top of a hill with a panoramic view of the blue Maya Mountains and the lush farmland of the surrounding area, Chichan Ka Lodge is a recreational and educational resort offering comfortable accommodations. The lodge is built in the Mayan tradition with palm wood and leaves and with white lime and clay.

A woman cooks in a Mayan village

Enjoy the art, music, medicines, and meals with a Mayan family. Sit down to a meal of Mayan tradition, cooked on a homemade open hearth stove, where the corn based cuisine tempts the taste buds with delicious tamalitos boiled in plantain leaves, tortillas, porridge, mouth watering desserts, and fresh brewed tea made from lemon grass, ginger, or pimiento leaves. Walk the Maya Medicine Trail through the jungle, as well as the beautiful botanical garden. Take a guided tour through the Tanah Mayan Art Museum, and develop a sense of timelessness while you learn about honored rulers, elders, priests, and gods who are still revered by the Mayans of today. Visit The Art Center where handcrafted jewelry, dolls, masks and sculptures offer the opportunity to take part of the rich Mayan culture home with you. And just three miles from the lodge you can explore an ancient musical Mayan Site, Pacbitun, meaning "stones set in the earth."

Your hosts are five sisters, known as The Garcia Sisters, who live with their mother, brother, and families on a self sustaining farm where they plant and harvest everything they consume. Their village is surrounded by a reserve which has been established to protect the way of life of the indigenous people and the natural resources.

Reforestation and conservation projects are on going with the planting of a number of endangered vegetation species. The reserve includes virgin forest that is home to a diverse range of tropical flora and wildlife, such as the baboon, coatimundi, agouti, pace, and the Keel billed Toucan.

The Garcia Sisters welcome you to come share and experience the gifts of their homeland, ancient traditions, and their holistic lifestyle. It is a place where the past is part of the present, forever leading into the future. It is a place where everything is different!

The Sisters

A house in the Tanah village

The Garcia Sisters welcome you to their Mayan Eco Cultural System. Through cultural preservation, an eco natural lifestyle of self sufficiency, and creative inspiration they are able to share their Mayan Experience, Herbal Remedies and Teas, Art Center Exports, and Museum Exhibits.

The Garcia Sisters live in the small village of San Antonio, called Tanah in their native language, nestled between the blue Maya Mountains and the town of San Ignacio in the Cayo District of Belize (an English speaking country on the Caribbean Coast of Central America).

Tanah was once inhabited by the ancient Maya whose presence can still be felt through the traces of pottery and majestic temples to be seen all over the area. The present day village of about 1,500 Mayans was settled in the late 1800's by the Yucateca Tribe.

Two girls in the Garcia Sisters' village

There are various fiestas and rituals held throughout the year when the villagers dress and dance in the ways of their ancient tradition. Most of the rituals take place in the sacred caves and temples around the area. Tanah is host to the Pacbitun Mayan Site, Chichan Ka Lodge, the Maya Medicine Trail, self-sustaining farms, a botanical garden, and a wealth of traditional health practitioners, including those who specialize in massage, chiropractics, and midwifery. It is a place where planting and harvesting are sacred, where prayer and thanksgiving have great purpose, and where life is rich and whole.

Everyone in the village is aware of the importance of preserving their native language which is Maya Taan, also known as Yucatec Mayan. It is their mother tongue, surviving from their ancient Mayan ancestors. English, Spanish and Creole are almost never heard in Tanah except in the two schools. However, when a visitor enters the village the Mayans use these languages to communicate so they can share their culture with others.

The village of Tanah and The Garcia Sisters have been featured in numerous magazine articles, videos, and television programs such as Discover America, as well as on the Discovery Channel and stations throughout Europe and the United States.

As much can be learned through observing other cultures and lifestyles, The Garcia Sisters welcome you to Tanah, meaning "Our Home". It is a place where everything is different.

Herbal Remedies

Tanah villager collecting herbs

People travel from all over the world to be treated by the herbal remedies of the rain forest and the traditional practices of the Tanah villagers. The knowledge of how to use hundreds of varieties of medicinal plants, prayers and secret stones known as "zax tuns" has been passed down from their ancestors. The Garcia Sisters have gained much of their knowledge from their uncle, the most famous and respected Belizean bush doctor, don Elijio Panti.

Plants are very important to the way of life in Tanah. For example, the cohune palm nuts are used for jewelry or to extract oil for cooking, while the young shoots when boiled or fried make a delicious snack, and the roots can be used for a blood tonic. In Tanah's botanical garden a vine grows which quenches a day's thirst.

Tanah villager harvesting herbs

Plants provide the villagers with definite cures for asthma, arthritis, baldness, among others. It is through communion with nature, preservation of traditions, and a holistic lifestyle that the Mayan Herbal Remedies and Teas can be shared.

Art Center

Mayan carving

The Garcia Sisters discovered "art" after they began carving slate years ago. They came to realize that something moved from within the depth of their souls which expressed itself through an incredible energy and vision into action.

But the sisters also remember the words of their father who said, "Are you going to eat stone? Who is going to buy stone? People buy food, not stone." And for the first years he would not help his daughters as they pursued their need to carve. Still the women toiled over the stone for it was their father who taught them, "When I say I'm going to do something I'm going to do it."

So several years later when the daughters found their father carving a large jaguar they were surprised. It was then that they learned about their father's own carving experience. As a boy he had no money and would carve bowls from limestone to exchange for food in order to survive. And now The Garcia Sisters are able to make their art part of their survival. They exhibit in galleries around the world, teach art classes, and have made it possible to purchase their original Mayan art through Art Center Exports. The Art Center purchases and promotes the preservation of the Tanah Mayan Art Museum and the Mayan culture.

Mayan child and Mayan statue

Once a year, the Garcia Sisters need to collect their raw material. This is a time of renewal, re-energizing, and to put it very simply, a very happy occasion to look forward to.

Slate is normally collected from creeks and river beds. The Garcia's own special place, "secret" in reality, is hidden deep within the Maya Mountains. Not any slate will do. Even at this "secret garden" only specially selected pieces will return to Tanah. The very sight of the creek bed to which the sisters return to yearly, is in itself, refreshing to the human spirit. The act of walking through the creek bed, getting soaked, putting hands on the earth, and feeling the smoothness or roughness of new stone revitalizes both the body and spirit for the Garcia family of artists.

And how is the slate collected? Maria Garcia says, "You are drawn to the stone. The stone is also drawn to you and your vision." Each chunk of new slate taken back will have a special purpose. These stones, some small chunks others very large and bulky, have to be carried back on the shoulders of the individual family members to their truck on the roadside a few miles upstream.

With the new stones safely back at Tanah, they will be stored respectfully in closed sheds or buried underground. The renewal has been completed. The Earth has released her children into the caring hands of the Garcia Sisters, making it possible to now offer some of these magically transformed pieces of delicate art work to the public.

Museum Exhibits

Art is as old as time itself and as beautiful as no one can imagine.

Mayan slate carving

Designated as Prominent Artists by the official judges at Riverfest '95, The Garcia Sisters are accomplished Yucatecan Mayan artists. Their worldwide art gallery exhibits have been on display in England, Germany, Japan, United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Jamaica, Dominica, and Belize's Bliss Institute.

In 1983 the sisters discovered a piece of slate while working in the field. The inspiration came from within to carve the rock into a whale, and that was the beginning of what is now called the Tanah Mayan Art Museum. This inspiration came from the heart and soul as the artists awakened to the tradition of Mayan slate carving, lost since the ancient days of Caracol around 613 AD.

Now The Garcia Sisters say, "There is a call between you and the stone and that's art. We have art in us. We are self-taught. The more we work on our art the more we learn." They have devoted their lives to their Mayan heritage, and their art has become a prime example of the beauty of Mayan tradition, culture, and essence. Driven to understand the ways of their ancestors, the sisters seek out the elders of their community as well as archaeological experts in order to create authentic Mayan art.

The Tanah Mayan Art Museum

A Caracol Ruler, a famous Palenque Elder, a Xunantunich Warrior, a Maya ceremony table for offerings of thanksgiving, and a replica of the Sun God, Kinich Ahua, from Altun Ha are among the larger pieces on exhibit, each taking up to six months to complete. Patience and endurance are combined with chisels, dull utility knives, hacksaw blades, and machetes to etch out original creations.

Although ancient Mayan artifacts are illegal to carry out of Belize, the collection on display at the museum is true and authentic to the Mayan heritage and is available to be exhibited throughout the world.

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