The Deer Dance – Santa Cruz, Toledo, Belize – January 2016

On Wednesday, January 6th, 2016, in the community of Santa Cruz in the Toledo District, Belize, community members, school children, visitors and passers-by had the chance to witness the beginning of the Deer Dance. Beginning a traditional Maya celebration continuing over 4 days, 26 dancers, led by Basilio Teul, Florencio Canti and Pedro Pop, dressed in elaborate costumes that had been carried across the muddy border path from Guatemala. Dancing into the night, the men reminded themselves, and those who watched, of the importance of the connection between the Maya communities and the animals in the forests surrounding them. Filled with beauty and humor, the traditional dance, along with the signature music of the marimba, captured the attention of young and old alike. Sharing food and stories, many people, women and men, spoke of the importance of the tradition: the dance, the music, the ritual practices such as feeding the masks before the first full day of dancing. Capturing the celebration and importance of the dance, Daniel Velasquez and Aurelio Sho, along with student trainees from the community, began work on a documentary film project to be shared near and far. While you are waiting for the release of the film, enjoy these few moments illustrating the convergence of the traditions of the past, the celebrations of the present and the education of the future. Many thanks to the Positive Legacy Foundation for supporting traditional music and art through this special event.

Kristina Baines is our resident cool anthropologist. She’s been formally trained in applied, sociocultural, ecological and medical anthropology at Florida Atlantic University (BA, MA), the University of Oxford (MSc) and the University of South Florida (PhD) and is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Guttman CC, CUNY in Manhattan. She has a strong interest in corn, how what we do in our environment makes us well, and using innovative methods to make anthropology relevant and accessible to a wide audience. You can find out more about how these interests translate into projects and pursuits by perusing the rest of our site, or you can contact her directly at

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