This year will mark 142 years that the Battle of Orange Walk took place, on September 1st, 1872. Events that succeed that grand event have had a profound influence on the history on Northern Belize.
History teaches us that in the 18th century, the British tried to consolidate their settlement and pushed deeper into the territory in search of mahogany but they encountered resistance from the Maya. In the second half of the 19th century; however, a combination of events outside and inside the colony redefined the position of the Maya.
During the Caste War in Yucatán, a devastating struggle, that halved the population of the area, led thousands of refugees to flee to British Honduras. Though the Maya were not allowed to own land, most of the refugees were small farmers who were growing considerable quantities of crops by the mid-19th century.
One group of Maya, led by Marcos Canul, attacked a mahogany camp on the Bravo River in 1866. Early in 1867, British troops marched into areas in which the Maya had settled and destroyed villages in an attempt to drive them out. The Maya returned; however, and on April 1870, Canul and his men occupied Corozal.
An unsuccessful 1872 attack by the Maya living in Orange Walk was the last serious attack on the British Colony. Marcus Canul and well over 150 of his men had crossed over the Rio Hondo and headed right for Orange Walk.
Canul was shot and is later said to have died with the Indians on their way back to Mexico.
That is what was taught in schools for many of our grandfathers and fathers, descendants from that Maya period. Today, a small group of persons from Orange Walk headed by Domingo Perez observed the historic day with lying of a wreath at the Marcus Canul Monument on Queen Victoria Avenue. We sat down with Perez an activist and nationalist who shared with us the tale of the Icaiche Indians who wanted to take over what has become Orange Walk Town and the influential figure that we have come to know as Marcus Canul.
Domingo Perez– Activist/Nationalist
“The colonial masters’ story was that we were being invaded and we had to defend ourselves but I am not a historian and the facts that exists at the University of Yucatan, Chetumal and all these things that; Marcus Canul was one of the last resistant fighters in this colony that nearly have been taken over by the British in 1798 and we all know the history of the occupiers at the time that they began bringing slaves from Africa, they enslaves the Mayas and they forced the Mayas not to do farming so to force them to do slavery work they burnt down their Milpas and we know recently in Palmar Yalbac they burned out their houses, Belize Estate and Company burnt out their housed and drove them out like animals and brought them to this Barracks and then they were taken to Palmar, coming back to Marcus Canul he came here to demand payment for his property that were damaged and destroyed by the occupiers and in that skirmish they came here, yes they had arms at the time because the very same British were selling guns to the people, to the Guerra de Castas, the Indians, they were selling arms and so they came here but he not came here to shoot anyone according to our history, he came here to demand compensation for loses that they had, and here he was in this place and this place was occupied by the West Indian Regime, they were not from here, they were not Belizeans but there were from Jamaica so call to defend this town and in one of those skirmishes Marcus Canul was the leader and he was shot down by not even the army shot him down it was a Belizean if you want to call it a Belizean, is either Escalante or Ayuso that shot Marcus Canul, wounded and he was taken to San Antonio and according to what I understand now he was buried at Cacao, one of these days we have to find his grave so this is what happened but the history was taught in school, he was a bandit, he came here to steal no he was not stealing and you have to remember that the borders were drawn by who, Spaniards, the British all who came here all in Central America, so this was a Mayan land an when Mr, Canul came he was defending his territory and because of that we are her today they tell us. My grandfather came from the Yucatan about twenty year after Marcus existed and he brought civilization here and we saw that we had to keep together, I understand Marcus Canul had family in San Roman as a matter of fact Mr Canul of the Xavier, he was a former Xavier Credit Union, he has passed away he was s descendant of him so we are decedent of Canul so I want to depict is that Mr Canul did not invade this place he was the last warrior we had and today day we need Marcus Canul in the north.”
The monument in remembrance of the battle of Orange Walk was erected decades after in the 1960’s.
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