What to Bring Along

  • Comfortable clothes for the tour
  • Comfortable shoes for walking around the site
  • Cameras
  • sunscreen
  • hat
  • bug spray
  • snacks & water
  • Intensity: Easy

Santa Rita is located on the outskirts of Corozal Town and is bordered on the east by the Caribbean Sea. It is near the Coca Cola factory just off the main road leading to the border town, Santa Elena, on the way to Mexico. Santa Rita was probably the ancient coastal trading city known as Chetumal during the Late Post-Classic Period.

In ancient time the Maya occupied parts of Mexico, all of Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and parts of Honduras. Maya borders did not follow the political boundaries of today. Just prior to European conquest, the northern part of one Maya province lay in what is today’s Quintana Roo (Mexico); the southern part was in Belize, with the southern extremes including Guinea Grass and Northern River. Ancient Maya Chetumal was not today’s Mexican Chetumal, but what is now Santa Rita on the outskirts of Corozal Town. Ancient Chetumal, wealthy because of the large production of cacao and honey, ruled the areas on both sides of the Rio Hondo.

 

The site of Santa Rita dates from around 1200 B.C. Archaeologists determined this date through ceramic comparisons with Swasey pottery from Cuello, one of the earliest types in the area. The Classic Period is represented by a building with a series of interconnected doorways and rooms.  The central room had a niche where offerings were burnt. Two burials, dating to about A.D. 500, were unearthed here.  The first burial is of a woman with distinct jewelry and polychrome pottery. The second burial was found inside a large tomb. This burial is probably that of a warlord – interred with a ceremonial flint bar representing leadership and a stingray spine used for bloodletting rituals. Post-Classic Santa Rita is characterized by the introduction of turquoise and gold ear-flares in a style reminiscent of Aztec jewelry.

At the start of the 1900’s, British medical doctor Thomas Gann, an amateur treasure-hunter, discovered a beautiful mural in Mixtec style at Santa Rita. Unfortunately, the mural or fresco was destroyed shortly after its discovery by superstitious locals. It was not until Arlen and Diane Chase of the Corozal Post-Classic Project carried out systematic excavations between 1979 and 1985 that substantial research was done at Santa Rita.

Today because of Corozal Town’s expansion much of the site is being destroyed.  The area at one time had extensive raised fields that supported large cacao plantations. The proximity to the sea also made marine products widely available.