Aguacate Village is a small Qeqchi-Maya community with a population of 380 people located in the highland of Toledo, about a 3 hour drive west from Punta Gorda, Belize.
It is blessed with an abundant flora and fauna along with caves and a sparkling river that is excellent for swimming. Its inhabitants are mostly subsistence farmers who toil the soils to produce food for their families. Aguacate R.C. School is an elementary school which opened its door sometime in the 1950’s with only one teacher and at present with five teachers.
The community is governed by the traditional Alcalde System and a village council who are actively involved in the planning and improvement of the community.
The homestay program, which began five years ago, not only assists families with an income but also serves as a culture exchange. The registration fee has contributed greatly to the success of the school. The school children wear traditional uniforms and practice traditional crafts in the school.
October 2016 Update from Greg Ripke.
Greetings! It has been quite a while since we have updated the Aguacate website. During the past five years there has been significant positive changes in Aguacate. A few of the major changes has been the development of a potable water artesian well and reliable piping to homes in Aguacate. Previously, water was pumped from a nearby stream (often unreliable or unusable) or obtained from several hand pump wells. In addition, a new modern primary school was built. The school has very nice restrooms, showers and locker rooms for the students. Possibly one of the best school facilities in all of the Toledo district. Secondary benefits from a new school, besides providing a constructive place to learn, are that students want to better themselves and work hard to achieve living standards that they experience at their local school.
Aguacate, through the help of the Homestay Program, has developed into a model village for the development of community based tourism in Southern Belize. The program has brought additional opportunities to the families of the community, and more importantly, has inspired pride and empowerment throughout community. The Homestay Program has demonstrated that positive change, and realization of an individual’s control of their destiny is possible through dedication and commitment. Feel free to ask community members about their personal goals and plans, and you will find many examples of personal empowerment through seeking specialized education and skills training, entrepreneurship, and home improvement projects.
Additionally, a new very large cave has been discovered nearby (pictures on page 5 in the photo section). It is a tight squeeze to get through the opening, but once inside the ceiling opens up into a giant cathedral with many formations and ancient Mayan artifacts. I have been to many caves across Belize, and this new cave is the most impressive I have seen due to the sheer size of the cambers. The short hike (about 2 miles round trip) goes through nice jungles with a variety of trees, and there is a covered rest stop with benches to rest and have a lunch.
Aguacate is also developing a new community organization that is called Aguacate Conservative & Development Committee “ACDC”, which is focused on further developing sustainable tourism and community improvements within the Village. The organization is operating a guesthouse in the village. This is an alternative option if you would like to have your own accommodation (shared with other visitors), instead of living with a local family in the homestay program. Please see the Guesthouse’s Facebook page for more information.
ACDC is also in the process of creating a craft center where people of community can create, share, and teach many of the traditional arts of weaving, wood carving, and crafting household items from forest resources. Eventually the Craft Center, Guesthouse, and Homestay Program will be merged into one website and into one organization (ACDC). Stay tuned!