The Legend of the Sleeping Giant

By Harold A. Young

Patron: Her Excellency Rossana Briceno, Special Envoy for Development of Families and Children.

In a long-forgotten time, there was a giant named Chac Shango [Chaak Shayngo (Kriol)] who became the greatest of his kin. This is a part of his legend. Like his ancestors, he dedicated his life to the beauty, happiness, and harmony of the earth. With his ornate staff, supply bag, and a machete, Chac Shango traveled all over the world carrying on the work of his ancestors. He toiled contributing to the world we know today, he also marveled at all the beauty and hoped that one day he would have a place of his own.

In Africa, Chac Shango cut paths for the Nile, the Niger, the Congo, and the Zambezi Rivers that water the expanses of forests and rolling plains teeming with life. To enhance the beautiful sand dunes of the Sahara Desert, he dug wells bringing waters that nurture life in the oases.

Chac Shango pushed the glaciers to create the fjords of northern Europe. The fjords filled with cold clear water refreshed him for adventures ahead.

Chac Shango raised the Himalaya Mountains to their dizzying heights and named the top of the world for various individuals – Sagarmāthā (Nepali), Chomolungma (Tibetan), Qomolangma (Chinese), and Mount Everest (English). He glided along with its glaciers, jumped off the plateaus, and landed in the wide expanses of Asia that took him to the Pacific Ocean.

Chac Shango scattered islands, large and small, across the Pacific Ocean to remind him of a starry night sky. He huddled some islands into archipelagos that offered safety while others rested alone like beacons for weary travelers.

He sketched the Amazon River and drew its many branches to drain the Andes Mountains into the Amazon Basin of South America. The Amazon waters, whether clear and shallow or muddy and deep, nourished the land and life.

In North America Chac Shango pushed up the sharp Rocky Mountains that wind their way south tapering off with the Sierra Madre. From the highest peaks, Chac Shango could see the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. He marveled at the distances traveled and was satisfied with the beauty that evolved along with his works.

When Chac Shango came upon the Yucatan Peninsula, he was beckoned by a strip of land on the Caribbean coast. It was nondescript compared to the majesty he had experienced before, yet he was drawn to the peace and tranquility of the land.

In the serenity, he rested and decided to make this land his home and to furnish it with some of the wonders he had seen during his travels. He loved the land and wanted to protect the land from the Atlanta Ocean’s storms.

First, he pulled up the bottom of the Caribbean sea and created a barrier reef dotted with cayes. He then planted Red, Black, White, and Buttonwood Mangroves to protect the lowest lands along the coast.

Second, Chac Chango molded the mountains with graceful slopes and jagged peaks delicately forming the Cockscomb Range that appears blue from the coast.

Third, he chiseled paths for 20 rivers and etched many branches. Starting in the far north with the Rio Hondo, he fashioned paths for the New River, Northern River, Macal River, Rio Mopan, Belize River, Sibun River, Mullens River, Northern Stann Creek River, Sittee River, Sennis River, Monkey River, Golden Stream, Middle River, Temash River and ending with the Sarstoon River in the south.

The rivers reflected his energy. When he was tired the rivers became calm and slow-moving, when he was fresh the rivers became rapids or the cascading waterfalls we now know as: Garbutt’s Falls, Hidden Valley Falls, La Clarissa Falls, Five Sisters Falls, Bocawina Falls, Davis Falls, Rio Blanco Falls, Maya King Falls, San Antonio Falls, Butterfly Falls, Big Rock Falls, Mayflower Falls, Antelope Falls and the grandest of all – Thousand Foot Falls (it is over 1,600 feet).

Fourth, he stretched flatlands from the mountains to the sea include rich agricultural soil, ridge lands, forest, and marshland to support wide varieties of flora and fauna.

As he looked at his handiwork, Chac Shango was pleased but he was tired. Lulled by the hues and breezes of the Caribbean Sea, Chac Shango decided to take a nap. Today, as far as we know, he is still resting. No one knows precisely where he decided to rest. Some say if you are traveling west about 20 miles from the coast, look south and you can still see Chac Shango sleeping near Rockville. If here, he is enjoying the warm Caribbean breezes that waft between the coast and the mountains in the west. Others believe that he rests in the western mountains where the cooler breezes keep him lulled in a deep sleep.

While he sleeps, legend has it that the vegetation protects him. Nature flourishes in Belize and the diverse terrain of mountains, valleys, high plateaus, lowlands, swamps, fertile land, rivers, lagoons, and sea are inhabited by strange and wondrous creatures, ghouls, and specters. Some are rivals and stalk and taunt each other for supremacy. Others merely preen and strut to protect their lairs and other mysterious spaces they inhabit. None can be fully understood, nor should their powers be underestimated. Their origins were masked in mystery, their lives unfolded, and their lore nurtured by deeds and memory.

The sleeping giant is a constant reminder of the thought and love that went into the creation of this special corner of the world. In the meantime, a pantheon of inhabitants rules the land until Chac Shango awakens.