Cuello's Distillery and Maya Ruin
May 18, 2015

Cuello, Orange Walk Cuellos Map

Cuello is located near mile two on the Yo Creek Road in the Orange Walk District. It sits on the private land of the Cuello Family behind the Cuello's Rum Distillery. One must obtain permission in advance to visit the site. Unfortunately, most of the recovery work done in the 1970s and 1980s by archaeologist Norman Hammond has been refilled to protect the site from looters and is mostly overgrown. It is difficult for tourist to get a true appreciation how important this site to our understanding of the origin and development of the Maya culture in Belize.

Archeological work at nearly all known cities of the Mayan civilization have suggested the culture began around 900 B.C. Recent excavations at Cuello challenge that perception, pushing the start date of Mayan civilization all the way back to 2600 B.C. The ceremonial center consists of two side by side plazas. The main temple of each plaza is flanked by civic structures and a small palace. Two underground storage chambers called chultuns, lie within the platform of this ceremonial center. Carbon-14 dating of wood found in what appeared to be post holes suggest the area may have been inhabited more than 4000 years ago.

Cuello's Distillery Tour

After our visit to the Maya site, we were treated to a quick tour of the Cuello's Distillery, where Caribbean Rum is distilled, blended and bottled. It is actually a fairly simple, if quite labor intensive operation to make and bottle Rum. Unexpectedly, after the tour, we were each given a liter of freshly bottled Cuello's Caribbean Dark Rum.

Our tour guide at Cuello was Mr. Manuel Novello, a well known expert on the Ancient Mayans. Without his ongoing commentary, the tour would have been a complete waste of time. His knowledge and personality made the trip worthwhile. He has written a couple of books, the only one published is an historical fiction called The Sacred Maya Smoking Shell. The book is available at several book sellers, including

Before returning to Consejo, the group stopped at a little restaurant called Conicna Sabor in Orange Walk Town. They did their best but I think perhaps trying to serve meals to 26 people all at once overwhelmed them a bit. Joyce and I have eaten at Conicina Sabor many times and always enjoyed it. There were some in the group who were not happy with their meals, including Joyce, my Fisherman's Soup, however, was excellent!

This trip was organized by Pip Pearce as a function of the Consejo Garden Club. Thanks, Pip, for all your hard work.