The great cities of the Maya civilisation, that dominated Central America in the days before the Europeans came, today lie deep in the jungle, and are only gradually being uncovered.
GV: Sunset, mouth of Usemacinta River, canoe moves out into water.
CU: Lacandon chief, PULL OUT TO SV: musicians.
SV: Nets in foreground men dance with oars.
SV: Men put down oars, pick up nets.
SV PULL OUT TO GV: man with fish headdress leaves water.
GV: "Fish-man" moves towards dancers with nets, SV dancers catch "fish-man" in net.
SV: "Fish-man" on ground, men dance round him, pick him up and carry him away.
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Background: The great cities of the Maya civilisation, that dominated Central America in the days before the Europeans came, today lie deep in the jungle, and are only gradually being uncovered. But a few descendants of the Maya people have still retained the faith and customs of that civilisation. They are the Lacandon Indians, now reduced to a few hundreds, and in danger of completely dying out.
SYNOPSIS: They live near the mouth of the Usumacinta River, close to the border of Mexico and Guatemala. And they still pray to the ancient gods of the Maya for rain, good health, food and prosperity. They are farmers, hunters and fishermen; and their ritual songs and dances call on the gods to bless their corn, and provide the game and the fish.
The sabalo dance is performed to attract the fish that come every year in March to the mouth of the Usumacinta River. The fisherman and their families prepare for its coming.
To the sound of the flutes and drums, the symbolic fish is enticed into the net: the forerunner of many real fish the people hope will bring them food for the season.
Such survivals of the Mayan religious faith are extremely rare. The Lacandons are one of the very few Middle-American Indian peoples that have resisted even nominal conversion to Christianity.