Located in the northernmost district northwest of Corozal
Town, Santa Rita has been identified as the powerful ancient
Maya city known in the Late Post Classic Period as Chactemal
(Chetumal). Only one structure can be seen, as the rest
of the site has been built upon by present day Corozal Town.
The site dates back to around 1200BC, but was occupied until
the arrival of the Spanish in the mid 1500s. Thomas Gann
discovered the site in the early 1900s, but it was not until
1979 when Arlen and Diane Chase began excavations, was any
substantial research done.
Santa Rita may have been only one in a series of coastal
lookouts. One of the structures has similarities to murals
found in Tulum, Mexico. It appears that Santa Rita’s
strategic location near the two major waterways, the Rio
Hondo and New River, allowed it to control trade routes.
As an important trading center, Santa Rita was the major
supplier of cacao, vanilla and honey.
Little of the ancient city remains today, not only because
most of the old structures were covered by the existing
town, but also because much of the city was built with perishable
material. Most of what is known of the site was gathered
from artifacts found in the area, rather than structures.
The one existing structure consists of a complex series
of rooms and passages. It was most likely a ceremonial center,
evidenced by two burials that were uncovered here –
one of a male, and one of a female. Together, both burials
yielded jewelry, pottery, flint and a stingray spine, indicating
the importance of those buried there.
Even though Santa Rita does not display elaborate structures
like those Maya cities built in the Classic period, it is
charming and interesting. If you are in the vicinity of
Corozal, it is definitely worth a stop. A good guide could
give you the story behind the small structure you will see.
Certainly, its importance to archaeology and history cannot