Dean deprives Maya Indians of their wealth

Maya Indians lost their thatch-roofed homes as Dean blew through the Yucatan peninsula, but their real wealth was the trees, now scattered and broken in the hurricane's wake. Village after village is carpeted with fallen mangoes, oranges, guanabanas and mameys that will never be harvested.

Mexico's Mayan communities have survived centuries of oppression, expulsion from their valuable land along the Caribbean coast, and many damaging storms. But these people say no other hurricane - not Gilbert in 1988, not Roxanne in 1995, not Wilma in 2005 - has hit the Maya so hard.

Israel Cruz Chan, 40, demonstrated the resilience of the Mayan villages of the Yucatan Peninsula after Dean ripped most of the roof off his home in the village of Nohbec, not far from where storm's center tore through the jungle on Tuesday.

Cruz Chan surveyed the destruction - all of his furniture, his few appliances, and bedding, all soaked and tumbled into the front yard of his cinderblock home. Then he got to work, borrowing a ladder and busily nailing up new sheets of roofing.

"If I just sit and wait until they help me, I'll die waiting," he said. "If I wait, with my hand out, who's going to give me food, and where am I going to cook it? I'd rather start working, first."

Like most locals here, Cruz Chan makes a spare living from fishing, construction work and growing fruit in a small orchard.

In fact, the Mayan residents - some of the hardest hit by Hurricane Dean - had stunningly simple requests for aid: a few sheets of roofing, drinking water, some food aid to help them get by, now that their harvest has been destroyed.

"There isn't even any corn to eat," said housewife Pilar Uitz Tzil, 58, waiting in line under the burning sun for anything the government might hand out. Finally, a few trucks arrived with bottled water and thick blankets, an odd gift in a steamy climate where many sleep in hammocks in the open air, just to get a breeze.

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Author`s name Angela Antonova