CLAG 2020 Special Symposium

CLAG Special Symposium: January 6, 2020

The Maya Forest: Reflections and Projections for the Next 30 Years

The Maya Forest – a region key for global learning on environment and development – is facing a new and critical juncture. Its forests stretch across Guatemala, Mexico and Belize; the Maya Forest is the second largest contiguous tropical forest north of the Amazon. The region boasts a panoply of rich experiences on community rights, conservation and development as well, and is a globally important site for learning around community forest management. Yet these experiences are not uniform across the Maya forest: the past 30 years have seen a dramatic reconfiguration of territories as strict conservation projects, top-down development (such as through the Plan Puebla Panama and its successors), and grassroots initiatives intersected in markedly different ways. The result has been a mosaic of truly striking territorial contrasts, as strong communities with notable experiences in sustainable resource management stand amidst top-down development projects, social fragmentation, violence and impunity, resource degradation, and the resulting outmigration. Climate change is a major stressor as well: the region is well known for its vulnerability to hurricanes and severe weather, and temperature and precipitation changes are already affecting basic livelihoods, in addition to sparking unprecedented fires in the Maya Forest.

Perhaps most importantly, recent political shifts could either worsen or alleviate these current conditions. It is not at all clear that the lessons of the past 30 years for sustainable community development will prevail against external economic and political interests. Foremost among these are related to the rights of communities. In Guatemala, the first of the 25-year community concessions in the Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR) – which form the last standing block of forests in Guatemala´s portion of the region – will expire in 2022. The failure to renew these community concessions would likely catalyze the loss of the Maya Forest in Guatemala, the last bastion against an illicitly fueled agricultural frontier, associated with increasingly intense forest fires. Efforts to enact large-scale economic development projects, including a proposed strict-protected area around Mirador archaeology site in the Northern MBR, could displace existing communities and undermine important livelihoods. A key component for this initiative includes the construction of a train that would make the currently remote Mirador area accessible to large-scale tourism, bypassing community-led sustainable tourism initiatives.

The President-elect in Guatemala (incoming in January 2020) has demonstrated interest in supporting this train, and even linking it with the Mexican government´s proposed “Maya Train”, which would also cut directly through the Maya forest. Land speculation around train routes has already begun, threatening Maya communities throughout the region. Despite bearing the name of Maya Peoples, the government has not adequately consulted its plans with local communities, many of which fiercely oppose the project. In recent years, communities on both sides of the border have faced major setbacks from climate events coupled with lack of policy support, despite having been an epicenter for community resource management experiences in the 1980s and 1990s. In contrast with Mexico and Guatemala, recent titling advances in Belize offer a slightly more hopeful view, offering hope to 25,000 Maya Peoples that have customarily managed large areasof the Maya forest.

All of these changes are occurring as the region gains increasing attention due to geo-political interests around narco-trafficking and migration. New national and international initiatives are emerging that could either alleviate or aggravate the conditions facing this region, if they do not sufficiently learn the lessons of environment and development of the past three decades. The ongoing devastation of the Amazon under populist and growth-oriented national strategies, coupled with international demand for commodities, provides an urgent reminder of the importance and threatened nature of all tropical forests for climate change, biodiversity, and the diversity of peoples and cultures. The Maya Forest faces similar pressures, but the past 30 years provide significant evidence of pathways that work to preserve vital socio-environmental systems. Especially in the context of the increasing international attention to Central America given narco-trafficking and migration trends, a symposium to highlight these lessons is particularly timely.

Leveraging historical perspective in this moment of uncertainty, this symposium convenes international and Central American scholars to assess and debate the lessons learned through the collective land management processes of the Maya Forest since the establishment its major protected areas. This symposium will consist of several themed panels and a keynote address focusing on distinct, yet interrelated dimensions of sustainable development in the Maya Forest. These panels will address or relate to one or more of the following themes, ideally with a focus on evidence of past, contemporary, and future challenges and successes:

• Climate change: mitigation, carbon storage, and participation
• Indigenous and community rights
• Illicit actors as drivers of land use change
• Economic development models and initiatives
• Participatory governance and community forestry
• Environmental degradation and ecocide
• Criminalization and community movements

Symposium proceedings and invited papers may be considered for publication in a special issue.

The Regional Research Program on Environment and Development (PRISMA) are sponsors of the symposium and worked to coordinate the event with the CLAG conference organizers. It will be held in the Casa Santa Domingo on Monday, January 6, from 8 am – 5 pm. CLAG attendees are encouraged to contact the organizers, Jennifer Devine (devine@txstate.edu) and Laura Sauls (LSauls@clarku.edu), to register for participation in the daylong symposium at no additional cost to conference participation by November 1st, 2019. This conference is open to all who register and will take place in English and Spanish.

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9992 Christopher Gaffney (2010).
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3350 Jeremy Slack; Daniel E. Martínez; Alison Elizabeth Lee; Scott Whiteford (2016).
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2741 James Freeman (2014).
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2538 Jeffrey Todd Bury (2002).
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2418 Cynthia Sorrensen (2005).
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2406 Kate Swanson; Rebecca Maria Torres (2016).
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2406 Dr. Rikke Schmidt Kjærgaard (2015).
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2255 Conor Harrison; Jeff Popke (2018).
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2244 Alexandra Pedersen (2014).
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2139 Beth Tellman; Leslie C. Gray; Christopher M. Bacon (2011).
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106 Luciene Cristina Risso; Clerisnaldo Rodrigues de Carvalho (2022).
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78 Christian Brannstrom Adryane Gorayeb (2022).
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58 Johnny Finn (2005).
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49 Verónica Gago; Liz Mason-Deese (2019).
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43 Jessica C. Hope; Murat Arsel (2023).
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42 Jessica C. Hope (2023).
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36 Felix M. Dorn; Fernando Ruiz Peyré (2020).
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36 Hanna Laako Edith Kauffer (2021|2021).
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34 Melissa Bayer (2022|2023).
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33 Danilo Borja; Juan Bay; Conny Davidsen; Traducido por Yulia Garcia Sarduy (2021).
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106 Luciene Cristina Risso; Clerisnaldo Rodrigues de Carvalho (2022).
A exibição de antipolíticas indígenas e ambientais orquestrada pelo governo brasileiro de Bolsonaro
Journal of Latin American Geography 21(2). https://muse.jhu.edu/article/866471|https://muse.jhu.edu/article/863335

78 Christian Brannstrom Adryane Gorayeb (2022).
Geographical Implications of Brazil’s Emerging Green Hydrogen Sector
Journal of Latin American Geography 21(1). https://muse.jhu.edu/article/855961

58 Johnny Finn (2005).
Letter from the Editor
Journal of Latin American Geography 4(1). http://muse.jhu.edu/article/185194

49 Verónica Gago; Liz Mason-Deese (2019).
Rethinking Situated Knowledge from the Perspective of Argentina's Feminist Strike
Journal of Latin American Geography 18(3). http://muse.jhu.edu/article/736944

43 Jessica C. Hope; Murat Arsel (2023).
Infrastructure and Latin American Environmental Geographies: An Introduction to our Special Issue
Journal of Latin American Geography 21(3). https://muse.jhu.edu/article/876758

42 Jessica C. Hope (2023).
Critiquing Sustainable Development as Materially Constituted: Infrastructure, Political Ecology, and Political Ontology in the Amazon
Journal of Latin American Geography 21(3). https://muse.jhu.edu/article/876764

36 Felix M. Dorn; Fernando Ruiz Peyré (2020).
Lithium as a Strategic Resource: Geopolitics, Industrialization, and Mining in Argentina
Journal of Latin American Geography 19(4). http://muse.jhu.edu/article/772602

36 Hanna Laako Edith Kauffer (2021|2021).
Conservation in the Frontier: Negotiating Ownerships of Nature at the Southern Mexican Border
Journal of Latin American Geography 20(3). https://muse.jhu.edu/article/839946|https://muse.jhu.edu/article/835649

34 Melissa Bayer (2022|2023).
Producing Citizenship Through Infrastructure: The Political Materiality of Water Access in Urban Chile
Journal of Latin American Geography 21(3). https://muse.jhu.edu/article/875322|https://muse.jhu.edu/article/876763

33 Danilo Borja; Juan Bay; Conny Davidsen; Traducido por Yulia Garcia Sarduy (2021).
Ancianos amazónicos en la frontera petrolera: La vida y muerte de Nenkihui Bay, líder tradicional Waorani
Journal of Latin American Geography 20(1). http://muse.jhu.edu/article/787933

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2078 Danilo Borja; Juan Bay; Conny Davidsen; Traducido por Yulia Garcia Sarduy (2021).
Ancianos amazónicos en la frontera petrolera: La vida y muerte de Nenkihui Bay, líder tradicional Waorani
Journal of Latin American Geography 20(1). http://muse.jhu.edu/article/787933

1944 Diana Vela-Almeida; Sofia Zaragocin; Manuel Bayón; Iñigo Arrazola (2020).
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1765 Maria Elisa Christie (2002).
Naturaleza y sociedad desde la perspectiva de la cocina tradicional mexicana: género, adaptación y resistencia
Journal of Latin American Geography 1(1). http://muse.jhu.edu/article/215263

1599 Geobrujas-Comunidad de Geógrafas (2021).
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1324 Christian Abizaid; Luis Ángel Collado Panduro; Sergio Gonzales Egusquiza (2020).
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1150 Diego B. Leal; David S. Salisbury; Josué Faquín Fernández; Lizardo Cauper Pezo; Julio Silva (2015).
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1138 Colectivo de Geografía Crítica del Ecuador (2017).
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913 Jerónimo Ríos Sierra (2020).
Una aproximación (geo)politológica a la crisis de la COVID-19 en América Latina
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664 Robert B. Kent (2012).
La geografía en América Latina: Visión por países
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612 Rosa Silvia Arciniega (2012).
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1608 Rogério Haesbaert (2020).
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1217 Luciene Cristina Risso; Clerisnaldo Rodrigues de Carvalho (2022).
A exibição de antipolíticas indígenas e ambientais orquestrada pelo governo brasileiro de Bolsonaro
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704 Joseli Maria Silva; Marcio Jose Ornat (2020).
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604 Joanna Salém Vasconcelos (2021).
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578 Joana Salém Vasconcelos (2021).
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267 Christian Dennys Monteiro de Oliveira; Fabrício Américo Ribeiro; Ivo Luis Oliveira Silva; Luiz Raphael Teixeira Silva; José Arilson Xavier de Souza; Gerlaine Cristina Franco; Marcos da Silva Rocha; Maryvone Moura Gomes; Camila Benatti (2020).
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210 Vinicius Santos Almeida (2020).
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154 Antoinette M.G.A. WinklerPrins (2009).
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117 Jean-Yves Puyo (2008).
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113 Raquel de Carvalho Dumith (2014).
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