Recent survey on climate policy.
A compact microphone system that encodes 5.1 sound to two channels.
Here's one guy's collection of green roof posts. Good photos, diagrams, drawings.
One word - sedum.
Andrew is speaking today at Baylor on his experiences in the Sierra del Lacandon. I had a taste of it in 2004 with him and Charles Golden.
Out of the rut.
Eleven communities in northern Guatemala who are practicing sustainable forestry with the support of the Rainforest Alliance, USAID and the government.
We actually got word of this from a Greenpeace organizer at dinner on Wednesday. About time, and good news for Mac fans. Still a huge problem for the computer industry.
Dijo que en los últimos 50 años México ha perdido la mitad de los bosques.
“Quienes los destruyen, quienes los talan de manera irracional, matan a la gallina de los huevos de oro, es precisamente donde campea la pobreza”, aseguró Fox Quesada.
I'm in Santiago Atitlan, on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. Last October, a newly opened hospital in the town was destroyed by a mudslide due to Hurricane Stan. In addition, 800 people in the village were killed by the mudslide, and most of them remain there in a mass grave.
Tomorrow I will visit the disaster site. Today I saw the land that was bought last Friday for a new hospital. Hospitalito needs your help to build this new facility.
Here's Lyn Dickey, on the past and future of Hospitalito:
For more information, to order a complete video on the project (not produced by me) and to help rebuild:
One of the members of Charles Golden's team in the Sierra del Lacandon is evaluating this ingenious and light hammock/net/rainfly combination. I don't expect I'll be spending too much more jungle time out there, but I am curious how it works out.
It's an old story but it's accelerating. And I'm in the middle of it.
Thanks to Elaine Schele for the link to the Smithsonian's electronic edition of this out-of -print work.
Whoops, missed it. It was May 13. But check out Bird Trek.
I've seen some incredible birds this spring, including scarlet macaws in the wild, and the blue crested motmot. And I heard yesterday of a cenote full of guacamaya nests, a short hike beyond the cave across from Yaxchilan. But that's another story...
Sunday night, 25 armed and masked men burned down the guard post in Yaxha, Peten, Guatemala.
Authorities speculated that it was a response to the eviction of an illegal settlement there a month earlier.
Bought by Google, Sketchup now has a free version - but just PC for now. Mac version coming soon, they say.
Too much cool stuff on this blog.
I'm pleased to be included on this excellent page of KMZ and KML files for Google Earth, compiled by Henri Willox at the Colegio Franco-Mexicano de Guadalajara.
16% of the land, 200,000 persons in protected areas of Mexico, according to a local diputada in Mexico City. Tolerance by government officials is one cause. But what can be done?
I'm currently in a very walkable town, San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. Perhaps a one hour walk from one side to the other. 15 minutes from my house to the center. An "andador" that is pedestrians only, where last night there was a religious procession over a colored sawdust painting three blocks long. Stunning!
Alex Steffens pulls together some great ideas for linking walkable geography to the net and online maps.
Now I have to go out and walk downtown for my press pass to the Burning of the Judases. Thousands of people crowded around flaming, exploding effigies of public menaces and corrupt politicians. Walking on the wild side.
Links to video clips in GE. I did this in February in a Google Earth demo. Video Clips pulled off of third party servers. But they are selling advertising on the page you have to jump to.
No, I didn't go to Chajul with Alonso. But I did get there, and spent 6 days in two different stations. Photos to come. Now I'm on my way from Palenque to Naha, Flores, and back to San Cristobal. Semana Santa and family vacations coming up for all. Sun approaching zenith early May. Could be back in Palenque for the palace heirophanies.
18 of the secret narcotraffic airstrips in the Peten have been destroyed since US Southern Command Gen. Craddock visited 2 months ago. The Guatemalan Minister of Defense will meet with US Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld on March 14.
US help in the Guatemala's fight against narcotrafficking started in 2001 in an initiative called Maya Jaguar.
Via EchoDitto, an open source tool for taking 3D models from Maya and turning them into kmz files for Google Earth. There are some silly examples on this page, but there's plenty of potential.
Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, commander of the U.S Southern Command, gave a speech on his return from Guatemala that described his overflight of the drug airstrips in the Peten and the situation in Guatemala.
Pages 8 through 11 of this pdf are the most concerned with Guatemala, but the speech as a whole is a lucid exposition of the issues facing Central America.
Here's my previous post on his visit:
Here is the latest tour of the Usumacinta River valley, with map overlays. It starts in New York and touches down in Mexico City, Tuxtla Gutierrez, San Cristobal de Las Casas, and Palenque before touring the river and returning by Villahermosa. But individual places and overlays can be visited directly.
Turn off road and populated area overlays, turn on terrain for best results.
My thanks to Josh at Merida Insider, who is scanning and posting chapters of "In an Unknown Land" by Thomas Gann. Check the lively comments on his post:
It recounts a trip he took around Yucatan during World War I with Sylvanus Morley, the archaeologist who headed the Carnegie project to rebuilt Chichen Itza. The two men, and a few others, started in Belize and made their way by water around the Peninsula.
As usual, I have begun scanning in the text into my computer. What follows is Gann's account of their arrival into Merida.
(I'll presume to copy it into this weblog - Click MORE)
WE were boarded by the Customs and Health Authorities at 8.30 next morning, and on learning that the party consisted of two American citizens and a British subject the progress of our baggage through the usual Customs formalities was greatly expedited, for the Yucatecans, unlike most Mexicans, are extremely friendly both to Great Britain and the U.S.A., one reason being that most of their imports are derived from the latter country, while henequen—practically their only export—finds a ready market there.
There is no harbour at Progreso, consequently ships are compelled to anchor out in the open roadstead to gigantic sunken chains provided by the Government for that purpose, for which privilege they pay five dollars gold daily.
At the Custom House we were relieved of the arsenal of automatics, revolvers, and belts and bandoliers of cartridges carried by Morley and Held, as no one is permitted to carry firearms in the State of Yucatan—a most excellent and thoroughly sensible regulation, showing a comprehensive knowledge on the part of the authorities of the psychology of their countrymen. If such a law were only enforced throughout Latin America it would do more to civilise the country and abolish the perennial revolutions than all the talk of all the “patriots.”
We had heard a good deal about the high wages and high cost of living in Yucatan, but our first personal experience of it consisted in having to pay ten dollars gold for a cart to transfer our baggage from the Custom House to the railway-station, a distance of about a quarter of a mile. We simply reviled the cartman at first when he made this apparently extortionate demand, but soon discovered to our sorrow that the transfer of baggage is a sort of monopoly, for which the fortunate monopolists charge practically “all the traffic will bear “—in other words as much as they think the victim’s pocket will stand. Fortunately for us, our own appearance and that of our baggage, after a month of the Lilian Y, were equally disreputable, so we got off comparatively lightly.
The pier master—well known to me, as he had formerly been a clerk in the British Honduras Government Service— told us that on the piers and wharves unskilled labourers were being paid five dollars gold daily, while skilled stevedores, with overtime, sometimes made as much as twenty-five dollars in twenty-four hours. I wonder what proportion of professional men—lawyers, parsons, doctors—either in England or the United States make such incomes as these?
We caught the 10.30 train for Merida, arriving in little over an hour, after an extremely unpleasant journey in a crowded carriage—hot as an oven, and permeated by the fine limestone dust of the peninsula, which induces in new-comers, till they get used to it, an unpleasant state of suffocation.
Merida is one of the prettiest, cleanest, gayest little capitals it has been my good fortune to visit. In many ways it reminds one of Monte Carlo in the season. The warm climate, the scrupulous cleanliness of the streets and plazas, the flowers, music, and sunshine, the crowds of pretty, well-dressed girls, the numbers of prosperous-appearing idlers, the absence of poverty, squalor, and ugliness, and the perpetual air of festa, are all common to both.
The Plaza de Independencia is the main plaza or square, and the chief place of rendezvous of the town. Its north side is occupied by the State Executive Palace, its south by the Montejo Palace, its west by the Municipal Palace, while on its east side stands the fine old sixteenth century cathedral, where, though the devout are allowed to enter and pray in front of the altar, Mass is no longer celebrated, as all the padres, with the exception of one or two in Merida and Campeche (who, however, do not celebrate the Mass, but confine themselves to the performance of baptisms and weddings) have been expelled from Yucatan, amongst them the Archbishop, who is at present in exile in Cuba, and whose fine old palace adjoining the cathedral has now been converted into Government offices.
Carrancista soldiers, under General Alvarado, did a great deal of damage in the cathedral when they entered Merida, burning the magnificent, priceless old seventeenth century reredos and gilded carving of the altar, and practically destroying the ecclesiastical library, which contained four copies of the first edition of Cogolludo’s Historia de Yucathan, a work indispensable to the student of Maya archaeology. In the somewhat remote hope that these might have been preserved by some marauding soldier, we inserted an advertisement several times in the Voz de la Revolución, the principal paper and official organ of the Government in Yucatan, offering to purchase copies of Cogulludo, without result, however; and, indeed, no Mexican soldier would have looked upon four ancient volumes as worthy loot, and, like Bishop Landa, when dealing with MSS. of the aborigines three centuries previously, would probably have cast them into the fire, as in his opinion likely to perpetuate a pernicious and worn-out religious system.
The façade of the Montejo Palace is a very fine one, decorated with many statues of Spanish ladies in the dress of the period, knights in armour, and scantily-clothed Indians. All the carving is said to have been done by native Indian sculptors, and this is probably the case, as we realise from the remains they have left behind their remarkable cleverness in stone work of all kinds. The decoration of the hated conqueror’s palace with statues of the haughty Spaniard in full armour triumphing over their own half-clad chiefs, exhibited, moreover, on the façade of the principal house in the principal square, for all who passed to see, must have been a bitterly hateful task to the Indian artists, whose pride of birth and the length and purity of whose descent equalled the proudest Castillian of them all.
The plaza is slightly raised and asphalted; like the streets, it is kept scrupulously clean, and is covered with beds of beautiful sweet-smelling flowering shrubs and trees, amidst which are walks supplied with free seats, while at night, from eight to ten, the whole place is brilliantly ifiuminated. An excellent band plays, and it is then that all Merida comes forth to enjoy itself. Some ride slowly round and round the outer zone in automobiles, looking at the crowd, listening to the band, and exchanging smiles, nods, bows, and finger twiddlings with their friends passing on foot, or in other autos. Others promenade round the inner zone, or sit on the seats, to see and be seen, while neat, polite little boys flit silently amongst the crowd, seffing dulce and cigarettes, or carrying tiny boot-cleaning outfits ready to give one’s shoes a shine for the modest sum of 50 cents, for no Meridano seems to get his boots cleaned in the morning, or at his own house, but waits till he goes abroad and engages a bootblack, of whom there are swarms throughout the city.
It is a curious fact that amongst a people so fond of innocent pleasure private entertainments are conspicuous by their absence. Dinners at their own houses are rare, and dances of still less frequent occurrence. Even foreigners bringing letters of introduction to native families are rarely entertained at their private houses, but feasted—on an elaborate scale, it is true—at clubs, hotels, or restaurants. One reason for this, I believe, is that on more than one occasion foreign travellers who have been entertained at the private residences of the native aristocracy have, on writing their experiences later, given most unflattering—and, it must be admitted, unfair—descriptions of the home life and morals of the Meridanos.
Everywhere the country is in a transitional state. The old order is giving place to the new, and the Mestizo and peon (the latter, till freed by Alvarado, a virtual slave) are breaking down the barriers of caste which separated them from the Spanish Yucatecan, and gradually becoming free citizens of a free Republic. At one time the Indians and Mestizas, or women of mixed Spanish and Indian blood, were compelled to wear a distinguishing costume consisting of the huipil (a long, loose, sleeveless cotton garment cut square and rather low at the neck), and a pik, or cotton petticoat reaching to the ankles. These huipils were always kept scrupulously clean, and often exquisitely embroidered by the owners at the neck, armholes, and bottom of the skirt with gaily coloured cotton in all sorts of fantastic devices. Their magnificent black hair, ribbon adorned, was worn braided, hanging down the back, sometimes covered with a shawl, while the richer ones were often loaded with jewellery—chains, rosaries, earrings, rings, and brooches. This undemocratic regulation has now been abolished, and Indians and Mestizas dress as they like. The garments of their ancestors are, however, hard to cast off, and many of the elder women, even in Merida, still cling to them, with the result that one not infrequently sees an old mother promenading about the plaza in bare head, moccasined feet, and loose huipil and pik arm in arm with her daughter in high-heeled shoes, elaborate coiffure, surmounted by a still more elaborate hat, and clothed in the latest importation in the way of gowns from the U.S.A. It must, however, be admitted that the mother’s costume is by far the more becoming, as well as comfortable, for the female Yucatecan of all classes almost invariably possesses a figure short and somewhat broad, with practically no waistline marked by nature, eminently unfitted for the clothes of modern civilisation.
Many Indian workmen may still be seen wearing a short striped apron, the distinguishing badge of their class, which formerly they were compelled to wear, and now continue, apparently from sheer inability to break a centuries-long custom, though the compulsion no longer exists.
At the best hotels, if one asks for the excellent corn cake of the country he is regarded with mild contempt as an unprogressive countryman, and, indeed, the toothsome tortilla has in the city been largely superseded by atrocious white bread. Even posole, the native drink made from ground corn and drunk all over the Maya area for the last 2,000 years, is now offered for sale at the little kiosks and stalls round the plaza in the form of posole helada, or iced posole!
The whole country was practically bone dry, no alcohol except beer and light wine being on sale. The former is so very mild that it would be impossible to drink sufficient of it to induce intoxication, while the price of the latter is so prohibitive that no one but a millionaire could afford to buy sufficient of it to produce the same result. In consequence of this strict prohibition an unfortunate contretemps occurred to us. Morley had six bottles of claret on board the Lilian Y, which he insisted upon landing, and which we brought safely through the Customs, quite ignorant that any duty had to be paid on them. These wretched bottles of claret proved a white elephant to us, as we lugged them about all over the country, though no one thought of drinking any. On returning from Chichen to Merida, however, they were, as usual, bestowed in our grub box, which an over-zealous Customs official, who had had some misunderstanding with Muddy, insisted on searching. He said nothing at the time, but telegraphed the authorities in Merida, who arrested the unfortunate Muddy, who was in charge of the luggage, on his arrival, and hauled him off to the police station. We meanwhile had taken an auto for the hotel, as Muddy had always proved himself capable of clearing the baggage.
The next we heard of the matter was the arrival of a small policeman an hour or so later to tell us of Muddy’s plight, and the retention of most of our luggage in the police station, whither we hurried at once. We found Muddy sitting peacefully on a bench in the office, quite undisturbed. Nothing, however, would induce the sergeant to let him depart till the arrival of the Chief of Police, who, we were told, was closeted in his office, and would appear before long. We sent out for some food for Muddy, and, not liking to desert him, Morley and I took it in turns to sit up with him till about 2 a.m., when, as it became obvious the chief was not on the premises at all, we retired to the hotel to bed, which was just as well, for he did not arrive till 11 a.m. next morning, when he very politely expressed his sorrow for the inconvenience we had been put to, and dismissed Muddy in triumphant possession of the claret.
One is loth, however, to criticise the Yucatecans, for their kindliness, cleanliness, hospitality, and cheerful optimism far outweigh their minor faults; and whereas the latter are ephemeral, and rather the result of a rapidly developing civilisation than temperamental, the latter are permanent, and ingrained in the Yucatecan character. Nearly everyone in Merida can speak Maya in addition to Spanish, and an astonishingly large proportion of the people have at least a working knowledge of English; so much so that it behoves one to be remarkably careful not to make adverse criticisms aloud in that language of the native manners and customs.
Morley overheard an Indian urchin shouting to one of his companions: “Conex, conex, jugar baseball, ten catcher, tech pitcher “—“ Come along, come along to play baseball, I catcher, you pitcher “—Maya, Spanish, and good Americanese, all mixed in one sentence.
On the 27th we were received in the State Executive Palace by His Excellency Carlos Castro Morales, Governor of Yucatan. What struck us most forcibly at first sight of him was his immense and colossal size, for, though not very tall, he was tremendously broad and thick, yet extraordinarily active for a man of such vast bulk. He smoked brown orozus—Mexican cigarettes—from morning to night, the stub of one serving as a light for its successor. These were covered with paper impregnated with liquorice, and the tobacco they contained was so saturated in saltpetre that it burnt like a time-fuse, which it strongly resembled in flavour and smell. The Governor was at one time an operative on the Yucatecan railroad, and, being a man of considerable ability, was put in by the Socialists, as Governor. He proved a success from the first, and never has the country enjoyed such prosperity, and never were the labouring classes so free, and never have they received such wages as during his régime. He was very pleasant and agreeable to us, asking many questions as to the object of our visit, and showing no mean knowledge of the archaeology and former history of the country. Indeed, he put me right in the spelling of the Maya word “ Chachac” in the title of a little pamphlet of mine he had read, and which should have been written” Chachac,” to denote the Maya explosive “Ch.” We found that he spoke with equal facility Spanish and Maya. On my expressing regret at seeing all the churches closed and padres banished, and asking if he were a Catholic, he struck his great chest with his fist, like a drum, and shouted: “No, Señor, yo no estoy Catolico, yo no estoy Protestante, yo soy Pensador libre “—“ No, sir, I am not a Catholic, I am not a Protestant, I am a Free Thinker “—and as this matter of religion bid fair to lead to friction, we quickly changed the subject. He gave us each an open letter addressed to all Government officials and others throughout Yucatan, advising them to give us every aid and assistance in their power in the prosecution of our archaeological work, and, furthermore, put the railroad automobiles at our disposal, to convey us to any ruins or places of interest which we might wish to visit; and so with mutual expressions of goodwill we took leave of the most genial, human, and successful Socialist it has ever been my good fortune to meet.
On numerous occasions we met Señor Don Juan Martinez, recently representative in the U.S.A. of the “Commission Reguladora de Henequen” of Yucatan, which practically controls the entire trade of the State. He had previously been Government Inspector of Ruins, and introduced us to his son who now occupied that office. Mr. Juan Martinez is an extremely intelligent man, with a thorough knowledge of English, very strong American sympathies, and an acquaintance with the ancient written Maya language probably unsurpassed in the Peninsula. He has translated MS. records in old Maya dating from just after the conquest, as well as portions of the books of Chilam Balaam, the ancient Indian historical records kept by each town at first in the glyphic system employed by the Mayas before the conquest, but later translated into Spanish by some educated Indian very soon after the conquest. It is greatly to be hoped that, having at least temporarily abandoned his labours as an ambassador of commerce, Mr. Martinez may be willing to turn his unique knowledge of ancient Maya to account, and publish some of the MSS., translations which he has made, of old Indian records and documents, which may otherwise be lost to the student of Maya archaeology for ever. Mr. Martinez, junior, the present Government Inspector of Ruins, was extremely kind to us; giving us letters of introduction to the local Guardjanes of the ruins, who are all under his supervision: for the Government realising at length the immense value and interest of these wonderful memorials of the past, has placed one or more guardians or caretakers in each of the principal ruins, who are paid by the state, and whose business it is to keep the buildings clean and free from bush, and to see that none of the statues, inscriptions, stucco paintings, etc., are removed by visitors, as they have been practically indiscriminately in the past. It may be also that the Government were not unwilling to demonstrate to outsiders that a Socialist Administration can not only lead the State to a material prosperity hitherto unknown, but alone of all the Governments which have ruled Yucatan since the time of the conquest, is sufficiently enlightened to actually spend a considerable amount of money in the preservation of her artistic and archaeological memorials. He also took us round to the owners of ranches on which the ruins were situated, or to their representatives in Merida, and from them we obtained letters to their maj or-domos instructing them to provide us with food, lodging, transport, or in fact anything within their power whicb we might require. Probably in no country in the world would hospitality have been carried so far as the provision of free bed and board for an indefinite period, for a number of practically unknown strangers. But the land barons of Yucatan occupy in many ways a unique position. Their vast estates, often grants from the Spanish crown, dating back to the days of the conquest, run to hundreds of thousands of acres, their Indian and Mestizo peons are numbered by hundreds, sometimes even by the thousand, while the country houses where they spend the hot season are often so vast as to resemble rather royal palaces than private dwellings. Their revenues, which in former days were indeed meagre, being derived from the few head of stock carried by their vast stretches of stony arid land, have, since the introduction of henequen, for the cultivation of which this land is peculiarly well adapted, swollen in the most Aladdin-like manner, till Merida is reported to contain more millionaires in proportion to its population than any city in the world—not excluding Pittsburg.
We had several very interesting interviews with Don Francisco Juan Molina Solis, the historian of Yucatan, whose works, the Historia de la Conquista de Yucatan and Yucatan durante la dominacion Espanola, have a wide circulation amongst archaeologists outside the Peninsula. Notwithstanding his great age he is now engaged in writing a history of Yucatan from the end of the Spanish rule to the present day. His knowledge of the conquest of the various tribes of Maya with whom the Spaniards came in contact, the cities and territories occupied by them, and of the early ecclesiastical history of Yucatan, is absolutely unsurpassed and unique. Indeed, he and Don Juan Martinez are almost the only survivals of a generation who regarded a knowledge of the wonderful history and literature of their own country as more important than a foremost place in the mad rush for wealth, which now alone seems to occupy the people of Yucatan ...
Andrew Scherer and Charles Golden were among the archaeologists I spent time with in the spring of 2004, in Esmeralda and Tecolote. They continued their explorations of the Sierra del Lacandon Park in Guatemala in 2005 and will return in June of this year.
This is their 2005 report to FAMSI:
I've made Google Earth overlays of two of their maps from the report.
And draping 2004 AIRSAR data on the map (a large file):
Sierra_del_Lacandon_AIRSAR.kmz 36.5 mb
See also my previous post on the Usumacinta River valley and OS X Google Earth tools:
The Daily Glyph - Google Earth Community Usu tour
And the tour that includes Ron Canter's maps of of the river and Maya trails:
The Daily Glyph - Improved Google Earth Usu Map
If you don't have the Google Earth program, it is a free download (for Mac or PC) that you can find here:
The Zapatista rebels left their communities in the jungle of Chiapas, Mexico, today to begin a six-month tour aimed at influencing the Mexican elections and pushing their progressive views into wider acceptance in the country.
Their 2001 tour of the country (called La Marcha or the caravan) was the highpoint of Zapatista support and influence. Here's the report I produced while following them for 3 weeks that year:
La Marcha - The Zapatista Caravan, 2001 - iPod Video, 32 mb, 6:40
The Zapatistas have drifted off the world stage since their 2001 march from the jungles of Chiapas to Mexico City to present the case for an indigenous bill of rights. This year's tour will seek to regain some of the spirit of that previous tour and grab some of the spotlight of the Mexican presidential campaign.
Looking forward to a real Mac version of Google Earth (mine is flakey) so I can check this out.
In Borneo, it looks to be a member of the family that includes mongoose and civets.
(Foto PL: Rigoberto Escobar).
Here are the finalists in the Miss Ecología contest in Santa Elena, Petén, Guatemala. That's where we're headed this year, Nicco!
Every time we travel to Chiapas, we fly into Tuxtla and then ride up the mountain, on the twisting two lane Panamerican Highway to San Cristobal de las Casas. For the past 10 years, we've watched a new, more direct highway under construction, and every year heard the promise that it would open that year. One year the route was almost finished when the main bridge collapsed close to completion.
This report lays out the history of poor roads and isolation that Chiapas has endured since the Conquest.
From Ron Canter, a great backgrounder on the Maya city of Yaxha, site of the current Survivor Maya show. As you'll see, the real story beats the reality series for drama. The Maya weren't just playing summer camp in the woods. They created a civilization.
At the end of Ron's article are book references and links to other information. (click MORE for the complete report)
YAXHA – THE BACKSTORY
OF THE ‘SURVIVOR-GUATEMALA’ LOCALE
Yaxha is a survivor - not the ancient city or the show, but the name itself. The place has been “Yax-ha” since before the days of Julius Caesar. It is pronounced yash-ha' and means “Green Lake”. If the lake water were not so green, it might mean “Blue Lake”. To the Maya, blue was just a shade of green, not an entirely different color. This is simple, but a lifetime thinking otherwise makes it hard for me to get it straight in my head.
When Cortez marched through northern Guatemala in 1525, looking for golden cities, there was still a living Maya city at Lake Yaxha – not the giant whose crumbled pyramids form a backdrop for the reality-TV show Survivor-Guatemala, but a more modest one. The ruins of that city still grace the islands of Topoxte and Cante with temples and tightly packed house foundations. All the Postclassic (AD 909 to 1697) towns that Cortez saw in the Peten region were fortified, either by location or walls. Most were tucked onto islands or peninsulas, and those not so fortunate were defended by wooden walls. It was not a peaceful period in Maya history.
At Tayasal, another island city 33 miles west of Topoxte, Cortez was steered southward by advice from its ruler, the Canek. He explained to the Spaniard "that by going on some three leagues I would reach a place where the lake gave way to dry land, and to reach the coast I could follow the road which led from directly opposite his town" instead of "a hard one over steep and rocky mountains". The Canek was urging Cortez to take the easy route east. To bring along his warhorses, Cortez chose the steep and rocky one south to Nito. Except for one, all his horses died on the march anyway. The exception was Morcillo, a sick horse left in the care of the Canek. Eventually Morcillo ended up stuffed, mounted, and worshipped.
The road to the coast, later named “The Chicle Trail”, led straight to Topoxte and then east to the Belize River, so Cortez just missed visiting Lake Yaxha. European missionaries passed through Yaxha following the same road west from the coast to Tayasal. They harangued the Itza Maya of Tayasal (the present-day city of Flores), threw idols in the lake, and eventually wore out their welcome. The Canek took their guides aside and told them “Don’t bring those xolopes back here”. “Xolope” doesn’t translate literally too well, but ‘bonehead” comes close. A few years later they were back and this time they ended up as martyrs or as offerings, depending on your point of view.
Human sacrifice is one of those topics that always surfaces sooner or later in connection with Central American civilizations. The Maya were not an exception, but they were not so bloodthirsty as the later Azteca. On Survivor-Guatemala, the evening “Tribal Council” is held in the North Acropolis, surrounded by pyramids that once witnessed more serious sacrifices than a tribal member banished. The Maya “ajaw”, the ruler, would pierce his ear or his “aat” (hint – women don’t have one), catch the blood on paper, and then burn the soaked pages in a bowl. If all went well, the ceremony would open a portal to other levels of the world and the ancient dead kings could advise the living. The place would briefly become the axis of the world, and the color of the axis - the center of things - was “Yax”. At least, that is the current interpretation of glyphic records and carved scenes from the Classic, 250 AD to 909 AD.
All the great Maya cities immortalized the lives of their rulers with monuments of their births, glorious deeds and deaths – like we do. Sometimes they exaggerated the glorious deeds a bit – like we do. Much of Yaxha’s history is fuzzy. It is not because vengeful enemies smashed the monuments, though that happened enough. Yaxha’s monuments were carved from soft limestone. Time and weather has made many of them unreadable. It doesn’t pay to go cheap for timeless memorials.
That said, some of the stela (commemorative standing stones) can still be read but a lot of Yaxha’s history comes from other cities. A neighbor to the east, Naranjo (real name Saal) besieged and then burned Yaxha in 710 AD. The lord of Naranjo dug up the bones of Yaxha’s previous king and scattered them on an island – probably Topoxte – for spite. We know this because he recorded it on tough limestone.
About 9 miles north is Nakum, namesake of the other Survivor tribe. It has a lot of standing architecture, which means it has unrestored buildings a person can poke their head into, unlike the usual ruin. A friend of mine once described a typical Maya site as “big piles of dirt in the woods”.
Not quite 20 miles northwest of Yaxha is Yax-Mutal, better known as Tikal. “Tikal” just means “at the waterhole” but its ancient name translates as “First Topknot”. There’s that “yax” again, but this time it refers to the center, to being “numero uno”.
The ruined cities are all flanked by bajos, ie. swamps. This doesn’t sound like a good thing, but it was. In May 1995, Patrick Culbert and 5 colleagues chopped a path straight from Yaxha to Nakum through the heart of Bajo La Justa. It took them ten miserable 12-hour days to slog a mere 8 miles. They found the soil was rich, and, on every little island, there were house mounds. In the center of the swamp was the largest ruin, Poza Maya, with 40 structures and 9 courtyards. Nearby they found a square reservoir 250 km on a side. Traces of canals and raised fields gridded the soggy land. The bajos were breadbaskets for the cities.
For another reason why all these cities clustered here, a look at a decent map of the Peten is enough. A series of lakes runs east to west from the Belize River to the Rio San Pedro Martir, which flows to the Usumacinta and on to the Gulf of Mexico. Maya traders could not only get a drink at the end of the day, but also paddle and carry their way all the way across the Yucatan peninsula. Four mile long Lake Yaxha was part of a chain of lakes - Sacnab, Yaxha, Lancaja and Champoxte – stretching for ten miles, with short carries between lakes.
So how did it all come apart? Some – maybe most - of the cities were badly overpopulated, and then a long drought struck. It reached rock bottom in 862 AD. Things get fuzzy because one city after another stopped recording their history. Some show signs of war. In what is now Quintana Roo, Mx., the city of Yo’okop built a fort around, not its temples, but its shrinking waterhole. Cities didn’t collapse overnight or even everywhere. At Yaxha, the city was abandoned but not everyone left the lakes. If they had, the names “Yaxha” and “Sacnab” would not have survived. The lakes shrank but, after the drought passed, smaller cities sprang up on the islands.
I wish I could end on a really upbeat note, but not everything is perfect in the region. The ancient cities are again becoming islands, but of a different sort. They are surrounded by the last fragments of a grand forest that only 20 years ago covered most of northern Guatemala and nearby Mexico. Overpopulation has again pushed people to cut down the forest for hardscrabble farms. They soon exhaust the soil, forcing another cycle of clear cutting. Even being within a park is no absolute guarantee that the forest won’t be logged or the ruins looted. In the northwest corner of Peten, much of Laguna del Tigre National Park has been taken over by narcos (drug smugglers). Ruins along the Usumacinta River periodically face the threat of a dam drowning them. Even the Yaxha-Nakum-Naranjo Natural Monument is not immune from these dangers. William Gibson hit it on the head when he called the past “that sea upon which the present tossed and rode”.
Ron Canter, 10-4-05
A Scattering of Readings:
Conquest of Yucatan, Franz Blom, 1936. Houghton Mifflin Co.
Breaking the Maya Code, Michael Coe, 1999, Thames & Hudson, NY.
Possible Role of Climate in the Collapse of the Classic Maya Civilization. Hodell, D.A., J. H. Curtis, and M. Brenner. 1995. Nature 375:391-394.
Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens, Simon Martin & Nikolai Grube, 2000, Thames & Hudson, Ltd. London, UK.
Sacred Monkey River, A Canoe Trip With the Gods, Chris Shaw, 2000, W.W Norton & Co.
Classic Maya Place Names, David Stuart & Stephen Houston, 1994. Studies in Pre-Columbian Art & Archaeology, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library, Wash, DC.
Maya Expeditions, Guatemala
Serious river tours of major Maya sites, including Yaxha – led by Tammy Ridenour
MEC (Maya exploration Center), Mexico
Excellent tours arranged by Ed Barnhart, of Palenque Mapping Project
Sierra del Lacandon National Park, Guatemala
Yaxha-Nakum-Naranjo Natural Monument, Guatemala
Good papers in PDF form, that I want to look through.
My friend George Suarez produced a report on Discovery News about this over five years ago, when we were at ABC. Scientists are now close to creating adhesive materials even stronger than the tiny structures on geckos' feet. And I'm another day closer to my next stop in Palenque, where the laughing geckos run around the windows, chuckling at my delusions and dilemmas.
Charles Golden has posted his FAMSI report from the 2004 season in the Sierra del Lacandón. I experienced only a few days of that grueling and productive season. His team made major discoveries in the frontier between ancient Yaxchilan and Piedras Negras territories. They continued the work this year.
Thanks also to Charles and his team for their work in the Usumacinta mapping and preservation project. We hope to see them again on the river.
Here's a direct link to the July 17th story regarding opposition to the plan in Palenque to run traffic through an important forested corner of town. There has been no study of the environmental impact of this road construction project.
The loss of this patch of jungle would turn Palenque (the town, not the ruins) into the dismal dusty place it has always threatened to be, and would degrade its tourism potential.
Alfonso Morales sent this disturbing story - the possible end of a lush, quiet corner of Palenque, Mexico. Residents of La Cañada have successfully prevented a main thoroughfare from passing through the jungle habitat of howler monkeys and other wildlife. A vote will soon determine whether the road will be extended to connect to a main highway. Here's the direct link at Cuarto Poder.
(click MORE to see all of the story)
Plebiscito para el fin de La Cañada
PALENQUE Abrirían una carretera que acabaría con árboles centenarios y el hábitat de especies animales.
Enrique Romero CP. Sobreviviente de administraciones municipales que buscaron meterle el tráfico pesado del centro, víctima incluso de sus mayores beneficiarios, muchos de los empresarios que ahí tienen sus hoteles y restaurantes, pero que también han talado sus vetustos árboles, "La Cañada" supo mantenerse en las últimas décadas como un sitio turístico emblemático de Palenque.
Como la única parte arbolada de esta mal planeada ciudad que adolece de áreas verdes y jardines, fue el oasis del desierto urbano, el pulmón que oxigena y la única reserva forestal urbana.
Desde este miércoles, a través de un carro de sonido, el Ayuntamiento convoca a un plebiscito -este domingo- para que la ciudadanía se pronuncie sobre si ve conveniente que se continúe la Avenida Hidalgo abriéndose paso a través de "La Cañada", para desembocar en la carretera federal, con lo que se daría otro acceso a la estrangulada vialidad de Palenque, pero que al incorporar el tránsito pesado acabaría, desde la ejecución del proyecto mismo, con árboles centenarios, y el hábitat de otras especies, tanto vegetales como animales, que en "La Cañada" tienen su último reducto.
El vocero municipal confirmó a este medio lo del plebiscito, y agregó que en realidad sólo se trata de juntar unas dos mil firmas que estén a favor del proyecto para que éste se ejecute, pero no se informó, a tres días del referéndum, cuáles son los objetivos de esta obra, si ya hay un estudio científico de impacto ambiental, cuánto dinero costará y con qué fondos se edificará ni qué afectaciones haría a propiedades privadas tituladas.
Tampoco se sabe si el programa de reordenamiento y rescate de "La Cañada" que promueve el Gobierno del Estado está vinculado con esta iniciativa o se contrapone a la misma.
Tampoco se mencionó qué estudio de ingeniería de tránsito indica que es la mejor opción para mejorar la vialidad de la ciudad, ni si ya hubo consenso con los empresarios y propietarios que en "La Cañada" tienen propiedades, lo que de acuerdo con Carlos Alberto Sánchez Morales, presidente de la asociación civil que representa a todos los habitantes e inversionistas de "La Cañada" no ha ocurrido y a su juicio existen obras de mayor prioridad como el agua potable, que el abrir una calle a costa del único pulmón de Palenque y sin que los periféricos y la misma Avenida Juárez estén en buenas condiciones.
Por ello, consideró que convocar a un plebiscito, con sólo unos días de anticipación, sin dar a la población información estratégica para decidir sobre un asunto de la mayor importancia, en términos de ecología y medio ambiente, pero también en términos de infraestructura turística, generación de más de 200 empleos directos y un número mayor de empleos indirectos que actualmente "La Cañada" provee, pareciera "madruguete".
Algunos de sus habitantes, como la señora Ludivina Velásquez Campos, o el doctor Roberto Conde, médico internista que tiene su clínica justo donde el Barrio "Chino" y "La Cañada" se unen, manifestaron su preocupación por este plebiscito que decidirá la suerte de algunos saraguatos, ardillas y otros mamíferos.
It's unclear so far what the Zapatistas are reacting to and what their next step is. But they are in the papers again.
Tropical wood certified by Rainforest Alliance in the Petén is favored by Gibson for their guitars. Much of this wood comes from community logging cooperatives. It promotes sustainable use of forest products.
Thanks to Nicco for this link. There have been other wooden artifacts found, but never a whole structure.
I saw the logging cooperatives of Carmelita, Peten in action 2 years ago. This story in Prensa Libre describes the market for mahogany (caoba), Spanish cedar (cedro) and other species in places including Buckingham Palace.
I think I've posted about this before, but I'm coming back to it with a particular project in mind.
A researcher from UNAM has told Tabasco Hoy that 20% of the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve - the heart of the Lacandon Jungle - has been lost to deforestation since the reserve was established.
Imagine your future.
Imagine an experienced tough fighter on your side.
Imagine Margarita Lopez for Borough President.
A brief, non-controversial profile of the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve.
This is a classic Hermann Bellinghausen rant. If half of it is true, the Selva Lacandona is truly under assault from commercial logging interests, with help from the government. Recent reports of bridges and roads seem to support this.
A story on tourism and other pressures on the area around the ruins of Tikal, in the Peten, Guatemala.
The governor of the Petén, in Guatemala, has announced that the completion of a road to link Flores and Tenosique, Mexico is closer to becoming a reality. This road has been opposed by conservation groups for years, as it will bisect the forest and increase invasion and settlement of the jungle.
I lived in the Lacandon and Peten forests for 7 weeks last spring, and I am in awe of the people of Mexico and Guatemala who can survive and thrive in that environment. It makes the accomplishments of the ancient Maya even more astonishing.
Here's a profile of the Belgian historian Jan de Vos, who has written many volumes on the history of the Selva Lacandona.
This is my 1,000th post in the Daily Glyph. My thanks to all the folks who have helped and encouraged me, and to all the Maya explorers and weblog pioneers who showed the way.
The archaeological zone of Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico, attracts most of the tourists to the region. But the closest major airport is in Villahermosa, capital of the neighboring state of Tabasco, 2 hours away. Recently, tourism officials met to see how they can share the wealth and promote the attractions of Tabasco.
What's the big deal? Some of our best friends and colleagues have a stake in drawing visitors to the ruins of Palenque. That includes the artist who drew this archaeological rendering of the Palace, Alonso Mendez. Alonso is the best guide to the ruins, and an expert in the heirophanies built into the site by the classic Maya. Ask for him at Panchan if you visit Palenque.
We also believe more people should experience the Usumacinta River in order to help protect it. Palenque is the gateway to the Lacandon forest and the Usumacinta. Tenosique, Tabasco, could become the center for celebration of the river.
The paving of this stretch of road between Mexico and Guatemala, near Tenosique, would help local people - I've seen the mud and it's unbelievable - but it will increase invasion and destruction of the Sierra del Lacandon forest.
Click on this photo, from the eastern Peten this spring, to see a larger version.
Two years ago, the staff of EcoMaya and ProPeten took me out to see the community forestry operations of the town of Carmelita, Guatemala. This village had been an airstrip center of the chicle trade until that market decreased. Now it could either gain or lose by the plans for El Mirador, since it is now the base for horseback trips into the site, the only way other than helicopter to reach it.
This is a review of the creation of the Carmelita community forestry concessions.
I only spent one afternoon in Uaxactun this spring, on my way back to Flores. But many of the workers on the dig in March came from this village, north of Tikal, a gateway into the northeast corner of the Peten. This is one traveler's protrait of the village and its efforts to conserve traditional forest products - xate, chicle, pimienta, lumber.
Another big spread in Prensa Libre about the situation in Laguna del Tigre Park, where organized and financed invaders have operated with impunity for years. In part due to Roan McNab`s work, the Guatemalan congress last Thursday declared it a national emergency and allocated 5 million Quetzals for immediate action.
Roan is quoted in this story:
And there is more information in these:
I am back in Flores for, what, the fifth time this spring. I went back to the Usumacinta, with the help of the Defensores, to rejoin Charles Golden and his team. I had missed Tecolote the first time - we dropped folks off there and continued to the site of Esmeralda, then hiked to Piedras Negras. So it was great to see the camp they have there, to see Charles and crew after their 3-day trek to Tecolote (exhausted but ready for more), and to use the last of my energy to hike straight up and over the ridge to the site.
Tecolote has the best preserved building of any I have seen that have not been restored by archaeologists. The team is just beginning to map the site and do test-pitting. They will be working another two weeks this season, as they begin to puzzle out the role the site played on the frontier between Piedras Negras and Yaxchilan.
My thanks to the Defensores de la Naturaleza, especially Javier Marquez and Rudi Del Cid, for all their help, and to the guides and guardians of the Sierra del Lacandon Park, who helped keep us oriented, alive, and well-fed.
And now I'll go to bed.
From Boing Boing, a link to a do it yourself alcohol stove for backpacking. I just got through buying gear for my trip, and I passed on the stoves and cooking pots. I think someone else is hassling that wherever I'll be. But I may be wrong.
Thanks to Xeni who posted it.
While looking for inflatable, light rafts that I can lug around with me before the Usumacinta river trip this spring, I found these folks. A family owned business in Alaska, a 4 pound backpackable raft, well-constructed of tough materials - sounds good to me!
A summary of the situation in the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve, including its biodiversity and the many illegal settlements that are becoming a source of conflict.
More on the eviction of an "irregular" settlement from the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve. There's some dispute over whether there was anyone there at the time, and whether the people left voluntarily. Most agree that 23 houses were burned, by officials including members of the Mexican Navy, an odd touch since it is nowhere near the ocean. It's possible they approached in a boat on the Lacantun river.
A Chiapas official has declared that only settlements dating back to 1978 will be allowed to stay in The Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve.
No más invasiones: El secretario de Gobierno de Chiapas, Rubén Velásquez, afirmó que en ese Estado no se permitirá una nueva invasión de tierras y respecto a Montes Azules sostuvo que sólo se autorizará en el lugar la permanencia de aquellos campesinos que la habitan desde antes de 1978.
From Stewart Brand's Global Business Network website.
In yesterday's New York Times, an appreciation of the road we are driving today in the Adirondacks.
Gotta drain the pipes.
Map software company ESRI has collaborated with World Conservation Society to create a map of trails in the Maya region. Click on the map at the top of this page to get an interactive version:
Also from ESRI (includes Mac OS software):
And this area of their grants program
In Counterpunch, a good update on Mexico, Spain, and their dealings with the Zapatistas and Basques.
From Reuters via MSNBC
From UC Berkeley, wireless sensors the size of film canisters. Not yet "smart dust" but they are working on it.
I've been through these rebel checkpoints, mostly in 2001 getting ready to cover the Zapatista caravan to Mexico City. It's a good step, but the "praise" that's headlined comes from a Catholic Bishop who's a big rebel supporter anyway. Remains to be seen how it plays with the Mexican government and groups llike Conservation International that want rebel settlements out of the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve.
The Zapatistas have made more announcements this past week than in the last year (see this CNN.com story and this one in the San Francisco Chronicle). Today's announcement promises shortwave radio broadcasts to support the cause. They will start August 9th.
"The announcement was part of a general invitation to a three-day party Aug. 8-10 that the Zapatistas plan in the village of Oventic, a few miles north of here."
And which side do I come down on? Let's check out both for the time being.
Nothing really new here, but it is a good summary of the situation in the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve, where illegal settlers and Zapatistas oppose eviction efforts by the government, Lacandon Indians, and Conservation International.
Roan McNab sent a long update on the situation in the Maya Biosphere of Guatemala. I have posted it below. (click MORE)
Other posts on this site about Roan's work:
I will follow up on the Rios Montt situation he mentions, and update this entry. Here's today's report from Prensa Libre in Guatemala. Still awaiting a decision.
Greetings from rainy Gainesville. Am here, brief home visit, awaiting
news on the Constitutional Court's decision in Guatemala, on whether the
shameless General and President of the Congress, Efrain Rios Montt, can
run for President in this November's national elections. As the highest
court of the land in Guatemala, many assume that the CC will uphold the
rulings already given in the three lower courts, including the Supreme
Court (CSJ), and the Elections Tribunal (TSE). The decision on this is
supposedly coming out today, this afternoon. May want to check
www.prensalibre.com tomorrow if interested.
The future of the Maya Forest will be affected by this election,
probably more so than any events in Mexico, and certainly even Belize -
even with the big lawsuit now moving to England. Although I fully
support Ari and the efforts of the NRDC, the potential impacts to the
Macal river, and the Maya Mountains section of Belize are miniscule in
scale compared to the impacts of chaos and sheer lack of law in the
Guatemalan section of the forest. We Maya forest lovers need to keep our
eyes on the prize....the big expansive tract that remains. The heart of
the forest, as in Maya times, lies in Guatemala. So this is why we hope
for a serious change in Gov. in Guatemala, in fact, we hope for
something along the lines of what happened recently to Arnoldo Aleman in
Nicaragua.... that the same happens in Guatemala. Fingers crossed. We
recently discovered, for example, that two Alcaldes Auxiliares, the ones
from San Andres (ie containing Lag. del Tigre Nat Park), and the one
from San Luis (South Central Peten), not only have huge agarradas up in
LdT, but are fomenting the invasions into those areas in exchange for
votes, promising to legalize portions of the land cleared for the
invaders - while the rest goes to the scumbag rich terratenientes.
Increasingly, poor campesinos are merely used by rich cattle ranchers to
simply clear land.
There have been a number of stories in the press about the situation in
the Maya Biosphere, esp the area around El Peru where the Macaws nest,
and where Dr. David Freidel has initiated an important archaeological
investigation of this site, which supposedly served as the site from
which Tikal was conquered in an alliance with Teotihuacan in approx 340
This link above supposedly leads to an article on the El Peru area, just
north of the San Pedro near Paso Caballos, which contains a majority of
the macaw nests known in Guatemala. we are in a battle to save this
site. Unfortunately, CI-ProPeten, and CI-Canan Kaa'x managed nearly $18
million of AID funds to consolidate the Maya Biosphere, much of it
destined to Laguna del Tigre National Park, with almost NO results to
show for it right now. LdT is total chaos, we are struggling to save
some 30-50,000 Ha of the 289,000 park, the largest park in Central
America. Conservative estimates indicate that at least 70% of the park
burned this year alone! Invaders, armed people, timber traffic, cattle
ranching, mojados, and the Big D word too. All a bummer when it comes to
So....life in the last 6 months consisted mainly of coordinating a
strategy to save what we can in the El Peru area, while keeping a
watchful eye on the entry of the IDB into Uaxactun via Tikal. This
project, called Mundo Maya, now proposes a $8 million investment in
Uaxactun, paving the road from Tikal for $5.77 million, of course, a
loan to the country of Guatemala. 23 kilometers. The IDB's secret
documents (which we have attained) estimate 30,000 people visiting
Uaxactun in just the first year after paving. In the current climate of
the total lack of the rule of law, we easily imagine the native Uaxactun
people being displaced by a massive influx of tourism
interests...thereby undermining (destroying ?) the local Non-timber
culture which has conserved that area for more than 80 years. What is
worse, is the local people of Uaxactun have not been consulted, desite
IDB claims to the contrary. So we have, at the village's request,
provided them with over 150 copies of the most relevant documents in our
possession. The village recently sent a letter, two letters, to the Pres
of Guatemala, and the pres of IDB, Enrique Iglesias, declaring their
inconformity with the plans, clarifying that they have not been
consulted, and rejecting the road outright. These letters can later be
provided to people who may find them useful.
So, while we struggle to save the parts of the Guatemalan forest most
under pressure (Laguna del Tigre, Lacandon), the threats to the solid,
INTACT, eastern MBR are increasing as the King Vulture IDB/PPP prepares
to land (escorted, shielded, by CI).
In Lacandon, the Guatemalan section continues to become more isolated as
an island of intact, highly diverse, forest surrounded by a rising sea
of humanity. As y'all know, Lacandon is probably the most biologically
diverse part of the Maya Biosphere, due to the presence of water and the
exaggerated relief of the Sierra. An interesting aside, Mac Chapin of
Native Lands came through Flores and the Peten recently, towed by Nacho
March of CI as CI attempts to engage Native Lands in some aspect of
either their Maya Forest Ecoregional Plan (called the CEPF of the 5 Maya
Forest countries, Mex, Gua, Bz, Sal, Hon), or the IDB/Mundo Maya
Initiative of which CI is a partner. Yes, that is not a typo. Now CI
works in Uaxactun, or will be shortly, along with CounterPart
International. CI - "working to conserve Uaxactun through the
development of ecotourism".......I can just see it now.
Pues, Mac Chapin showed the Map he recently did for Nat Geo, I assume
y'all have seen it. Quite interesting. A map of Mesoamerica showing
Ethnic/Lingusitic distributions on one side, and the state of the forest
on the other.
Mac said "the one over-riding trend we see across the isthmus is
FRAGMENTATION". And he was candid about that being very much the case
within the Indigenous lands being managed by local/native peoples. He
detailed the fragmentation ocurring in Mexican Lacandon. Wow. massive.
However, to really ride this train o' thought, y'all may want to check
out the recent article by Bill Weinberg in the May/June issue of NACLA,
Volume XXXVI, No. 6, entitled "Mexico: Lacandon Selva Conflict Grows".
Interestingly, it has the subtitle: "In Mexico's Lacandon jungle, poor
settlers claim environmentalists are aiding government counterinsugency
and development plans".
Hmmmm. Not us. But, w/ no rule of law not jack shit will ever be saved.
A dilemma to say the least. Now I wonder.....are they "settlers"....or
"invaders". Which is it. That word says it all, and if one supports the
notion of national land dedicated to conservation...well....it seems to
me it should be illegal to independently "settle" national land esp. if
there are no prior land claims or standing.
So....as pressure mounted throughout the fire season and the increasing
invasions of conservation lands, I screamed and screamed until finally I
travelled to Guatemala to present the case of the MBR to the Ambassador
of the UN (MINUGUA), Mr. Tom Koenigs. Very interesting discussion with
the head of a mission often accused of protecting Human (ie Invader's)
Rights over the need to uphold the rule of law (ie. According to the
law, invasions of national park land are illegal, and this land can not
be bought or sold for personal gain). Ironically, I had, at that time,
been marching with the Gua military and police looking for invaders, to
have a dialogue with them, and make it clear that they would not be
allowed to settle in these park areas, despite having cut and torched
the areas already. We were telling them they would go to jail if they
remain. After the dialogue with Mr. Koenigs, I felt satisfied that
indeed the UN supports the UNESCO-recognized Maya Biosphere
Reserve.....(a relief indeed)...as a site of world importance. And we
convinced him that the UN needed to update their land conflict
classification scheme to include a category which more accurately
reflects the current situation: ALL OUT ARMED INVASIONS.
Then, two weeks ago the US Ambassador came to visit. I guided an
overflight with the Gov of Peten, the Ambassador and all his staff,
Marie Claire, personnel of CONAP Peten, etc etc....we stuck all their
noses right in the worst of it all, open borders, the Usu river, the
Cenotes and the Macabilero area, all the invasions in Lacandon and
Laguna del Tigre, the huge illegal and untouchable (narco) cattle
ranches around Laguna Mendoza (SW Lacandon), the NEW narco landing strip
chopped right next to the Guayacan lagunas in NE Lacandon, and tons and
tons of burned forest, finally ending with a view of intact forest
around Tikal and Uaxactun.
A high impact flight. We discussed with him our concerns re the dam, re
the PPP road or Mundo Maya passing from Tikal to Uaxactun to Mexico. And
we suggested that if a big artery is needed to communicate the Peten to
Mexico, then it would make the most sense (environmentally) to place it
where the road is planned for El Naranjo/El Ceibo, at the corner between
Laguna del Tigre and Lacandon....that entire area is already trashed as
it is. Mitigation would be needed, but the risk of env. catastrophe
there would certainly be lower. Al fin, the Amb pledged support for our
efforts. It seemed sincere. FYI, this man is a career diplomat....he
obviously must toe the line on some things, such as the policies in
middle east and Iraq, but he is a life long birder, and lover of nature.
Was in Peru as US Amb during the fall of Fujimori....read into this that
he is a strong Ambassador, and has been sent to Gua to solve problems. I
wish him the best....he certainly has his work cut out for him. Now that
Nicaragua is being cleansed by the Saintly President Enrique
Bolanyos....with Aleman in jail (!!!!), Guatemala is clearly the biggest
bruise remaining on America's sexy thin wasteline.
Regarding the Jaguar study, we are kicking it off this month. Joe is
headed to Peten today, and will start mapping the Macabilero area next
week I believe. I am trying to purchase and transport to Peten some
camera traps, and we expect to start trapping in mid August or Sept.
Some small delays, but still on track. We expect to execute 3 separate
2-month trapping sessions over the span of a year, say from Sept 2003 -
August 2004. Each 2 month trap session will provide us with a figure for
the number of distinct individual Jaguars detected in the area, this
based on their unique spot patterns. The sessions are limited to 2
months to avoid violating the important assumption that there is no
ex/in-migration from/into the areaduring the time of the study. The
three sessions will be averaged to provide one number which includes
changes in Jag density during different seasons, over time, etc. Some
data on the abundance of game species, deer, game birds, will also be
collected via line transects to allow us to compare the richness of the
Macabilero area with the good data set we already have from line
transects around La Quetzal (UMI), and Los Pozitos, just ENE of Bethel.
So, this is where the Jag study in Macabilero stands, now getting
underway. Will have a lot more information on this in about 4-5 weeks
after returning to Peten and talking to Joe.
Lastly, last week I received a map of the areas to be flooded by the
dams on the Usumacinta. This was a projection made by Joep Luitjen, of
NRDC, and Ari Hershowitz. It shows the impacts according to various dam
heights, per the dam locations selected....one clear thing is that the
Macabilero area where we plan to study Jags would be very very
threatened. I suggest y'all get in touch with Joep (really really great
guy), and ask him for a copy of this map, as well as the map of the
projected deforestation resulting from a highway from Tikal north to
From the report:
Carlos Albacete, director of the environmentalist non-governmental Tropico Verde, noted another observation: "Curiously, if you overlay satellite photos of the heat foci on the map of oil concessions, it turns out that there is a concentration of these red points over the [oil] leasing areas." If these protected lands were already destroyed by fire, oil explorers would have an easier time of it in an anticipated land-use struggle with the environmentalists.
I also received today a shorthand report from Roan McNab, who works in the region with Wildlife Conservation Society. He recently did a flyover with the American Ambassador, other officials, and press. He is quoted in this story from Reuters:
When I saw him in April he was tired and depressed. This message shows him still tired but a bit more optimistic, at least about officials understanding the problems. His note can be found below.
...so fried I can't spell bizzzzy. Amb Hamilton just left, 2 day visit. Flew over MBR [Maya Biosphere Reserve] with emb staff, MCP [Marie-Claire Paiz, director of the Sierra Lacandon National Park] and I detailed the threats to the future of the greatest reserve in Meso region as the Cessna Caravan glided over the burned and unburned zones, Usu river, cenotes, LdT and Macaw habitat, Uaxactun, Tikal. Impact high. Gov of Peten on board, CONAP, Press, all heard MCP's concerns re represa [dam], the impt of the area, jag [jaguar] study, invasions, landing strips. Their own eyes saw. Later Amb made public recog of env leaders, thanked Peten conap for well done job, and lauded the impt of la lucha. Guided birds in Tikal in am, the man loves birds. Good Amb. I have hope for the future. Jag study starts next month with mapping of trails, [camera] trap sites...
Perera, author of "The Last Lords of Palenque: The Lacandon Mayas of the Mexican Rain Forest," helped create the image of the Lacandon as the descendants of the kings of Palenque. Historians such as Jan DeVos disputed this romantic view, arguing that they had migrated to to the Lacandon Forest many centuries after the Maya collapse, from Guatemala and Belize.
Construction won't begin for another year. But yesterday was the real ground-breaking for the future Lower Eastside Girls Club.
Oh, sure, they've done a few test borings to see what's the situation underground. But a hardy group of girls, staff, volunteers, and family began cleaning up the currently empty, city-owned lot yesterday.
We have site control of the whole piece, and a lease on part of it, where this summer there will be a weekly farmer's market and, if all goes well, wireless internet demo. A taste of the future, an open house, a barn-raising, a homestead for the girls of the Lower East Side.
As more settlements have cleared jungle in the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve, the government has failed to act, fearing Zapatista reaction. Now the Lacandon Indians of the area are threatening action on their own.
And throughout the region, including the Peten in Guatemala.
On my trip to Flores, Guatemala, 3 weeks ago I finally met Roan McNab, who is working to protect the jungles of the Peten and the wildlife there. He sent Chris Shaw a dispatch on the current threats to the Maya Biosphere Reserve in the area of the El Peru archaeological site. As he writes, it is a triple threat: scarlet macaw poachers (Guaceros), invaders with guns, and fire.
(full text below - click MORE)
Sent: Saturday, April 26, 2003 7:45 AM
Subject: The battle of El Peru
The story of how biologists held the front line against the advancing barbarians at
the Archaeological site of Wa'ka.
The saga continues.
Jeremy, Rony emerged yesterday. Fires stalled just outside macaw nesting areas. Success there. But they rage still near the Biological station, and near Paso Caballos, many areas are burning hot.
Yesterday a SEPRONA agent was shot, may lose arm, medivaced to Guatemala for operation. That event yielded the capture of two of the amred men in that group, and they carried macaw chicks. Rumor is three. Up to seven armed guys in one group seen shortly before that. Three in another group.
All WCS field personel remain in the site on a voluntary basis. Fighting fires, and guiding all police in the area who do no know the trails. Soon there will be sweeps through the zone, hopefully today.
Calls all day yesterday to get embassy on board. Main reason was to squeeze Gua military to act. Now seem to be. Also, anti-narc police now go in, with Gua military. Many areas just 3-4 km NW of El Peru are cleared but not yet burned.
Triple threat: Guaceros, invaders with guns, and fire.
Our hope is to hold the line at the Rio San Pedro. Lighthawk has been key flying
over this all, spotting invaders camps, trails, fires, narc plane in the vicinity, crashed.
I to El Peru now with conap and the mil. Maybe back tomorrow.
How will presence be maintained? Either that, or we write off El Peru and LdT entirely....for the barbarians.
From the Houston Chronicle, a special report on the Selva Lacandona and the causes of forest destruction.
One member of the Aztlan list wrote a critical response to the article. I am passing along David Hixson's response, in full, below. (Click MORE)
I'm way behind in this weblog, but here's a quick update.
After a visit with Glen and Ellen, who are beginning their exile from Rancho Esmeralda, I was fortunate to take two road trips over the weekend, one to Frontera Corozal to see the new museum and the stelas there, one to Chinikiha, Boca del Cerro and Tenosique. Fellow travelers included David Stuart and his sister Ann, Joel Skidmore (whose Mesoweb site is my inspiration - Thanks, Joel!), Alfonso Morales, Julia Miller, Chris Powell, Ed Barnhart, Alonso Susan Xun and Maxam Mendez, Cathy Kahn and friends Peter and Simon.
It was instructive and enjoyable for us non-professionals to watch the epigraphers and archaeologists decipher the stelas at Frontera and explore the site of Chinikiha. Carnaval in Tenosique was a swirling mass of people in "cornhead" costumes and painted as jaguars, with real pelts. Tenosique was a good warmup for Carnaval in the highlands, which starts later this month, and which I last recorded in 1980 when Lyn and I came down with very early portable video equipment.
Now I have to go back to my room and scratch. The ticks and garapatas at Chinikiha got us all in a big way. How do these Maya explorers do it?
"A hugely ambitious project to find and name every species on Earth within the next 25 years has been launched by scientists. The internet and the development of DNA sequencing technology make the goal achievable, they say."
On Dec. 9, Subcomandante Marcos proposed to ETA, the Basque rebel group in Spain, a unilateral truce to stop the conflict there. They rejected his proposal, with some pointed remarks as to the motivation behind it. The story is below (click MORE).
>Subject: AP,ETA rejects Zapatista truce proposal,Jan 06
>Date: Tue, 7 Jan 2003 06:53:17 +0100
>Armed Basque group rejects Zapatista rebel leader's truce proposal
>Mon Jan 6, 6:45 AM ET
>MADRID, Spain - The armed Basque group ETA has rejected a proposal from
>Mexican rebel leader Subcomandante Marcos to announce a unilateral truce and
>hold a peace conference in an attempt to end separatist violence in Spain's
>restive Basque region.
>"We have serious doubts about the real intention of Marcos's dialogue
>proposal," ETA said in a communique published in Monday's edition of the
>radical Basque daily Gara.
>"It's rather a desperate maneuver to gain international attention by using
>the resonance that everything related to the Basque conflict has," ETA said.
>In a letter published Dec. 9 in Mexican daily La Jornada, Marcos asked ETA
>in the name of his Zapatistas to declare a unilateral truce for a period of
>177 days, beginning on Dec. 24, 2002.
>The truce would lead to a peace conference in the Canary Island of Lanzarote
>"in order to give words a chance", Marcos said in his letter.
>In Mexico, many leftist newspaper columnists and intellectuals have
>criticized Marcos for publicly supporting ETA, which the Spanish government
>blames for terror attacks.
>In Monday's communique, ETA expressed its support for Marcos's fight for
>Indian rights in Mexico's southernmost Chiapas state.
>However, ETA criticized the guerrilla commander for making public his letter
>without advising the Basque group first.
>ETA, which stands for Basque Homeland and Freedom, has killed more than 800
>people in its nearly 35-year campaign of bombings and shootings to try to
>gain independence for the Basque region of northern Spain.
>It is classified as a terrorist group by the European Union (news - web
>sites) and the United States.
Two more articles, about destruction in the Montes Azules reserve, and the planned evictions. Both of these are by Fredy Martín Pérez, published in Universal Online:
Not the massive eviction we've heard rumors about, but 27 squatters, who had been in the Montes Azules reserve a month, agreed to be relocated, according to this Voice of America report.
In NewsMexico.com, another report on Montes Azules eviction rumors.
From Janet, Pablo's reaction to rumors of relocations of communities in Montes Azules reserve, and the NGOs' response to that. Click MORE.
And a link to an article in Reforma:
Dave: Here´s some information about Montes Azules campaign; but it´s a major story
around here this week, with diverse ONGs protesting. After Salazar´s version below,
there is ONGs reactions next.....Also if you check reforma.com in National section
there is other story....best regards, Janet
Comunicado de prensa
18 de diciembre de 2002
No. 070/ Año 3
En Montes Azules, tensión artificial creada por la propaganda: PSM
a.. Nuevas invasiones en el contexto de las conversaciones con asentamientos
b.. Se mantiene el diálogo y la salida política con 36 grupos.
c.. Las nuevas invasiones no están protegidas por la negociación.
Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas.- El gobernador Pablo Salazar Mendiguchía aseguró que
ninguno de los 36 grupos con los que se mantienen conversaciones para su reubicación
o regularización en Montes Azules será desalojado, mucho menos violentamente. Sin
embargo, aclaró que las invasiones hechas hace unas semanas no están protegidas por
la negociación y tendrán un trato distinto.
El gobernador de Chiapas calificó de "tensión artificial" lo que se ha propagado en
algunos medios de comunicación sobre un posible desalojo violento contra los
invasores de la reserva Montes Azules.
En entrevista para un noticiario radiofónico, Salazar Mendiguchía explicó
que el Gobierno del Estado acompaña a las autoridades federales para
resolver este problema mediante el diálogo: "las negociaciones se llevan a
cabo con participación de las autoridades federales, agrarias, del estado y
las organizaciones sociales. Pero, mientras esto se lleva a cabo, y
aprovechando la buena fe de quienes buscamos una salida negociada, otras
cuatro o cinco familias han realizado nuevas invasiones".
El mandatario dijo que el tema de Montes Azules se ha propagandizado. Pablo
Salazar condenó el hecho de que "quienes justifican las ocupaciones no
estuvieron en contra, ni protestaron por el brutal desalojo en Xochimilco.
Lo que vimos fue una apología de la actuación de la autoridad porque se
trataba de una reserva natural protegida que fue invadida ilegalmente. En
ese caso nunca hablaron de pobreza o de necesidad de vivienda. Hay un trato
El gobernador de Chiapas fue categórico en reiterar que no habrá acción de desalojo
y el diálogo continúa con quienes participan en la llamada mesa "ambiental", misma
que desde octubre del 2001 trabaja para dar solución a esta problemática que data,
en algunos casos, de hace más de 20 años.
El gobernador precisó que en la mesa se buscan soluciones como la regularización de
la tierra, la reubicación o la reintegración a la vida económica para los 36 grupos
asentados de manera irregular en la reserva de Montes Azules.
RIESGO DE REACTIVAR LA SALIDA VIOLENTA AL CONFLICTO ARMADO POR EL DESALOJO
PLANEADO EN MONTES AZULES, CHIAPAS.
San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas.
17 de diciembre de 2002
Los organismos civiles, abajo firmantes, manifestamos nuestra fuerte
preocupación por el riesgo de reactivación del conflicto armado en el
estado. Por diversos medios hemos tenido conocimiento del inminente
operativo policiaco - militar que el gobierno federal, en coordinación con
el gobierno del estado, han decidido desarrollar estos próximos días en la
Reserva de la Biosfera Montes Azules (RBMA), con el fin de efectuar
desalojos y ejercer acción penal en contra de habitantes de 9
poblados: Arroyo Aguilar (Ubicado en la Reserva de Lacantún), Sol Paraíso
(Las Ruinas), 8 de febrero, Nuevo Limar, Nuevo Pichucalco, Nuevo San
Andrés, Nuevo Salvador Allende, Nuevo San Rafael, Arroyo San Pablo. La
realización de esta acción policiaco - militar pondría una vez más
en riesgo la paz en la región y en el país, desatando con esto resultados
que nadie puede prever.
La postura del gobierno federal y estatal de urgir el desalojo de
comunidades indígenas asentadas dentro de la RBMA, bajo el pretexto de
implementar políticas ecológicas, desconocen las razones estructurales que
han llevado a cientos de familias a encontrar una alternativa de vida
dentro de la RBMA, y pasa por alto la interrelación entre la población
indígena y su entorno ecológico, así como el derecho a decidir sobre su
territorio y tomar en sus manos la problemática ecológica, como lo
establece el Convenio 169 de la OIT. Y más grave aún es la pretensión
gubernamental de ignorar las causas del conflicto aún vigente con el EZLN.
No somos ajenos a la necesidad preservar los recursos naturales de esta
importante región del país; pero tampoco desconocemos la existencia de
poderosos intereses económicos, nacionales e internacionales, simulados con
preocupaciones científicas para explotar los recursos naturales: minerales,
hidrocarburos, genéticos e hidrológicos dentro de la Biosfera, excluyendo
de las decisiones a las comunidades indígenas.
El "documento oficial" que desarrolla los pasos y condiciones necesarias
para la realización del desalojo, menciona que éste será por vía aérea y
con apoyo de la marina. El día de ayer el periódico La Jornada informa
sobre movimientos militares por aire y tierra en la zona de Margaritas,
Comitán, Maravilla Tenejapa, éstos sin duda hablan del carácter militar
de la supuesta acción de protección de las reservas naturales. Dicho
documento también menciona la necesidad de crear un clima en la opinión
pública a favor del operativo de desalojo, en el que se resalte la
necesidad de mantener el estado de derecho y de proteger los recursos
naturales como patrimonio de la nación. Al respecto baste ver las últimas
declaraciones de los funcionarios de gobierno a nivel federal y estatal que
confirman la decisión oficial tomada y cuyo plan ya está en marcha.
Estas acciones que se prevén en contra de la población indígena de Montes
Azules nos motiva varias preguntas ¿cuál es la intención de fondo del
gobierno federal y estatal al realizar este tipo de acciones policíaco -
militares cuando supuestamente está dialogando en la mesa ambiental? ¿o
será que la provocación y el cierre de los espacios políticos promovidos
por las propias instancias de gobierno es la forma de hacer valer el
supuesto Estado de Derecho? ¿de cuál Estado de Derecho hablamos y a quién
protege cuando hace apenas unos meses se niega una vez más el
reconocimiento constitucional a los derechos de los pueblos indígenas? ¿la
defensa del territorio y la soberanía nacional cómo se entiende desde el
gobierno? ¿de quién se defiende? ¿de sus propios pueblos originarios? ¿es
con este tipo de acciones que se generaran condiciones para reactivar el
proceso de paz?
Hacemos un llamado a:
Gobiernos Federal y Estatal:
· Asumir un compromiso real y de fondo para generar condiciones de paz,
atendiendo las causas estructurales que generaron el conflicto armado.
· Respetar el derecho de las comunidades indígenas a decidir las formas
de protección y defensa de los recursos naturales existentes en el
territorio que éstas habitan, con base a lo establecido en el Convenio 169
de la OIT, y bajo el reconocimiento y aceptación por parte del Estado.
· Revisar y suspender las concesiones de explotación de madera y otros
recursos naturales a empresas privadas nacionales e internacionales.
· Hacer públicos los avances, informes y propuestas que se están dando en
la mesa ambiental.
Congreso de la Unión:
· Asumir su responsabilidad como uno de los poderes del Estado e impedir
que con reformas constitucionales se siga promoviendo el saqueo de los
recursos de la nación, se sigan negando los derechos de los pueblos
indígenas y se ponga cada día más en riesgo la soberanía nacional.
A la sociedad civil nacional e internacional
· Pronunciarse y movilizarse en contra de estos actos policíaco -
militares que violan el derecho de los pueblos indígenas a decidir sobre su
territorio y ponen más obstáculos a la posibilidad de reactivar el proceso
de paz en el país.
CDH Fray Pedro Lorenzo de La Nada, CDH Fran Bartolomé de Las Casas, CIDECI
Las Casas, EDUPAZ, CAPISE, CORECO, COLEM, CIEPAC, Serapaz, Enlace,
Capacitación y Comunicación, AC, Coordinadoras Regionales de Chiapas de la
Sociedad Civil en Resistencia de: Los Altos, Marqués de Comillas, Norte
Selva, Fronteriza, Costa, Centro y Frontera, DESMI, Enlace Civil, CDH
Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez.
Presidencia de la República.
Presidente de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos.
Lic. Vicente Fox Quesada.
Tel: 01 55/ 55 40 30 42
Fax: 01 55/ 55 40 37 13
Secretaría de Gobernación.
Secretario de Gobernación.
Lic. Santiago Creel Miranda
Bucareli 99, 1er Piso.
Col Juárez. C.P. 06699.
Tel. 01 55/ 55 57 11 41; 55 92 05 84
Fax: 01 55/ 55 46 53 50; 57 05 54 65; 55 66 02 45
Pablo Salazar Mendiguchía
Gobernador Constitucional del Estado de Chiapas
Palacio de Gobierno del Estado de Chiapas
Av. Central y Primera Oriente
Colonia Centro, C.P. 29009
Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, México.
Tel. (961) 61 21 093
Fax. (961) 61 20 917
Procuraduría General de la República.
Procurador General de la República.
Gral. Rafael Macedo de la Concha.
Avenida Reforma, esquina Violeta 75
C.P. 06300. México. D.F.
Tel. 01 55/ 53 46 01 08; 53 46 01 09; 53 46 01 66
Fax: 01 55/ 53 46 09 04; 53 46 09 06
Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT)
Secretario de Medio Ambiente
Lic. Victor Lichtinger Waifman
Anillo Periférico no. 4209 Fracc. Jardines de la Montaña
Delegación Tlalpán, CP 14210
Fax 56 28 06 43 y 562806 44
Procuraduría Federal de Protección al Ambiente (PROFEPA)
Procurador de PROFEPA
Camino al Ajusco 200, Col Jardines de la Montaña
Delegación Tlalpán, CP 14210
Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos.
Presidente de la CNDH.
Dr. José Luis Soberanes Fernández.
Periférico Sur 3469
Col San Jerónimo Lidice.
Del Magdalena Contreras. C.P. 10200
Tel: 01 55/ 56 81 81 25; 56 68 49 98
Fax: 01 55/ 56 68 52 29; 56 83 35 65
Did these displacements of communities in the Lacandon selva really happen, as predicted last weekend? Does anyone know anything else about this, or was it a false alarm?
Tim Weiner has a story in the New York Times (free registration required) based on the trip to Lake Miramar we took 2 weeks ago.
Gerry Haddon filed a report with National Public Radio about the Lacandon Selva, based on the trip Chris and I took with him. We get a few soundbites in. Thanks Gerry, and good work!
NPR : Saving the Mexican Rain Forest
This is a view of the future site of the girls club/high school/clinic/cafe/free wireless provider that we are planning to build. The photo was taken from one of the 14-story buildings across Avenue D.
In 2 years, you will see in this space the green roof of the girls club, with antennas tucked in among the plants.
This is a timely and thought-provoking article that deals with an issue I mentioned in a post on wireless bandwidth. But it applies to many current efforts by private interests to claim public resources, including bioprospecting and exploitation of watersheds. It's a story in Boston Review - Reclaiming the Commons.
For the mappers out there, and other users of geographic information, there's a good site with links to all types of GIS software and Geo-Data - FreeGIS.
This by way of Doc Searls' weblog. Actually, by way of his readers, who sent the info in response to his call for help.