Maya Land Rights

Maybe there is some hope to be had for this world. In a surprising and exciting ruling, the Belize Supreme Court gave recognition of land ownership to Maya communities in the southern-most district of Toledo. These communities have been living for generations on what has been public land since the days of colonial British rule, and now that oil has been discovered in the area, there has been great fear that they would be forcibly removed. That crisis seems to have been averted. The added bonus is that indigenous rights seem to be making some headway after lifetimes of oppression and marginalization. From Survival International:
‘It is evident that the Maya claimants rely on agriculture, hunting, fishing and gathering for their physical survival. It is also clear that the land they traditionally use and occupy plays a central role in their physical, cultural and spiritual existence and vitality,’ said Chief Justice Abdulai Conteh.
He ordered that the government of Belize must, ‘determine, demarcate and provide official documentation of Santa Cruz’s and Conejo’s [two Mayan villages] title and rights in accordance with Maya customary law and practices’. He also ordered the government not to carry out any logging, mining or other resource exploitation projects on the Mayans’ land.
Read the rest of the article...

Check out the Belize Reports for another take on this story from someone who is there on the ground, working in Toledo as a teacher for the U.S. Peace Corps. It's also an interesting blog that offers a peek into life with the Maya in the "forgotten district."
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  1. very cool. do you think the presence of oil will have any effects on the Maya communities there? I mean, is the oil going to be drilled?

  2. well... it sounds like the oil drillers are going to be held out at bay for now. it's another one of those deals where the amount of oil there is probably equal to a week or so of demand in the US.

    Another point of interest is that the crude oil (what comes directly out of the ground) could be used without refinement in diesel engines. So Belize could supply its own populace with very cheap gas/oil. This would be great for any developing nation, but of course if it's going to come out of the ground though, it's going to be exported. Just another sad example of the warped world we live in...

  3. If you would like to see more details of the case ruling, here's a link to an article from a Belize newspaper:


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