First Friday Picture Show: Maya Resilience by Kristina Baines

Recycled Minds Picture Show
by Kristina Baines on June 7, 2013

~ Keep Moving ~
Turning sesame seeds toasting on the firehearth.

Our June 2013 Picture Show is by Kristina Baines, an ecological/medical anthropologist who has been taking, developing, and thinking about photos for over 20 years.  She has a strong interest in corn, how what we do in our environment makes us well, and using innovative methods to make anthropology relevant and accessible to a wide audience.  You can find out more about how these interests translate into projects and pursuits at or by contacting her at   

~ Simiona's Shop ~
Rice to be sold if the mill is buying.
I made this set of photographs in 2011 while I was living in Santa Cruz, Belize conducting my dissertation research. A traditional Mopan Maya village in many ways, Santa Cruz continues to be in flux, its residents actively negotiating the changes brought about by new opportunities and stressors - road paving, new schools, changing politics… These photos capture both the adaptability and the resilience of the community’s residents, and their landscape, to these changes, highlighting the subtleties, and beauty, of everyday life that continues in their midst.

Continue Reading to view the rest of Kristina's show. 
We asked Kristina to say a few words about some of her photographs:

~ Dualities ~ 
Dualities ~ Work is a critical part of everyday life in Maya communities.  In this shot, Tomatilla is sewing a basket out of the jippy jappa palm while her husband, Renato, sharpens his machete.  While both jobs are associated with their gender, both are critical to the livelihood of the family.  Making this kind of basket for sale to passing tourists is one of the few ways cash is brought into subsistence farming households in this areas and represents a recasting of a relatively recent activity as traditional.  I was sitting next to the door of their home chatting with them both when I was struck by the balance and equality represented in the contrasts of the scene and snapped the photo.  

~ Our Corn ~
Our Corn ~ Dietary staple and traditional symbol, corn is the center of daily activities in Santa Cruz.  Corn is planted twice a year and brought to the home from the fields in sacks throughout the many months following.  This shot captures a small sack of “green corn”- the special first harvest before the corn dries and is brought home to be made into tortillas.  I liked how the corn is highlighted and elevated against the immaculately-swept mud floor of a traditional Maya house and how the images captures the way in which activities and objects within houses are always lit from the side- the intense tropical sun flooding in through the doors of an otherwise dark, cool thatched home.  When I saw this photo, I felt the transition from walking in the heat from the plantation to collapsing to rest in a hammock in the cool shade of the house.

~ Heart on the Outside ~ 
Heart on the Outside ~ My friends gave me a lot of hassle when I first showed them this shot but I think it captures an important aspect of emotion in Santa Cruz.  For days after this chicken was run over by a passing truck, it lay there in the middle of the road as a reminder of the potential dangers of the impending road paving project.  Chickens and pigs roam free in Santa Cruz and are vital sources of food and income.  Greater than this loss of income, fears for the safety of the village children and the loss of traditional Maya practices as a result of the paved road seemed to be caught up in this scene.

Enjoy the rest of the show, and remember to check out Cool Anthropology for more about Kristina's work.

~ Mother's Work ~
A freshly killed hen ready for preparing caldo.

~ I Love You ~
A list of items in Susana's shop

 ~ Save the Seed ~
Susano's corn seeds are handed down through generations.

~ Ritual Speak ~
A pig tongue from an animal killed to feed workers helping to plant corn- working together
is a critical part of Maya heritage practice and every part of the animal is eaten.

 ~ I Love You 2 ~
Florentina's arm reflects her heart.

~ Family ~
An extended family poses outside a traditional thatch house.

~ Encircled by Corn ~
Girls play with the cobs after the work of shelling corn.

~ Waiting ~
Cousins make a rare trip for a family wedding.

~ Sucking Cacao ~
Pods are cracked open and the soft white flesh is sucked off the seeds,  which are later 
fermented, roasted, and ground to make kukuh- a traditional chocolate drink. 

~ Juanita in Purple ~
Yams prepared for boiling.
~ Over the Maya Mountains ~
The farm and the forest coexist in the lowlands of Belize.
~ Sunset on Life Before ~
Paving the road to the Guatemalan border.
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  1. stunning photo essay ... thank you for a Friday treat!

  2. Anonymous1:39 PM

    Beautiful! I love the story behind the dead chicken photo.

  3. Anonymous12:15 PM

    I love the shots! What a great educational photographic post. Dr Baines has captured the spirit of Santa Cruz.

  4. Anonymous12:55 PM

    Great shots!

  5. The photo of the woman and her tattoo is somehow powerful. All of the photos capture something of the place. Thanks for sharing these.


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