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What does Maya customary land rights mean to the Maya?

Posted: Saturday, February 12, 2022. 10:34 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Presenters have framed the ongoing struggle for Maya customary land rights in the Toledo District as less of an offensive and more of a defensive reaction to years of depredation.

According to historian Filiberto Penados, the Maya particularly in the Toledo District have a long and natural relationship with land and how it is used. For them it is a personal, spiritual connection transcending mere Western ideas of “ownership.”

As such, communal land title is less about who owns the land and more about what is done with it.

Maya leaders tell us that they have and will continue to adapt to modern times with reference to their history as a people. Thus, communal land title encompasses recognition of family inheritance, outsider intervention and other concepts.

What the Maya primarily ask for, said spokesperson Christina Coc, is to work together with Government and third parties in good faith. Under the FPIC protocol, communities will listen to information given to them about proposed projects, and decide for themselves whether such projects will be allowed, or disallowed.

There is also a role for the Toledo Alcaldes Association (TAA) in situations where activities in one village may impact others.

Coc described “concentric circles” of land use in villages such as San Benito Poite, radiating outward from the center of the village to encompass individual houses, farming, fishing, and hunting grounds. The future policy of the Government and of villages will recognize this and adapt to activity on the ground.


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