A garden experiment revisited: Inter-generational change in environmental perception and management of the Maya Lowlands, Guatemala

Olivier Le Guen*, Rumen Iliev, Ximena Lois, Scott Atran, Douglas L. Medin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study reports ethnographic and experimental analyses of inter-generational changes in native Itza' Maya and immigrant Ladino populations of Guatemala's Petén rainforest concerning understanding of ecological relationships between plants, animals, and humans, and the perceived role of forest spirits in sustaining these relationships. We find dramatic changes in understanding ecological relationships and the perceived role of forest spirits. Itza' Maya conceptions of forest spirits (arux) are now more often confounded with Ladino spirits (duendes), with Itza' spirits no longer reliably serving as forest guardians. These changes correlate with a shift in personal values regarding the forest, away from concern with ecologically central trees and towards monetary incentives. More generally, we describe how economic, demographic, and social changes relate to the loss of a system of beliefs and behaviours that once promoted sustainable agro-forestry practices. These changes coincide with open access to common pool resources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)771-794
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Volume19
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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