This extract from the Facebook page of Mani Ridgley shows how the reality of people’s suffering may be artistically represented through words accompanied by a few visual images.
Even amongst the wild beauty of rural Guatemala, the magnificence of La Ceiba has captivated human imagination for thousands of years. It was the tree of life for ancient Maya, their axis mundi that connected earthly beings with the spiritual realms. Its mystical significance has been passed down through generations of Maya, preserved in narratives that emphasise profound affinities between all elements in the natural world.
Today, these sacred trees stand in the heartlands of extractive capitalism, rooted in the plantations of rich landowners of European descent. The privatisation of land swept Guatemala during the late-1800s coffee boom when the state sold swathes of traditionally Maya territory to wealthy immigrants, many German and British, for coffee production.
Attempts at land redistribution in the 1950s by a democratically elected government were thwarted by a CIA-backed military coup. Today, 65% of land is owned by 2.5% of commercial producers.
The Ceiba trees pictured above stand tall within a vast palm oil plantation in the Polochic Valley. Out of fear or respect for local Maya, plantation owners often leave Ceiba trees standing whilst decimating the surrounding ecosystem.
These palm plantations notoriously suck water away from local villages whilst wrecking the natural equilibrium that once evolved in harmony with indigenous groups. Ironically, private property signs dotted around the plantations remind the local Maya to care for their environment.
The signs also prohibit the impoverished locals from hunting or fishing. To feed their families, they are dependent on employment from the plantation owners. Those ‘lucky’ enough to have a full-time job work 50 hours a week for a minimal wage. In a month, Guatemala will hold national elections, but there is little optimism that government will effect change. Exploiting land and people is common sense for Guatemalan elites.
The future of our planet may depend upon the ancestral Maya understanding of humans being in nature, but for now, at least, it is business as usual.
Below is a wonderful presentation regarding the fact that suffering is a universal condition of the human race until such time as it is realised that the answer to our quandary lies in our own hands.
This is why I write.