Commons Management Among the Q'eqchi' Maya: Social Networks, Migratory Patterns, and Ecological Knowledge

EPA Grant Number: U915230
Title: Commons Management Among the Q'eqchi' Maya: Social Networks, Migratory Patterns, and Ecological Knowledge
Investigators: Kockelman, Paul D.
Institution: University of Chicago
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: October 1, 1997 through October 1, 2000
Project Amount: $102,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (1997) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Biology/Life Sciences , Fellowship - Anthropology


The objective of this research project is to access how the Q'eqchi' Maya, who are recent immigrants to the tropical lowlands of Northern Guatemala, utilize common resource pools, such as the rainforest, in comparisoned to other immigrants and long-term dwellers sharing the same biotope.


Recent work examines the collection of a tree- sap known as copal among the Q'eqchi' Maya who are recent immigrants to the tropical lowlands of Northern Guatemala. Although used in ceremonies and collected for exchange by the Q'eqchi' for many centuries in their original highland homeland of Alta Verapaz, it is only relatively recently that they have realized the magnitude of its collection for subsequent sale. has iIn some cases, this has surpassed all other economic practices except swidden-based, or milpa, agriculture, causing a realignment in ceremonial, social, and economic relations. Much of this realignment is related to large-scale changes in which the Q'eqchi' are implicated, such as demographic pressure on the limited and rapidly decreasing lowland resources, the recent commodification of forest products by NGOs,, state and local emphasis on state and local emphasis on previously unpatrolled boundaries, and more- extensive patterns of Q'eqchi'- internal exchange fromdue to improved infrastructure, dispersed land- holdings, and scattered kinship relations along the migration- trail. Nevertheless, there has been a wide variety of responses among the Q'eqchi' that create, augment, or maintain locally distinctive practices concerning copal within both pecuniary and ritual realms.

This selective description and analysis focuses then on the shifting liaisons—or public, intersubjective, intentional relations—between copal and Q'eqchi', as. This is manifested in temporal and spatial shifts of production practices, extensions and realignments of social and exchange relations, variations in the linguistic forms used to refer to copal and its predicate qualities, about it, and alterations in the ends, means, and practitioners of ceremonies and prayers. By characterizing the path along which copal moves in terms of such liaisons, this work examines deformations in this path as a function of local interactions with, and interpretations of, recent events and long-term processes.

Expected Results:

As a function of highland-grounded ecological knowledge, social networks, and valuation schemata, lowland-use of commons resources is are conditioned. This conditioning interacts with historical migration, and governmental and non-governmental interventions, in relatively predictable ways.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, Q'eqchi' Maya, commons management, eco-tourism, migration, ecological knowledge, rainforest, Guatemala., RFA, Economic, Social, & Behavioral Science Research Program, Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, Anthropology, decision-making, Ecology and Ecosystems, International, Economics & Decision Making, agroforestry, biodiversity, copal, community based environmental planning, ecotourism, environmental impact comparison, socioeconomics, Guatemala, demographics, allocation of public good, bioeconomic model, changing environmental conditions, rainforest ecosystem, conserving ecosystem integrity

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1998
  • 1999
  • Final