Sacred Commons, Cultural Reforestation, and Climate Resilience: The Autonomous Indigenous Communities of Petén, Guatemala

Liza Grandia

September 10, 2019

The speaker is seated at a table with a presentation on screen behind them, at the front of a large crowd with their backs to the camera.

Event Description

There is an abundant literature on the tropical “d’s”—deforestation, degradation, and destruction—with very little attention to the “r’s”— recovery, regeneration, and reforestation. With state-governed parks ravaged by wildfires, poachers, and narco-traffickers, and their own communities splintered by land grabs and other political challenges, an indigenous peasant movement in northern Guatemala is building a more inclusive vision of conservation, from the grassroots. On land that Q’eqchi’ communities call xeel (“leftovers”), village elders and leaders have reconstituted communal governance through the declaration of “autonomous indigenous communities.” In this talk, Grandia will describe the Q’eqchi’ vision to reclaim sacred lands and reforest them with spiritually important species for climate resiliency.


Liza Grandia is a cultural anthropologist and Associate Professor of Native American Studies at UC Davis. She is director of the Indigenous Research Center of the Americas at UC Davis.