With the Bees and Maize
This book focuses on resistance and revitalization of native Mayan culture in Yucatan, Mexico, in the context of threats posed to Maya peoples' ways of life by the industrial agriculture and mega tourism. While most events, processes, and narratives that I analyze take place or have been produced in 21st century, my understanding is informed by the Maya pre-colonial and colonial history, with which I dialogue all along my book. My book explores an inspiring and culturally defining Mayan relationships with milpa, a traditional crop polyculture, and with bees; the Apis bees that produce honey for export, and more intimately, the sacred stingless bees, Meliponas that the Maya have kept for thousands of years. To explain how these relationships are defining individual lives and how they have become instrumental in the revival of Maya culture, I structure the book around the life stories of two Mayan activists. Leydy Pech was awarded the 2020 Goldman Environmental Prize for leading a beekeepers’ coalition that opposed the planting of genetically engineered soy to protect the health of humans and bees alike. The second protagonist of my book, Bernardo Caamal, a grower, activist and radio host, devoted his life to popularizing milpa (Maya culture of growing maize), and to encouraging the Maya people to stay on their land. While I tell stories of the struggles for Maya cultural survival by each of my main characters, I bring the context of the millennial culture of the Maya, history of their resistance against the colonization, as well as art that reflect on the Mayan relationships with bees and maize.
My book shows how and why these relationships are fundamental for the cultural survival of the Maya and argues that reviving relationships with environments constitute a possible point of departure for the decolonization of the native lands.