Mexico's Lacandon Jungle Under Development Pressure
Joshua Partlow covers a growing conflict in the Lacandon Jungle of Mexico. As Partlow describes, "The Lacandon Jungle is the largest forest of its kind in North America and the most biodiverse ecosystem in Mexico." Partlow summarizes that in 1971 the Mexican government gave the land to the Lacandon Community (comprising the Lacandons, Tzeltales, and Choles), and a couple of years later, declared a Montes Azules (Blue Mountain) Biosphere Reserve over the area. As is the case with national parks and preserves in Mexico, the government does not own the preserve, but governs its use.
As Partlow notes, the use restriction has been a source of conflict as tribes seek to accommodate their growth. "As tribal populations have grown and more landless farmers have pushed into the jungle, the boundaries of the reserve and the rules governing its use have become matters of dispute. Illegal settlements have eaten away hundreds of square miles of the Lacandons' original territory." Per Partlow, the land dispute is also tied to the kidnapping of Julia Carabias, a former Mexican environmental secretary and biologist conducting research and promoting preservation of the area.
The tribes themselves are divided on the issue. Partlow adds, "[Of the Lacandon Community,] The Lacandons are the smallest group, but they also own the bulk of the land. Most of them support...protecting the forest. But they also recently lost the leadership of the governing body that ostensibly represents them."