Conservation, Cattle, and Commerce Among the Q'eqchi' Maya Lowlanders

Liza Grandia
Foreword by K. Sivaramakrishnan

  • Published: March 2012
  • Subject Listing: Native American and Indigenous Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 304 pp., 38 illus., 6 x 9 in.
  • Series: Culture, Place, and Nature
  • Contents

This impassioned and rigorous analysis of the territorial plight of the Q'eqchi Maya of Guatemala highlights an urgent problem for indigenous communities around the world - repeated displacement from their lands. Liza Grandia uses the tools of ethnography, history, cartography, and ecology to explore the recurring enclosures of Guatemala's second largest indigenous group, who number a million strong. Having lost most of their highland territory to foreign coffee planters at the end of the 19th century, Q'eqchi' people began migrating into the lowland forests of northern Guatemala and southern Belize. Then, pushed deeper into the frontier by cattle ranchers, lowland Q'eqchi' found themselves in conflict with biodiversity conservationists who established protected areas across this region during the 1990s.

The lowland, maize-growing Q'eqchi' of the 21st century face even more problems as they are swept into global markets through the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) and the Puebla to Panama Plan (PPP). The waves of dispossession imposed upon them, driven by encroaching coffee plantations, cattle ranches, and protected areas, have unsettled these agrarian people. Enclosed describes how they have faced and survived their challenges and, in doing so, helps to explain what is happening in other contemporary enclosures of public "common" space.
Liza Grandia is assistant professor of Native American studies at UC Davis.

"Liza Grandia connects global economics, local livelihoods, and concerns for cultural survival in a way few writers manage to do. Enclosed makes transparent the social processes underpinning tropical deforestation, entrenched poverty, and the vulnerabilities created by global capital."
-Nora Haenn, author of Fields of Power, Forests of Discontent: Culture, Conservation and the State of Mexico

"A compelling read and a significant scholarly contribution to our understanding of indigenous communities dealing with the destructive but also seductive penetration of global corporate interests."
-Eugene Hunn, author of A Zapotec Natural History: Trees, Herbs, and Flowers, Birds, Beasts, and Bugs in the Life of San Juan Gbee

Foreword by K. Sivaramakrishnan
Q'eqchi' Language and Orthography
Notes on Measurements

Introduction: Commons Past

1. Liberal Plunder: A Recurring Q'eqchi' History

2. Maya Gringos: Q'eqchi' Lowland Migration and Territorial Expansion

3. Commons, Customs, and Carrying Capacities: The Property and Population Traps of the Peten Frontier

4. Speculating: The World Bank's Market-Assisted Land Reform

5. From Colonial to Corporate Capitalism: Expanding Cattle Frontiers

6. The Neoliberal Auction: The PPP and the DR-CAFTA

Conclusion: Common Features


"Insightful, comprehensive, and authoritative . . . Grandia has made a significant contribution to environmental anthropology and to our understanding of neoliberalism and contemporary land and labor issues in Latin America."
-Molly Doane, Anthropological Quarterly, Vol. 86(2)

"The book is well crafted and clearly written . . . a significant contribution to environmental anthropology and as an important ethnography about the Q'eqchi'."
-Sean S. Downey, Current Anthropology, June 2013

"Grandia revela cómo la historia de las luchas de los q'eqchi's contra el cercamiento de sus tierras puede contribuir a una mayor comprensión de los cercamientos de las tierras comunales a favor de las empresas en todo el mundo."
-Kurt Holder, Mesoamerica, Winter 2013

"[Grandia] insists, 'erosion of the commons is never inevitable'; it can always be defended and it can be rebuilt. This book and its Spanish version are powerful means to those ends."
-Bonnie McCay, Polar Book reviews, February 2013

"This is a passionately written and often angry book, and the conclusion reaches a crescendo of critical outrage. Grandia is personally engaged in working with Q'eqchi' groups seeking to resist the policies and processes that alienate people from the land and the independent livelihoods of small-farming or peasantry. [This book is a] powerful means to those ends."
-Bonnie J. McCay, PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review

"A rich anthropological account of continuity, change, and contestation over vital material and social resources...[with] thought-provoking contributions to debates over the roles and applications of anthropology and anthropologists in the processes they study."
-Sophie Haines, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"Enclosed would be so useful for undergrad and graduate classes in anthropology, geography, history, and sociology....Grandia and the press should be congratulated for producing this important work that will be of great utility for many years to come."
-Sterling Evans, Environmental History

"Enclosed provides a timely and invaluable contribution to our understanding of the contemporary land grab...Grandia's multifaceted and 'historically and geographically situated' analysis is a welcome addition to a literature characterized by varying degrees of depth and vigor....Enclosed is a fascinating and inspiring book whose relevance transcends the Guatemalan and Belizean borders."
-Alberto Alonso-Fradejas, Journal of Peasant Studies