Defending the Selva Maya Urban Park, Petén

Christian Chacón Gallardo 

The defense of territory is a necessity that arises from colonialism and its consequences.
Colonization has played an important role in the distribution and use of land and has spread a
worldview and practices that ignore the vital relationships between people and nature. While
colonialism initially used mostly direct violence to privatize communal lands, the post-colonial
strategy created an institutionalized structure that justifies, legitimizes and conceals the violent
mechanisms of land appropriation by hegemonic groups.

Regardless of the strategy used, colonialism has built a legacy of genocide, ecological destruction
and dehumanization, based on the dispossession of land and exploitation of people that affects
the population in different ways. How does this reality affect women? Available data show the
negative impact of this model of natural resource exploitation on women's living conditions, the
increase in gender inequality, discrimination, and the restriction of access to resources such as
land, technology, financial services and education.

These global dynamics occur at the local level, such as in the Selva Maya urban park, located
between the Colonias: La Primavera, La Moderna and Nueva Santa Elena, in Flores, Petén. Selva
Maya Park was declared a natural reserve by the municipality in 2019 to prevent mining
exploitation in an area of great biological diversity. However, the pandemic halted the
administrative process and to date there is no legal backing for the municipal agreement, so the
threat to the area´s natural resources remains.

“Women and girls, healthy and empowered”

Given this, and aware of the key role of women in the defense of the territory, Fundación para el
Ecodesarrollo y la Conservación (FUNDAECO), through its program "Mujer y niña, sanas y
empoderadas" (Women and girls, healthy and empowered), and the Instituto de Acción Creativa
(Institute for Creative Action), implemented a Creative Advocacy Practice. These practices seek to
strengthen connections between people and the environment, based on the experiences and
knowledge of the communities involved and through the creative use of the arts as a
methodological tool.

By implementing activities such as Collective Soundscape, Mask of Purpose, Images on the Wall
and other playful dynamics, causes and impacts of environmental problems were analyzed, as well
as possible actions and commitments that the group can assume in favor of the defense of the
territory. Also, during a visit to the park, we talked about the ecotourism potential of the area and
learned about plans to protect the park's biodiversity.
With the accompaniment of artist Josué Reyes, the group chose the central messages of the
community art project and defined the theatrical public intervention and the parade as means of

It was agreed that the presentation would highlight the cycles and interconnections of nature,
symbolically represented in the transition of day and night, the movements of pollinators and their
interactions with other beings.

The work was presented on the island, and later, playful parades were held in the main streets of
the communities, where the ecological importance of the natural reserves was discussed and the
leadership role that women play in the defense of the territory was made visible.

At the end of the project, the group emphasized that by conserving the Selva Maya park,
possibilities arise to promote environmental education and generate jobs, strengthening the
technical and economic resources of local women and girls. Likewise, the team emphasized that
this type of methodologies, when arising from dialogue, reflection and commitment of those who
participate, favors the generation of actions in favor of the population and its environment.

Christian Chacón Gallardo, Coordinator of Field Projects, Instituto de Acción Creativa.