Belize’s relations with Guatemala have been complicated, and often bitter, for many reasons, going back hundreds of years. As recently as twenty or thirty years ago there were real concerns that Guatemala might invade Belize, which Guatemala has never really recognized as a nation–Guatemala has always claimed that most of the land in BZ belongs to Guatemala.
And then there’s the invasion by looters and poachers.
If you have about half an hour, this 2009 documentary about an expedition exposing the looting and poaching issues in Belize’s Chiquibul Preserve is very well done, even if you don’t catch but 10 minutes to get a grasp of what’s at stake.
Following the vid is a more recent report of an exhibition that exposes the issues with Guatemala from Tony Rath, a world-class photographer . . .
Poor people from Guatemala’s poorest regions aren’t just crossing the border into the U.S.
They’ve been sneaking into the rainforests of Belize Chiquibul Park for years, looting and stealing and destroying the fragile environment and its exotic birds and wildlife.
Tony Rath, a trained marine biologist and longtime adventurist, is a world-renowned photographer and videographer who first visited Belize in 1979 and took up permanent residency here in 1988.
His gorgeous photos and underwater videos of all the natural wonders of Belize never cease to impress and astound.
He’s also not too shabby a writer.
He recently penned an essay, complete with a package of photos, about his participation in a reconnaissance expedition into Belize’s Chiquibul National Park–that natural wonderland that is under siege by neighboring Guatemalens living in utter poverty who are essentially raping the land and stealing Belizean treasures to cash in on them.
“The rangers,” Tony explains in his reporting, “call them “Xateros”–poverty stricken people from Guatemala risking everything to harvest fronds from the xate (pronounced shatay) palm tree for the floral industry.
“Wikipedia says 400 million xate stems are exported to North America and Europe every year. Populations of the palm in Mexico and Guatemala have been over collected, so now Xateros illegally cross the border from Guatemala to cut the abundant leaf in Belize. But as we observed, xate is only one resource under pressure from the Xateros. Picture a pristine landscape defiled by illegal logging; looting of archaeological sites; extraction of gold; hunting of wildlife; harvesting scarlet macaw chicks for the pet trade; milpa farming; marijuana plantations and even survey lines complete with fluorescent-tip orange stakes.”
Here’s what Tony was up to on this expedition:
“I was taking part in a reconnaissance expedition into the deepest part of the Chiquibul National Park (Chiquibul) to lay the groundwork for a larger expedition next year. The Chiquibul is the largest protected area in Belize covering more than 265,000 acres of tropical broadleaf forests in the southern Cayo District. To the east lies the nearly 150,000 acre Chiquibul Forest Reserve, and to the south is the 100,000 acre Bladen Nature Reserve. The great Maya site of Caracol lies in the middle of the park. Doyle‘s Delight, the highest point in Belize (3675 feet), occurs on the southern edge of the park. The Chiquibul is also home to one of the last nesting sites of the scarlet macaw in Belize. And an estimated 540,000-square-foot Chiquibul Cave System, the largest in Belize and the longest in Central America, is a treasure trove of geological and archaeological wonders. In 2007, the Belize Forest Department and a local non-governmental organization (NGO) – Friends of Conservation and Development (FCD) – entered into a co-management agreement signifying for the first time an actual management of this unique and pristine landscape.”
Read the whole report, complete with those fabulous photos the master takes, here–it was quite an adventure.