Flows and divisions in the Selva Maya, from sacbeob to the Maya Train

Authors: John Kelly*, University of Wisconsin - La Crosse
Topics: Immigration/Transnationalism, Cultural and Political Ecology, Middle America
Keywords: Maya, borders, roads, railroads
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 3:55 PM / 5:35 PM
Room: Senate Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The lowland Selva Maya is a triangle-shaped geomorphological and biogeographical region at the heart of the landmass comprising the Yucatan Peninsula, Chiapas state, Guatemala, and Belize. Its human history of flows, links, and borders reveals recurring tensions between its essential unity (oriented mainly north-south) and periodic, persistent divisions (oriented mainly east-west). This story is told through past, present, and future: the Tikal-Calakmul wars of the Late Classic Maya era; the demarcation of the Mexico-Guatemala border in 1902, dividing Petén from what became the Calakmul settlement frontier; the construction of Highway 186, around 1950; and now an infrastructure initiative of the new Mexican federal administration of López Obrador: the Tren Maya (Maya Train), a tourism-focused rail link paralleling the highway. The region as a frontier and as a node is considered within larger-scale flows and divisions, including Central American migrants as a political touchstone in recent US political rhetoric.

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