Cartographic Aggression and Education: A Study of the Belize-Guatemala Border Dispute

Authors: Kevin Bean*, University of Massachusetts - Amherst
Topics: Geography Education, Latin America, Political Geography
Keywords: Belize, Guatemala, Borders, Caribbean, Cartography
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The border between Belize and Guatemala is one of the oldest and best known territorial disputes in Central America and the Caribbean. Parallels can be drawn between this conflict and the Guyana Esequiba dispute between Guyana and Venezuela as well as the Tigri Area/New River Triangle dispute between Guyana and Suriname. Yet as these disputes continue with no clear end in sight Guatemala has recently increased pressure through legal and political means to reach a meaningful conclusion. In 2018 after a national referendum, the nation agreed to elevate the dispute to the International Criminal Court at The Hague. This move follows a series of instances where Guatemala’s government agencies and school curricula began implementing maps which support historic claims to land which is today controlled by Belize, a clear act of cartographic aggression. This term refers to a practice wherein a nation produces a map which show that nation’s aspirations or claims but usually does not reflect the reality on the ground. One famous example is historic Iraqi maps showing Kuwait as a part of their nation. In order gauge what impact these maps and lesson plans have on Guatemalan expatriates and persons of Guatemalan heritage a survey of the Guatemalan community in Southern New England was conducted in the spring of 2019. While their responses only represent a small snapshot of the larger Guatemalan community their views speak volumes about how they view the dispute and in turn how they want their nation perceived on the world stage.

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