Sacrificing the Forest: Environmental and Social Struggles in Chiapas

By Karen L. O'Brien | Go to book overview

7

Refugees and Rebels

Political Upheavals

The previous chapters have described how the Selva Lacandona has served as a source of rapid capital accumulation, a focus of land speculation, a refuge for displaced and disempowered people, and a political safety valve for concessionary politics. The region has also been affected by political upheavals, which have led to an influx of refugees as well as the militarization of parts of the region. These upheavals have had an impact on the region's social and production relations, as well as on its ecology.

The first upheaval was related to the guerrilla war in Guatemala, which sent thousands of peasants across the political border into Mexico between 1980 and 1985. The presence of these refugees increased the population in the forest as well as the amount of the land under cultivation, particularly in Las Margaritas and the Marqués de Comillas region of Ocosingo. Moreover, the availability of cheap labor allowed many Mexican campesinos to expand production of marketoriented crops. Although the presence of refugees has declined as a result of the United Nations-sponsored repatriation efforts initiated in 1993, a number of Guatemalan refugees continue to live in the Selva Lacandona.

The most recent political upheaval to affect the Selva Lacandona has been the 1994 rebellion by the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN). This military uprising and political rebellion is closely linked to the history of agricultural transformations and the resulting agrarian crisis in Chiapas. The uprising brought not only international attention to the "jungle of Chiapas," but also a heavy military presence. The conflict is based in the western part of the forest, in the municipios of Ocosingo and Las Margaritas, particularly in the subregion of Las Cañadas.

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Sacrificing the Forest: Environmental and Social Struggles in Chiapas
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Tables and Figures viii
  • Preface x
  • Acknowledgments xii
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The Political Ecology of Deforestation 15
  • 3 - Reconfiguring the Selva Lacandona 35
  • 4 - Facilitating Access 61
  • 5 - Agricultural Changes and Continuities 89
  • 6 - Colonizing the Selva 110
  • 7 - Refugees and Rebels 133
  • 8 - Conservation Strategies 152
  • 9 - Sacrificing the Forest 176
  • Notes 185
  • References 190
  • Index 201
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