Statement for Photos 1-3
In the Maya village of Yaxunah, farmers prepare unexcavated pyramids for planting, banana trees envelop the shell of a Catholic church, and nature does not exist in the local language. Rather, the lexicon allows the forest to penetrate the village, fields to fill forests, and stories to rustle from trees. Campesinos foster biodiversity with a system of shifting agriculture, employing hundreds of words for soil and corn to enrich land that would otherwise bake in the tropical sun.
During fieldwork, I became intrigued by the ways the Maya language was entangled with environmental knowledge. As in much of the world, human-environmental relationships are shifting rapidly. Some children speak Mayan in mornings and evenings, or when they visit the shaman for a cure, but most days are spent speaking Spanish in a cinderblock school. Meanwhile, state development programs encourage population concentration, pushing ecological limits while limiting accessible land. In the village, the flap of feathers and hum of honeybees are accompanied by electronic music booming from thatched-roof huts. Reconciling the cycles of agricultural life and language with the rhythms, pressures, and values of modernity will indelibly shape the people and the environment of the Yucatán in the years to come.
Los Padres National Forest
Bicycling on the U.S. Mexico Border