The birth of the "Sin fuego" people: a case study in Lagunas de Montebello National Park, Chiapas, Mexico

Laura Ponce Calderon, Gabriela Vera Cortés, Guadalupe del Carmen Álvarez Gordillo, Iokine Rodriguez Fernandez, Dante Arturo Rodríguez Trejo, José Villanueva Díaz

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Abstract

Introduction: The objective of this research is to understand the changes in fire use practices of fire use in two indigenous communities located in Lagunas de Montebello National Park, Chiapas, Mexico, where current public policies implementation on fire use suppression have had severe social and ecological repercussions. The wildfire in 1998 has been considered as a breaking point to the changes and tensions that are happening in the region.
Method: We applied 66 semi-structured and in-depth interviews to two rural communities, located inside (Tziscao) and outside (Antela). The topics were about local fire uses and the governmental fire policies incidence over rural communities’ to understand who are they, where are they and how was the birth of the fireless.
Results and discussion: The narratives included different interpretation about practices of fire uses, mainly in agriculture activities, where fire uses were more severely criminalised. The fire suppression policy implementation, after 1998’s big wildfire in the Park, marked a before and after in the territory. Generally, these public policies are opposed to the traditional logic in the use of fire, and they have been generating a disappearance of fire use practices in these rural territories, where communities have historically used the fire for several purposes. Some practices that included the use of fire, such as slash and burn agriculture have entirely disappeared in Tziscao, a community where the fire was a central element of culture, livelihood and a way of building the territory. At present, the inhabitants are afraid to use fire in their practices, due to repercussions for causing fires and the risk of declining tourism. In Antela rural community, which is located outside to the Park and with no economic dependence on tourism, maintains traditional fire practices on farming activities.
Conclusion: If the tendency to suppress fire is maintained, not only will a process of cultural transformation intensify, but also of environmental degradation about to the construction of the territory. More significantly, a dramatic modification of the landscape could trigger more catastrophic wildfires. Thus, the long-term challenge is not to make inviable or exclude fire, is to include it in the maintenance and shaping of the landscape based on the experience and knowledge that peasant communities have, the investigation of available fire ecology, and sensibilise and integrate the government authorities for the formulation of fire management plans that integrate local practices.
Translated title of the contributionThe birth of the "Sin fuego" people: a case study in Lagunas de Montebello National Park, Chiapas, Mexico
Original languageSpanish
JournalNova Scientia
Volume12
Issue number25
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2020

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