Mayan communities in Belize now have a way to officially identify and potentially protect their territorial boundaries.
On August 9, the International Day of the Worlds Indigenous Peoples, the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM) in Belize launched the Maya Lands Registry and announced the project they developed for the Crique Sarco community.
In their press statement, SATIIM noted that the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) had ordered the Belize government in 2015 to “create an effective mechanism” to identify and protect Mayan lands in accordance with their traditional governance.
“Two years later and still no mechanism exists,” according to the SATIIM press release.
“Given the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the implementation of the court order, Crique Sarco took the matter into their own hands,” Froyla Tzalam, SATIIM Executive Director said.
Crique Sarco was the first Maya community to request SATIIM’s assistance to prepare for the legal mechanism specified in the CCJ ruling. SATIIM and Crique Sarco then developed a Mayan model that identified traditional territorial boundaries and resolved boundary conflicts.
“This is a historic moment, a big step in a long process ahead,” Tzalam said. “We celebrate that the Maya have taken the initiative to implement the CCJ order.”
Two prominent Mayan groups heralded the news of the land registry model.
“The Maya Leaders Alliance and Toledo Alcaldes Association applauds the efforts of Crique Sarco for declaring their community lands. We recognize SATIIM’s efforts to provide technical support to the efforts of the villagers. The successes of the Maya people has always hinged in our collectiveness and the support of the many friends of the Maya people both locally and internationally.”
“We continue to affirm that the recognition and respect to our rights as Indigenous Peoples will not necessarily come from the courts but from our belief as a people and to stand together to defend those beliefs. We have a landmark decision from the highest court of Belize but it is the duty of each Maya village to breathe life into this decision and it starts by owning it, defending it and accepting nothing less than the spirit and word of the legal decision.”