Preserving One Resource in Two Countries

Today, the El Pilar Program, under my direction, has coalesced an international, multidisciplinary team with a collaborative conservation plan to rescue the rainforest, curtail looting, and recover the cultural heritage of the Maya forest region. This plan incorporates local community wisdom, government conservation and development agenda, and international environmental concerns through an integrated archaeological research program. My anthropological background guides a model plan centered on one resource in two countries: the ancient Maya center of El Pilar. We are now in a position to bring the broad plans for El Pilar into a design for concrete action.

At El Pilar, rather than emphasizing the monumental, priority is given to domestic architecture-reconstructing houses, replanting gardens with traditional forest crops used by the ancient Maya, and creating a sense that people in the past actually lived there in the shadows of the public architecture.

Today, the monuments of El Pilar are a shared resource. I picture El Pilar as a symbol of cooperation between Belize and Guatemala. But that is only the beginning. El Pilar also serves as a model of collaboration between the binaitonal El Pilar reserve and the adjacent communities who possess an appreciation for their own cultural heritage and a desire to promote their own social and economic development.