Creative Advocacy Practice: Promotion of the Selva Maya urban park, Santa Elena Petén, Guatemala
From August 17th to the 20th, FUNDAECO and the Creative Action Institute implemented a Creative Advocacy Practicum for the conservation of the Selva Maya urban park in Petén, Guatemala.
The Creative Advocacy Practicums (CAPs) are inclusive and participatory projects that strengthen connections between people and the environment. Based on the experiences and knowledge of the communities involved and the creative use of the arts, we promoted the understanding of current environmental challenges, the identification of sustainable solutions, and the generation of personal and group commitments.
In this CAP, members of the “Women and Girls, Healthy and Empowered” program at FUNDAECO and local forest rangers strengthened their advocacy skills to conserve the Selva Maya park. By implementing activities of the CAI courses, such as collective soundscape, mask of purpose, images on the wall, and theater exercises and dynamics, we analyzed the causes of the environmental crisis and new ways to protect the Selva Maya park.
The dialogue generated from the activities allowed the Selva Maya park to be declared a natural reserve by the Municipality in 2019. The declaration prevented mining exploitation in this area of great biological diversity. However, the pandemic stopped the administrative process and, to date, there is no legal support for the municipal agreement. Hence the importance of continuing with actions in favor of conserving the park and preventing the extraction of minerals in the area.
The group realized that by conserving the Selva Maya park, possibilities to promote environmental education and carry out ecotourism activities arose. This will generate employment for the local population, a possibility that would contribute to the well-being of the community and the conservation of the environment.
When we visited the park, one of its three caves welcomed us. The bats showed us the ecotourism potential of the place. We continued walking while trees, shrubs, herbs and fungi greeted us.
The shadow of a tree invited us to stop to talk about the value of nature and to remember that the park is home to many insects, mammals, reptiles and birds. In Selva Maya, there is a lot of biodiversity to discover.
The high point of the park welcomed us with another of its attractions, a view of the horizon. Here, we talked about the ecotourism potential of the park and discussed plans to start a ranger school, build toilets and resting places, improve the trails, and create an inventory of the park’s biodiversity. The visit to the park made it easy to choose the central messages of the project, to identify the key elements of the work, and to define the theatrical public intervention and the parade as means of expression.
In the final work of art, we included branches, stones, leaves and seeds from the park. We selected butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and bats as central characters in the work because of their central role in the process of pollination and pest control. We appreciated the interest of the participants who made stickers and panted their faces for the parade. The group shared tasks and valued being a part of a collaborative project created from dialogue, reflection, and commitment. Local participants shared they would like to replicate the activities that they learned, and that art and local resources can be a tool for environmental activism.
The group ensured they reflected the dialogues generated during the activities in their final works of art. Once they finished the artwork for the parade, roles were assigned to each participant and the structure of the skit was collectively built. We agreed that the presentation would highlight the cycles and interconnections of nature, symbolically represented in the transition of day and night, the movements of pollinators and their interactions with other beings.
A central part of the CAPs is to share the reflections and proposals generated during the workshop with the communities involved. We organized a day of public visibility to promote the importance of preserving the Selva Maya urban park. The group presented the skit in the central park of Flores Island and shared their reflections with the attendees, who reaffirmed the importance of advocacy for environmental conservation. The activity continued with a parade in the major streets of Flores, Petén. Finally, we moved to Colonia Primavera to continue with the parade, distribute informative stickers, paint faces, and spread the importance of conserving the Selva Maya park.
The tour allowed us to interact with local people, share information about the Selva Maya urban park, point out the ecological importance of nature reserves and forests and deliver stickers created by the group that highlighted the role of pollinators in the health of ecosystems and people. After four days of working together, a motivated and strengthened local team had new skills and knowledge of how to advocate for the conservation of the park.