`El dios dinero es el que manda´: Nature as a Field of Force in the Western Highlands of Guatemala

Gijs Cremers and Elisabet Dueholm Rasch (Wageningen University)


This article discusses the way in which the construction of a variety of territorial narratives is developed in the Western highlands of Guatemala. In a globalizing world, different meanings that are attributed to nature are often conflictive and indefinite. In the Guatemalan Highlands, these frequently competing ideas of what nature ‘is’ and what it ‘should be’ are elucidated by means of territorial narratives. Meanings given to nature are often expressions of establishing or negotiating ‘power’, relating to intrinsic cultural, political and physical aspect of that particular territory. In this article we approach nature as a source of negotiation and conflict, as a “field of force”. We analyze this field of force through the unravelling of different territorial narratives constructed in the context of globalization: nature as a commodity to be extracted, nature as territory, and nature as a sacred and cultural tourist destination. These narratives are constructed on different levels within the perspective of, and related to global trends of massive resource extraction, ecotourism and the globalization of rights. Discussing these narratives that are shaped in the negotiations over nature and environmentalism, we explain the intensity and ambiguousness of these conflicts.

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