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LASP Lecture Recordings

"Clandestine Cattle and Community Forestry: Unraveling the Conservation Paradox in Guatemala's Maya Biosphere Reserve" VIDEO Recording by Jennifer Devine, Latin American Studies Program (LASP) Seminar Series on 6 March

Jennifer Devine, Geography, Texas State University

A spatial paradox characterizes 25 years of conservation in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve.  In the western half of the 8,300 square mile reserve, high deforestation rates plague national parks with strict land use regulations.  By contrast, deforestation rates are much lower in the eastern half of the reserve home to community forestry, but conservation outcomes between the 12 community concessions are highly uneven.  My research asks: what dynamics are driving deforestation in the strictest areas of conservation in the reserve?  And, what factors explain the unequal conservation outcomes defining community forestry?  Unraveling this puzzle using ethnographic and remote sensing methods illuminates the role drug trafficking and “narco cattle ranching” play in environmental degradation in Central America’s protected areas, and thus, the inseparable links between conservation and drug policy in the Americas. Furthermore, I argue the remaining forest cover in the Maya Biosphere’s east reflects twenty years of successful, albeit uneven, community forestry efforts that illuminate the political possibilities and challenges of community based resource management. Rather than blaming reserve residents for forest concession “failures,” as many stakeholders do, I illustrate how drug trafficking threatens the sustainability of community forestry in the reserve and how issues of impunity, insecurity and inequality in the rest of the region dramatically impact the protected area’s ecologies.

Jennifer A. Devine is an assistant professor of geography at Texas State University. Her research and teaching interests include US-Latin American geo-politics, community-led resource management, drug policy and impacts in the Americas, grassroots development and critical social theory. She received a PhD degree in geography from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2013. She has published and forthcoming articles in Latin American Research Review, the Journal of Peasant Studies, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, Antipode, the Journal of Sustainable Tourism, and L’Espace Politique.

"The Politics of Conservation in the Galápagos Islands” by Renu Saini, Recording of the Latin American Studies Program Lecture, 13 Feb 2017

Renu Saini was our first guest speaker for LASP's Spring 2017 Seminar Series. The event will took place on Monday, February 13th. 

A video recording of this Latin American Studies Program Seminar can be viewed by clicking here.

Renu Saini is a Program Officer for the Helmsley Charitable Trust’s Conservation Program. In this role, she develops and implements grantmaking strategies in Madagascar and Galápagos, and the Marine portfolios. She also contributes to program-wide strategic planning, monitoring, and evaluation of all the program’s geographic focal areas- Madagascar, Galápagos, Myanmar and Mexico. 

Other areas of specializations include:

* Maintenance and expansion of marine and terrestrial protected areas

* Promotion of sustainable fisheries

* Creation of alternative livelihoods 

* Eradication of invasive species

* Capacity building of local community groups and not-for-profit organizations

Before joining the Trust, Renu spent nine years at the Kohlberg Foundation, where her grantmaking portfolio included initiatives in environmental conservation, cancer research, human trafficking prevention, and supports for at-risk youth. In prior roles, she developed a philanthropic program for a family foundation based in Mumbai, India, and supported the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s field biology program in New Jersey. 

Originally from Texas, Renu holds a master’s degree in Global Affairs from Rutgers University and bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology from Texas A&M University. She serves as a member of the board of I-MAK (Initiative for Medicines, Access and Knowledge) and a member of the Pleiades Network. 

LASP Fall '16 Seminar: "Challenges of Party-Building in Latin America" by Steve Levitsky, VIDEO Recording, 14 Nov 2016

A video recording of this lecture from the Latin American Studies Program, click here. 

More than three decades after the onset of the Third Wave of democratization, parties remain weak in much of Latin America: parties have collapsed in much of the region, and most new party-building efforts have failed. Yet the party-building experience in the region has not been universally bleak. Of the 308 parties that were created in Latin America between 1978 and 2005 (and which received at least one percent of the legislative vote), 11 succeeded in taking root. Why do some new parties succeed while most fail? Our book challenges the widespread belief that democracy and elections naturally give rise to strong parties and argues that successful party-building is more likely to occur under conditions of intense conflict than under routine democracy.  

Steve Levitsky is Professor of Political Science at Harvard University. He focuses on authoritarianism and parties in Latin America - specifically Peru. 

Followed by a reception.

LASP Seminar Series 12:15-1:10 PM A.D. White House, Guerlac Room Cornell Central Campus

"Impeachment in Brazil: Coup or Accountability?" by Anibal Perez-Liñan, LASP Seminar VIDEO Recording, Monday, September 26

The Impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff in Brazil has ignited a debate. Is impeachment the functional equivalent of old-fashioned military coups or is it an effective mechanism for presidential accountability? Professor Aníbal Pérez-Liñán will discuss the proliferation of presidential impeachments in Latin America since 1990, analyze their similarities and differences with traditional coups, and explore their limitations as a mechanism of accountability.

Aníbal Pérez-Liñán is Professor of Political Science at the University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of Presidential Impeachment and the New Political Instability in Latin America. He is Editor in Chief of the Latin American Research Review.

Light Lunch Available

LASP Seminar Series 12:15-1:10 PM 498 Uris Hall Cornell Central Campus

'Real Tobacco for Real People: Lacandon Maya Nicotine Trade in the Lowland Frontier" by Joel Palka, LASP VIDEO Recording Monday, Oct 24th

Lacandon Maya engaged in brisk trade with outsiders in the lowland rainforest frontier of the burgeoning colonial powers in Petén, Guatemala, and Chiapas, Mexico. Documents describe Lacandon economic exchanges and archaeological investigations recovered abundant foreign goods in nineteenth-century Lacandon sites. This presentation focuses on the transformational effects of cross-cultural interaction through one indigenous product: cheap, excellent tobacco.  The tobacco trade eventually restructured the local Lacandon economy and exposed these unconquered Maya to foreign influences, which brought changes in indigenous religion, agriculture, and social organization. This kind of domestic trade and inherent symmetrical interactions were based on indulgences and random encounters not controlled by states. These classes of small scale social and economic exchanges with a reduction in power differentials were typical in peripheral regions of expanding world systems in Latin America.

Joel Palka is Professor of Anthropology and Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Light Lunch Available

October 24, 2016
LASP Seminar Series 12:15-1:10 PM, 498 Uris Hall, Cornell Central Campus
"Decentralizing Payments for Ecosystem Services Programs on Coupled Human and Natural Systems in Mexico " by Mariana Nava, LASP Seminar VIDEO Recording, Oct 31 2016


Use of payments for watershed services (PWS) programs as a policy tool for enhancing water quality and supply has gained momentum in recent years. One of the oldest PWS programs, Mexico’s Federal Payment for Hydrological Service (PHS) was initiated in 2003 by the National Forestry Commission as a government-financed program. It was envisioned as a mechanism for providing financial incentives to land owners to conserve their forest cover in key watersheds identified on the basis of the presence of priority ecosystems. In 2008, an additional mechanism was created by the government to transition from the national program funded by the government to a local program funded by the government in combination with the private sector. With this new scheme, the Matching Program, Mexico wanted to evolve from a government-financed to a user-financed PES program, by creating a more direct link between water users and providers and by fostering local participation in the creation, design and implementation of PHS programs. Based on two case studies in Veracruz, Mexico, and informant interviews with institutional actors, this research examines whether and to what extent community participation of both service providers and service users has been fostered in local matching programs in Mexico, as a way of understanding challenges faced by each program and possible solutions.

Brief biography

Dr. Mariana Zareth Nava-Lopez is a research scientist at the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF). She graduated from the Faculty of Science of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), where she studied Biology and earned a master’s degree in Restoration Ecology. From 2006 to 2009, she was a professor at UNAM teaching Natural Resources courses covering topics relevant for the understanding of current global environment issues.

LASP Seminar Lecture VIDEO: "Muisca Sounds: Indigenous Politics of Recognition in Multicultural Colombia" by Beatriz Goubert, Columbia University, 19 Sep 2016

Through an emphasis on the Andean musical practices of the Muisca community, this talk analyzes the conflictive production of an indigenous identity within the indigenous politics of recognition in multicultural Colombia. It includes the questioned legitimacy of the music and of the subjects who produce it. Also, it will also examine the contrast between the wish for an autonomous self-government and the type of indigeneity in multiculturalism which must be sanctioned by government officers and academics to be valid. Finally, it will discuss the self-recognition of indigeneity as an alternative path to becoming Muisca nowadays, which bypasses and somehow undermines the effort of officially-recognized cabildos towards achieving and maintaining legal recognition as indigenous groups entitled to positive rights.