Sean Downey presents “Q’eqchi’ Maya Milpa agriculture, settlement patterns, ethnohistory, and the important of colonial enterprise in Modern Belize” at the First Belize National Research Conference, March 21 2018.
In this presentation, I will reconstruct the settlement history for twelve related Q’eqchi’ Maya villages in the Toledo District of southern Belize using oral history interviews, archival records, and the Catholic parish birth register. The study evaluates two hypotheses for explaining the identified patterns: carrying capacity, which suggests that increasing village populations and environmental limits drove new settlements, and political ecology, which suggests that outside economic forces determined the timing and location of new settlements. Surprisingly, the analysis indicates that villages rarely encountered significant environmental limits that directly caused resettlement; in contrast, colonial economic expansion into remote parts of southern Belize, and social tensions within the villages better explain the observed demographic shifts. The second part of the study uses a quantitative analysis to triangulate this result by analyzing how the settlement history relates to changes in the amount of land available per capita through time. The results of a catchment analysis support the proposition that Q’eqchi’ settlement patterns during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries were largely driven by outside economic activity rather than carrying capacity. I will conclude by briefly describe my current research project in Toledo.
Suggested Reference: Downey, S. (2018). Q’eqchi’ Maya Milpa agriculture, settlement patterns, ethnohistory, and the important of colonial enterprise in Modern Belize, presented at First Belize National Research Conference, City of Belmopan, 2018. Belize: NICH. Retrieved from: http://belizehistoryassociation.org/course/quechi-settlement-patterns-belize/