Presentation by Laurie Kroshus Medina, Ph.D. at the 2nd Belize National Research Conference, 2019.
Taking a performative approach to sovereignty, this paper analyzes the practices through which Belizean and Guatemalan actors produce territorialized nation-states with competing claims to southern Belize. While the Guatemalan state has relied on violence or the threat of violence by its military along the southern border, the Belizean state has avoided military responses, enacting sovereignty through actions that are less visible. Thus, citizen organizations have shouldered the task of publicly performing Belizean sovereignty, travelling to Belize’s borders to mark the territorial existence of Belize. However, without the threat of military violence to back their actions, the sovereignty performed by citizens is vulnerable. Recognizing that Mopan and Q’eqchi’ communities have won legal recognition for their land rights in southern Belize, the analysis also explores how Mopan and Kekchi rights to “lands and territories” interrupt or intersect with states’ efforts to manifest their territorial claims. Conversely, the paper also explores how state performances of sovereignty complicate Maya communities’ efforts to implement their rights via the practice of customary tenure. The paper is based on analysis of Belizean news coverage of Belize-Guatemala relations over the last 2 decades and all court decisions in the Maya lands cases.
Key words: Belize-Guatemala, Maya communities, sovereignty, Belize border