The Lacandon as biologist
Lacandones have an extensive knowledge of the flora and fauna that surrounds
them. This knowledge, however, is mainly present with the older generations in
the communities. They do not only have knowledge about the different plants and
animals, but also about the relationship between them. For instance, the older
generations claim that the chak ak’ (a climbing vine) helps the parrot
(ah kacho’) because this bird is the only one who eats his small fruit.
On his turn, a parrot helps the climbing vine by spreading its seeds.
are placed into the ch’ich’ (“flying animals”) category. The
perdiz (partridge) and the parrot are exceptions. The parrot is placed into a
different category because of its special relationship with the chak ak’.
(sek) is also placed into a different category.
are also plants and animals that do not have relationships with each other.
Among the animals these are the jaguar, armadillo, the mule deer, the chachalaca
(curassow species) and the toucan. Of the plants these are the mahogany, the
cedar, ceiba, amate, the xate and the chapay palms and waterplants.
of large seeds is harmful for a plant, because these seeds need to be chewed.
Eating small seeds can be good for a plant because they will be spread over a
older generations are convinced that the activities of animals do not have a
harmful effect on the natural environment; they are only doing the things the
creation god created them for.
older generations also believe in a balanced relation between human and nature
(as long as the Lacandones conduct proper behaviour), the younger generations,
however, do not see such a relationship. They consider humans and nature as two
different entities. As two independent entities animals as well as humans can
cause each other harm but they can help each other as well. Young Lacandones are
also concerned about the influence of the humans on the rainforest.
the Tzeltal neighbours call the younger Lacandon generation the people of the
forest (k’axil winik) as well, it is clear that their knowledge of the
rainforest is much more limited than that of the older generations. For instance,
the younger Lacandones recognize fewer relationships between plants and animals
then the older Lacandones do.
main cause must be sought in the disappearing of the rainforest. More surface of
the rainforest is disappearing, which causes a decrease in biodiversity. It is
unnecessary for the younger generations to obtain knowledge about plants and
animals that do not live in the direct environment anymore.
instance, in contrast to the older generations, no young Lacandon has ever seen
a jaguar in its natural habitat. Because of the increasing population of the
Lacandon forest, it is even becoming rare to come across a spider monkey,
peccary or white tailed deer. Another reason why younger Lacandones have less
interest in knowledge about the rainforest and agriculture is because they
support themselves through the production of souvenirs.
The older Lacandones were raised in a household that was separated from other households. Because the Mexican government stimulated the Lacandones in the 1970’s to live in one of the three communities, the younger generations have stronger social bonds with each other. But while the bond between humans became stronger, the bond with nature weakened.