(Below is a narrative inspired by our first low flight aerial view of Central America's dense lowland tropical rain forest, the Peten. The commercial air flight had been canceled, sending us scurrying to obtain another flight. Luck had it that we were able to secure this particular aircraft on this particular day.)





We board the Twin Otter and are skyward. It seems as if we can see forever, from the Cay to the reef, and back again to the mainland. The view is wide open. After a brief landing we are again airborne, flying directly west across Belize and to the north-central section of Guatemala. Below us now is the lazy Belize River -- winding aimlessly back and forth -- a rich brown color, exhibiting no visible sign of human habitation. This river harbors crocodiles, turtles, snakes, tapir and a host of magnificent (and nearly extinct) tropical birds. It is here that no less than four of the world's rarest "big cats" call home.
Indeed, at the end there was no forest left. What now exists is essentially secondary growth.


We are destined, however, for the vast jungle wilderness of northern Guatemala, El Peten. This was once the heartland of Mayan civilization, but for the past millennium it has been a sparsely populated lowland in which nature has reigned. Human inhabitants here now include "leftist insurgents" (farmers and freedom fighters) who are attempting to escape the strong-armed government regime. Politics in the Peten surround the notion of owning and farming one's land -- interestingly, at the expense of this great wilderness. In neighboring Mexico such freedoms exist; the slash-and-burn Mexican policy alongside the unspoiled Guatemalan jungle wilderness can be viewed from space. It is fair to conclude then, that for all the hoopla most Americans, if placed in the Peten, would opt for land ownership over forest preservation, much as the Maya did many centuries ago. They "disappeared" after poor land use policy moved them toward a more warlike society focused on the acquisition of additional farmland. Indeed, at the end there was no forest left. What now exists is essentially secondary growth.


I am disturbed from further contemplation of this philosophical irony by turbulence, as the small plane pushes against the upper cloud bank. Below us the stratus layer hides this primeval land. We do see the shadow of our craft, becoming smaller and larger as the clouds scatter. Suddenly there is a clear view to the canopy. It's primitive, primordial, almost unearthly; as if we have been transported not just miles west but eons back in time. The scene is like an episode of the old Twilight Zone, where the clouds clear and dinosaurs appear. One finds it difficult to believe that this was once the cradle of Mesoamerican civilization, and that these jungles housed some of the finest engineers and astronomers the world has ever known.






Back to Home Page
12 Rabbit Valley Road / P.O. Box 1515

All design and content copyright Greiner/Price, all rights reserved.

Top of Page