Our Forest Sings: Totonicapán TV Promotes Forest Conservation

The television spot that ran for communities around Totonicapán. “Our Forest Sings for the water, for the air, and for life.”

Last fall EcoLogic and local partner the 48 Cantones began an environmental awareness campaign to encourage local communities to protect the 52,000 acre old-growth forest of Totonicapán, Guatemala. Members of the 48 Cantones, EcoLogic staff and a journalist from Guatemala City collaborated to develop the campaign, “Our Forest Sings for the water, for the air, and for life.” From August through December local radio stations aired short public awareness ads that the campaign produced in Spanish and Maya Quiché, and two tv channels regularly broadcast a television spot to an audience of over 100,000 people.

There were other activities as part of the campaign including mural painting events, an art show and student contest, skits performed by youth groups at local schools and community meetings, and a parade.  Much of the artwork and expression reflected the holistic Maya belief that, as Totonicapán elder Pedro Calel explained it, “all things are really only one thing with the Ajaw (water spirit), the sky and the earth, nature, people…and one can’t understand any one part if you don’t understand the whole.”

The Quiché spiritual practice reveres the forest—known as “Kachelaj”—as the source of life, and the foundation of community. There has been sustainable and successful management of the forest for more than 800 years. Unfortunately, Quiché beliefs and practices are on the decline. This campaign was part of an ongoing effort on the part of EcoLogic and 48 Cantones to engage the younger generation in understanding Quiché culture and beliefs and by extension preserving the forest and natural environment.