viernes, 28 de marzo de 2014

Women Work to Save Native Bees of Mexico

 Photo © Eric Tourneret
 Women from the beekeeping association gather around a trunk hive under a raffia roof.

So much bee news lately is gloomy, I thought it would be nice to highlight a happy story. Central America has a centuries-long history of native bee keeping; the Madrid Codex, one of three surviving Mayan books, describes bees and beekeeping in detail.  Mayans called their bees Xunan kab, which translates as “royal lady bees.”
Below is an interview with Anselma Chale Euan, President of the Co’oleel Caab Collective in Yucatan, Mexico. Her women’s collective is practicing meliponiculture, or stingless beekeeping, a traditionally male job in Mayan culture. The video will make you smile.

The bee cultivated by these women is Melipona beecheii; a species named in 1831 for a Captain Beechey, who just happened to have a “bee” in his name for lovely symmetry. These social bees collect honey and live in hives, but have no venom, and cannot sting. (They can still give you a good bite if provoked, though.) Their lovely green eyes and gentle dispositions makes keeping this species as backyard pets practical.

Why isn’t everyone keeping stingless bees, then? Because they produce honey in much smaller quantities than introduced European honey bees. A typical meliponine colony may only produce 2 liters of honey/year, compared with 40 liters or more for a honey bee hive. Stingless bees do produce enough to bring in supplemental income, though.

Diversifying income is important; it’s what makes sustainable livelihoods possible for families living on the edge of poverty.  With multiple income streams, a household is more resilient to uncontrollable stresses of bad weather, price inflation, and unemployment. These bees also are a form of cultural pride and social capitol; it allows the community to gather together in celebration of the rich history of the Xunan kab.

Photo © Eric Tourneret
 The stingless Maya bee, Melipona beecheii, leaves only a narrow entrance to its trunk hive to protect itself from attack by predators. 

Are Mayan Bees Really Endangered?
The best answer is we don’t know, but it’s likely. Sorry to harsh your mellow from the happy video. 

Native stingless bees forage in a Mexican landscape full of alien invaders. Spaniards introduced European honeybees to Central America around 1620, and they are now well established. European honey bees (and their Africanized form) do compete with gentle native bee species for pollen and nectar on flowers. Melipona beecheii is a forest bee, so if they could find flowering trees and shrubs, competition with honey bees might not be a problem. Alas, Yucatan is heavily logged.

The Yucatan peninsula sits right in the path of a lot of big storms; quite a few hurricanes, floods, and droughts have caused beekeepers to lose all or most of their hives. Native stingless bees are quite sensitive to pesticides, so that isn’t helping either.

Photo © Eric Tourneret
Maya bees on brood comb

We don’t have a firm estimate of how common these bees are in the wild; we only know, anecdotally, where they are being cultivated. So like most animals on earth (which are arthropods, AHEM), their conservation status is “Not Evaluated.”

Traditional knowledge involved in meliponiculture was clearly lost. A 2005 survey found a 93% decrease in Xunan kab hives over the last 25 years. As you can tell from the video, a lot of current bee husbandry is trial and error, since many older, traditionally male beekeepers switched to keeping more profitable European honey bees.

Despite all these negatives, I’m inclined to be optimistic. Renewed interest in these bees as a form of supplemental income is a good sign. The lovely photos of bees on this post are from Eric Tourneret; you can see even more photos of beekeepers and stingless bees here. Tourneret’s photos show us a lively, developing fair trade culture in native bee products. 

The video above shows women who are empowered through self-employment; they used their creativity to innovate and market new products from a centuries-old tradition. 

Here’s hoping meliponiculture in Mexico continues and flourishes.

Source: /  By Gwen Pearson

sábado, 22 de marzo de 2014

Queda mucho por saber de los mayas - Galina Ershova

Planes de estudio de Galina Ershova sobre esa cultura

A 20 años de la muerte del doctor Yuri Knorosov, se han logrado grandes avances en la lectura de los textos prehispánicos gracias al legado del padre del desciframiento de la escritura maya, señaló Galina Ershova, directora de Estudios Mesoamericanos de la Universidad de Moscú.

En entrevista con el Diario en Dzibilchaltún, a donde ayer acudió a presenciar el espectáculo de luz y sombra por el equinoccio de primavera, la investigadora recordó que algunos de esos avances incluyen el conocimiento sobre la concepción maya del cielo, del sistema religioso y político durante el esplendor de la antigua civilización y la práctica de la guerra.

Galina Ershova añadió que uno de los temas que ahora se alcanzan a entender “y resulta fantástico” es la importancia del cacao en la vida del los mayas, ya que la mazorca con sus 20 semillas representa el cero en su numerología. El maíz y el cacao tienen “el mismo significado que el pan y el vino en la Comunión, en la que representan el cuerpo y la sangre de Cristo, pues para los mayas el maíz representaba la carne, y el cacao, la sangre”, afirmó.

Añadió que la mayoría de los investigadores están dedicados a copiar textos, pero es importante saber qué es lo que se transcribe. Es un trabajo muy extenso “que no se podrá concluir a lo largo de nuestra vida, pero permitirá grandes avances en el estudio de la epigrafía”.

La investigadora, que pretende publicar este año la biografía de Yuri Knorosov, también realiza el documental “Los hombres de la fuerza” para el canal de televisión nacional de Rusia.

En la producción una mujer tiene pesadillas y recurre a un chamán para curarse. En el proceso se narra la historia de los mayas en un recorrido por diferentes países.- Alejandro Moreno


domingo, 9 de marzo de 2014

Mayan warrior queens wielded profound power, says researcher

(Alejandra Alonso/Naachtun Archaeological Project)

University of Calgary archaeologist Kathryn Reese-Taylor stands beside a stela, one of the large carved hieroglyphic pillars on which the Mayans commemorated significant events.

A University of Calgary archaeologist is sharing new evidence to suggest powerful warrior queens in the Mayan civilization were not an anomaly.

According to Kathryn Reese-Taylor, a large contingent of Mayan warrior queens emerged between 600 to 800 AD.

Her research suggests these queens made a profound impact on their society in areas ranging from politics, culture and commerce to warfare blasts through previous ideas surrounding the role of women in Mayan society.

"As I began researching, I noticed the existing literature suggested there was only a few isolated examples of these warrior queens in Mayan society," said Reese-Taylor, an associate professor at the University of Calgary.

"I started to realize that was bogus. There were, in fact, many examples of noble warrior women."
Reese-Taylor began researching the idea in earnest after a 2004 archaeological expedition to the Great Pyramids of Naachtun in the forests of Guatemala — one of the most remote, inaccessible sites of the Mayan world.

There the research team discovered a massive stone pillar depicting a fierce Naachtun queen standing upon a conquered foe and Reese-Taylor says she decided to look for more evidence of Mayan queens from that era.

While researching a book on the topic, she discovered the appearances of such figures spikes dramatically between 600 and 800 AD, with hundreds of examples popping up in that time frame compared to almost nothing in earlier periods.

"It's suddenly this quantum leap in the number of women warriors depicted on these royal monuments," she said. "I began to amass this data and look at why this role might have emerged for women at this time."

Cultural biases blinded earlier research

While research on the warrior queens goes back to the late 19th century, Reese-Taylor says earlier archaeologists simply didn't have enough information — such as the ability to decipher hieroglyphics — to make sense of what they were investigating.

Up until the 1970s, researchers viewed the Maya as peaceful priest scholars who studied time, rather than warriors whose society involved sacrifice.

It's possible researchers in the post-World War era had a cultural desire for the possibility of utopian societies, and molded their understanding of the Mayan world to fulfill that fantasy.

As well, cultural biases may have put blinders on the research.

"In the late 19th and early 20th century, the idea of women as warriors was completely unheard of," Reese-Taylor said. "Women didn't lead battles. Figures like Catherine the Great and Joan of Arc were thought of as the exceptions of history."

Reese-Taylor's research is currently featured in the March 2014 issue of Discover magazine in an article entitled The Power and Glory of the Maya Queens."


Academic takes Maya research to Madrid’s Museum of the Americas

An exhibition showcasing Loughborough University research into the Maya population opens at the Museum of the Americas in Madrid this week.

The three-week exhibition, curated by Dr Ines Varela-Silva from the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, celebrates the life of the modern-day Maya and runs from 4-22 March.
Over the last 10 years, Dr Varela-Silva and colleagues have conducted extensive research on Maya migrants in South America.

The Maya are the largest living group of Native Americans. Most are of a low socio-economic status, live in the poorest urban areas and are typically overweight and very short as a result of both under- and overnutrition – a phenomenon known as nutritional dual burden. It is this phenomenon Loughborough’s experts have been researching.    

The educational exhibition combines research findings and fieldwork photos with images of daily life captured by local photographers, as well as a selection of artefacts, music and films. Dr Silva-Varela and colleagues will also be delivering a series of talks during the exhibition.

Dr Silva-Varela explains:
“The Maya story is one of a vibrant culture, doing its best to thrive in the face of adversity. We wanted to share our insights into the Maya people and highlight the plight of migrant populations the world over.

“Whilst our research focuses on a specific indigenous group in Mexico, our conclusions can be applied to many populations throughout the world.

“The more we can help people understand diversity and integration, and the challenges migrant groups face, the better members of society we can be. We are delighted to be showcasing this exhibition at the Museum of the Americas.”

 Source:Loughborough University