The Earth Scorched

The Earth Scorched

The violent campaign of destruction and reconstruction implemented by the Guatemalan state resulted in large scale changes in the social–natural geography of the Ixil territory.

In attempting to trace the relations between transformations in the built and natural environment and state violence, this map cross-references geospatial datasets with interpretation of satellite imagery.

It departs from a study produced by the Genocide Studies Program of Yale University that identifies historical changes in patterns of land use and vegetation cover in the Ixil region in the early ’80s.

By making visible spatial relations between disparate information, the map shows a high degree of correlations between military actions and environmental transformations.

As the counterinsurgency campaign intensified, large territories around the Ixil area lost considerable amounts of vegetation cover (red). Deforestation overlaps with two entangled interventions: (1) places where massacres took place and villages were destroyed; (2) places where “model villages” and “military bases” were constructed, together with the main roads connecting them. In peripheral areas, the opposite pattern became visible: increase in vegetation cover (green) probably signals that these were areas formerly occupied by farmland, now overtaken by the wild.

The transformation of the “natural” (the forest), the “built” (villages and fields), and state violence went hand in hand. 


    The Earth Scorched

    Intensity of deforestation between 1979 and 1986. Redder zones represent areas of greater deforestation.