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  • From the Editor
  • David J. Robinson

Few journals can probably match the range of topics that one finds in each issue of JLAG, reflecting the time/space reach of Latinamericanist geographers. For this issue we begin with a proposed new methodology for analyzing the spatial distribution of biodiversity in the Mexican State of San Luis Potosí. Anyone who has travelled in Mexico knows the intricacies of its bio-ecological patterns, as well as the ever-increasing pressures placed on them by intensified natural resource use, rapidly growing urban and rural populations and the relatively weak environmental protection provided by the State. It is thus salutary that a cartographic-based methodology is here proposed to allow the relatively rapid identification of key micro-regions of biodiversity based on biotic and abiotic variables. Such a tool may well enhance strategies designed to conserve natural resources while allowing local development.

Next the focus shifts to Argentina to consider the critical case of the role of malnutrition as it impacts the death rates of children during the period 1990 and 2010. The multi-scale analysis includes national, provincial and departmental levels demonstrating that rises in malnutrition rates at one level did not necessarily reflect other levels. Why malnutrition exists in the early 21st century, and how public policies might be designed to improve living conditions of children are critically assessed.

From the dissonance of socio-economic development we next move to a study of the linkages between music and race in Brazil. The key intersections identified are the transformation of samba from a localized sound to become a national musical form, and the impact of the commercial development of samba-reggae. As all those who visit Brazil for the World Soccer Cup, or the Olympic Games will soon note, every Brazilian place has its own sound, indeed it may be argued that Brazil’s cultural identity is acoustic, reflecting evolving patterns of racial diversity. The rhythms of everyday life have a reality beyond the metaphorical, and music is used by many distinct groups to both satisfy local demands at the level of the neighborhood, as well as to propagate a re-invented Brazilian mode of national identity.

A more somber note is sounded in the following paper: place-making through exhumation. Here the data are located in Guatemala’s multiple mass graves of predominantly Mayan Indians—victims of the long internal conflict when they were falsely labelled guerilla sympathizers. Only using exhumations from one sample site, a former military base, the authors argue that this process not only makes each site a special place, but also allows the re-dignification of these victims of State terror. The analysis reminds one of the stark differences between landscapes of formal remembrance—cemeteries, obelisks—and the shallow pits into which these Indians were thrown. The photographic images are unforgettable and demand explanations and justice for those so wronged.

From one country that has suffered the scourge of internal war to another, this next one Colombia, but now turning away from narco-trafficking and guerilla armies to examine what Afro-Colombians are doing on the Pacific coast [End Page 5] to conserve their prized mangroves. In this case we can assess the role played by a group of academics and members of key NGOs in fostering ethno-territorial autonomy. Community management, rather than top-down-centralized, is stressed as the methodology most likely to facilitate mangrove conservation and use. The study offers valuable, practical means of integrating variable sources of knowledge, managing expectations of different actor groups, building local capacity, as well as forging political support at higher levels. Successful results would include long-term financial sustainability and the improvement of living conditions of the resident population.

The next article takes us back to colonial Guatemala and the rich data contained in the municipal archive of the township of Caluco, now located in the western province of Sonsonate, El Salvador. The analysis deals with one of the most problematic issues facing historical geographers and historians of Latin America: how did colonial (and their post-colonial successors) local civil jurisdictions become established? Much has been written over national boundaries but far less concerning the local, micro-regional entities...


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pp. 5-9
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