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  • El gobierno colectivo de la tierra en América Latina ed. by Alejandro Diez
  • Enrique Mayer
Alejandro Diez, ed. El gobierno colectivo de la tierra en América Latina. Lima: Fondo Editorial Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, 2017. 326 p. Illustrations, diagrams, maps, notes, bibliography. ISBN 978-612-317-319-7.

This book is sponsored by the international Land Coalition (ILC), a global alliance of civil society and intergovernmental organizations working together to put people at the center of land governance, and published by the Catholic University of Peru. It is directed at the organizations and NGOs whose interests coincide broadly with those of ILC (which, according to its website, promotes "a just, equitable, and inclusive world in which land rights are secure and poverty is eradicated") and written in Spanish to ensure a broader access to its Latin American practitioners. It tackles the problem of how the commons are to be governed in a variety of contexts and the issue is communal land tenure and its governance. An overview is provided by Alejandro Diez in the lead article, followed by five case studies, two in Guatemala and one each in Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia. Each chapter deals with a different kind of social mix of people, geographical conditions, landscape issues, coupled to productive activities within the commons, focusing on issues of governance, its problems, and predictions of future trends.

The Guatemalan cases deal with communities of refugees that were created as part of the resettlement programs at end of the war in Guatemala in 1966. Representing several different linguistic groups of Maya indigenous peoples, these refugees lived in the jungles during ten years of war and were given land in communal tenure in an area of agribusiness palm oil expansion. One study community resisted, while the other has almost been completely swallowed up by land grabbing practices. The Colombian case deals with ex-slave communities in the Cauca Valley of Colombia, who gained legal recognition in the 1991 constitution laws, but differ in terms of historical developments, social makeup, and local conditions from the Pacific tropical areas where the main Afro-descendant groups have organized autonomous ex-slave communities and for whom special legislation was originally created. An overview of communal management of lands in the Altiplano of Puno, Peru, provides an example of the consolidation of newly created communities as a result of the Agrarian Reform of 1969 and its subsequent developments. Finally, the Bolivian case deals with pasture rights in the highlands also created as a result of the demise of the hacienda system and the formation of local communities through their agrarian reform in 1953. Those pasture lands provide access for valley people's cattle whether they are members of the community or not and everyone pays for grazing rights.

Despite the diversity of settings, a few key themes run coherently through the entire volume: the management and governance of the commons, including the local practices of conflict settlement. The cases were selected through a competition of proposals submitted by practitioners from Latin [End Page 229] America. Initial reports were peer reviewed and commented, which provided the opportunity for the authors to revise and prepare their papers for publication included in this volume. The process was supervised by the staff of the research arm of the Social Science Department at the Catholic University in Peru. Their authors are newcomers to social science writing and their ethnographic contributions most welcome. They share a common theoretical framework and cover all the issues in a systematic and organized manner and they explore threats and difficulties such as weaknesses in communal organization, conflicts with neighbors, and threats that come from the expansion of capitalist frontiers. The cases are interesting and unusual in that they depart from the classical peasant community studies that were part of the general ethnographies of the past 40 years. Contemporary contexts provide new information on how collective lands continue to be an important feature in Latin America.

Communal land tenure systems are ubiquitous in Latin America and they cover a considerable part of what could be classified as more marginal lands that are neither flat, homogeneous, nor desirable for most forms...


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