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Cristina Coc: Keynote Speaker at Trinidad Event

In the edition of the Trinidad Guardian dated April 12, 2017, Belizean activist, Cristina Coc was featured for her dynamic presentation as the keynote speaker at a 3-day symposium.  The 36-year-old was one of several women leaders from the region brought together in Trinidad for the event organized by the Institute of Gender and Development Studies and Geography.  Held under the theme, Indigenous Geographies and Caribbean Feminisms: Common Struggles against Global Capitalism, the event had the participation of women from a range of indigenous communities including the Garinagu, Kalinago, Lokono Arawak, Mopan Maya, Q’eqchi Maya, among others.  Coc’s presentation focused on her personal experiences and work in Belize surrounding the fight for legal land rights for the Mayas.  According to the Trinidad Guardian, after listening to Coc there was the understanding that Belize too has its struggles and there exists a, quote, “historical attitude of prejudice and dismissive indifference to rights claimed by its own indigenous peoples—especially if these rights apply to land ownership (there are two indigenous peoples in Belize: the Maya and the Garinagu or Black Caribs). Another problem is the lingering ghost of colonialism: it can haunt how people do things, even how they see or value each other.”  End of quote.  The article goes on to state that, “For decades, modern-day Belize governments have refused to recognise Maya rights to land. So, as Coc explained, the Maya took matters to their local courts, starting in 1996. They achieved a landmark ruling on April 21, 2015 from the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Belize’s highest appellate court, which ruled that the 38 Q’eqchi and Mopan Maya Indigenous communities of southern Belize have rights to the lands they have customarily used and occupied. It was an extraordinary victory, and one in which Cristina Coc played a part as advocate for Maya rights.  The ruling meant that Maya lands should be demarcated and ultimately titled, so that the Maya people can enjoy those rights.  Yet up to now, the Belize government has not given a single actual land title to any of the Maya communities.”  End of quote.  Cristina Coc is one of the spokespersons for the Maya Leaders Alliance in Belize.