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Defending Maya Lands and Maya Future

A Place to Be and Be Well

Thursday, March 18, 2021 |
12:30PM - 1:30PM ET

This is a virtual event.
A man speaking into a microphone to a group of people.


Virtual Event - Penn Museum


For the past decade, Maya people of Southern Belize have struggled to defend their lands and identify a place to be and to secure a Maya future. Despite many challenges, the Maya people have made significant progress and won legal victories within Belize and internationally through the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

In this virtual panel discussion moderated by Dr. Richard M. Leventhal, the Penn Cultural Heritage Center welcomes three Maya activists from Belize: Cristina Coc, Pablo Mis, and Filiberto Penados. They will discuss the history and ongoing negotiations of the Maya struggle for a decolonial future.

Free to Registered Guests


About Our Speakers

Pablo Mis is a Maya Q’eqchi from Southern Belize. Over the last decade he has worked tirelessly to support the Toledo Alcaldes Association (TAA) on a broad scope of indigenous governance issues, customary law and practice, and recognition and respect for indigenous rights to land and resources. The TAA is an assembly of traditional leaders and the highest authority for decision making for the 39 Maya villages in Toledo. From 2009 to 2018, he served as the program coordinator of the Maya Leaders Alliance (MLA), a coalition of Maya based organizations and community leaders that advocate on behalf of the Maya people. Since 2019 Mis has served as the Program Director of the Julian Cho Society, the technical and administrative secretariat for the MLA and the TAA.

Cristina Coc is a Q'eqchi Maya advocate, human rights defender, and one of few women leaders active in the Maya movement of Southern Belize. Coc is also one of the founding members of the Julian Cho Society, an indigenous rights organization committed to the defense of Maya land rights, indigenous alternative and sustainable economies, education, and indigenous governance and stewardship of the environment. Since 2007, Coc has served as the Spokesperson for the Maya of Southern Belize on behalf of the Toledo Alcaldes Association and the Maya Leaders Alliance, a representative organization of the 39 Maya communities of Toledo. Above all Coc is a staunch defender of justice, equality, and indigenous livelihoods.

Filiberto Penados is a Yucatec Maya educator and engaged scholar from Belize whose work focuses on indigenous education and development. Dr. Penados holds a PhD in education studies from the University of Otago in New Zealand. He has held faculty positions at the Faculty of Education at the University of Belize where he also served as Director of Research, and at Galen University where he served as Director of the Faculty of Education and taught in the anthropology and education programs. Dr. Penados has written and taught in the areas of indigenous resurgence, indigenous education, indigenous knowledge, and community engagement.

Dr. Penados has a long history of involvement in indigenous movements. He has served as the president of the Central American Indigenous Council and the Belize National Indigenous Council. He is currently president of the Julian Cho Society and advisor to the Maya Leaders Alliance and Alcalde Association. He also currently represents the Belize National Indigenous Council in the Indigenous Fund for Latin America and the Caribbean.