Living on the Edge

Guatemala is a country of incredible beauty and intensely troubled history. At Lago Atitlan, famously proclaimed by Aldous Huxley to be “the most beautiful place of earth,” the watery edge of the volcanic crater is a place that exemplifies this dichotomy. In many of the Kaqchikel and Tz’utujil Maya villages surrounding the lake, the land closest to the lake, which is the most accessible and fertile, has been sold to the wealthy, often foreigners. While you can still stumble through a cornfield as you traverse the lake edge, most families must work scarce land higher up the surrounding mountains. Lack of land, and the resultant lack of access to nutrient rich foods, is compounded by the position of the villages, some accessible only by water. Malnutrition continues to be a critical issue here. While children are not starving, many continue to teeter on the edge of health, with micronutrient deficiencies linked to stunted growth and brain development. It is not hard to see why people have been attracted to the Lake’s edge, to settle and to visit. It is harder, perhaps to see how to maintain and improve life here for all who arrive and for those who call this place home.

Kristina Baines is our resident cool anthropologist. She’s been formally trained in applied, sociocultural, ecological and medical anthropology at Florida Atlantic University (BA, MA), the University of Oxford (MSc) and the University of South Florida (PhD). She has a strong interest in corn, how what we do in our environment makes us well, and using innovative methods to make anthropology relevant and accessible to a wide audience. You can find out more about how these interests translate into projects and pursuits by perusing the rest of our site, or you can contact her directly at

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