Open Collective
Open Collective
Building Native Communities, Both Humans and Bees
Published on November 14, 2022 by Alex Ip

El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR) in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, dozens of researchers, ecologists, and anthropologists on the bee team work under a shared mantra: “To be a beekeeper is to be political.”

In Chiapas, the southernmost state in Mexico and home to one of the largest Indigenous populations in the country, scars of historical neglect and oppression by the Mexican federal government towards the ten recognized Indigenous Mayan ethnicities linger. The epicenter of the 1994 pro-Indigenous, pro-land Zapatista uprising — in direct response to NAFTA — San Cristóbal de las Casas is still dotted with “Zapaturismo” attractions. The team works in this context to conserve stingless beekeeping as a traditional practice with nearby Indigenous communities respectfully, bridging cultural knowledge, passed down from one generation to another for millennia, and academic science.

And the experts on stingless bees are, undeniably, Indigenous communities throughout Mesoamerica. The honey stingless bees make is used in different ancestral medicines. Additionally, some Indigenous communities use stingless bee wax for candles and closing wounds. Stingless bee pollen is also an excellent source of protein that some communities incorporate into their foods and drinks. For many Indigenous communities across Central and South America, meliponiculture — the study of stingless bees — is integral to their culture.

Read more about the comeback of native bees in Southern Mexico here: