Guatemala city is a growing balance of cement and nature. Thanks to Mayor Arzú’s prolonged administration, Guatemala now has multiple city parks that are safe, enjoyable and, most importantly, managed and kept clean for all to enjoy.
Driving north from the city, on the Panamerican highway we will climb a winding, 3-lane highway as we take longer and longer views of the sprawling city in the valley below. As we hit the last curve we will see a narrowing of the highway. On our right we are covered by the Cerro Alux, a natural reserve that boasts a small park with trails and some wildlife. To our left we will find the area called Choacorral where a large, privately-owned wooded area is still intact although surrounded by ever-squeezing housing developments.
The Choacorral area, and especially the privately owned reserve, retains precious wildlife rare to find so close to the city. An enormous variety of birds nests in the Pine, Cedar and Oak trees, accompanied by small mammals such as raccoons, small fox, oncilla (Leopardus tigrinus), rabbits and certainly many rodents and reptiles. At one time, not so long ago, the ravines echoed with coyote howls.
This small forest struggles alongside it’s owners, to preserve it’s identity as the closest natural lung the city possesses.
Many battles must be fought for the preservation of this jewel: from illegal logging and forest fires, to invasion and poaching. Neighboring communities have a hard time understanding the idea that such a large piece of land can be privately owned and not mowed down for construction and it is the reason why they pressure and complain to the mayor’s office to allow them to log for their private firewood consumption or to allow them free use of the forest. Under pressure, even the mayor may find it tempting to allow for some profoundly damaging illegalities.
Another danger comes from the next generation of owners who may not all share the idea of preserving this irreplaceable haven. Especially if the financial burden is too heavy to bare and the temptation of the millions offered by large construction companies becomes greater and greater as the city stretches its arms north and the land becomes increasingly more valuable.
Many say that someday we will indubitably mourn the loss of such valuable ecological inheritance.
I believe that we are still in time to preserve this area and so many like it, by changing the way we manage and view it and by taking on the huge task of educating the next generations.