What is Project Mesoamerica
Formerly known as Plan Puebla Panama, this project aims to transform the region from Southern Mexico to Panama into a mega-industrial manufacturing and transportation corridor. The region forms a strategic, narrow isthmus connecting North and South America and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Project Mesoamerica quite literally seeks to pave the way for Free Trade. The project encompasses a slew of infrastructure projects including superhighways, hydro-electric dams, mines, mega-resorts, and factory zones. All these developments would open access to extract rich natural resources such as oil, gold, fertile land, fresh water and biodiversity. Project Mesoamerica would cause devastating habitat loss for migratory species whose ranges span from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Infrastructure projects threaten to displace Indigenous Peoples from their lands, accelerating urbanization, poverty, and cultural homogenization.
Plan Puebla Panama changed its name after a Public Relations company advised the Mexican government on how to make-over the plan. Hemispheric opposition to the PPP played a large part in this effort to hide the continuation of the same old plan. But underneath the new name, the plans are still the same.
Industrial infrastructure development proposed by the Project Mesoamerica is in reality an extreme acceleration of 500 years of colonization. Under the guise of ‘Integration’, this so-called development is based on short-term consumerism, foreign control of land and resources, military occupation and free market or neoliberal policies. These plans serve the agenda of big business and are considered a cultural and biological death sentence to communities native to the region.
Central America’s history of war and military occupation spans from the times of early colonial invasion to today. Grassroots groups that work for Human Rights and social justice commonly experience assault, intimidation and sabotage by military, paramilitary and privately contracted military. Social movements, activists and especially campesinos face death threats, assassination and torture as a consequence of their work. Yet these stories don’t “make the news”. Even the geography of Central America is largely unfamiliar to North Americans except as a tourist stop. Stories of brutality repeat themselves across the map, while the language used by leaders of Project Mesoamerica sounds benign - “route security”, “integration” and “development” are thin masks for top-down, heavily militarized, corporate-led plans. Despite these often incomprehensible conditions, the passion for resistance and life is everywhere. The voices and actions of social movements are irrepressible.
The Hive's Collaborative Design Process
These graphics were designed using an intensive process of first hand investigation and collective storytelling. The Beehive documented many examples of alternatives to industrial development plans... Like the stunning diversity of the ecosystems of Mesoamerica, we witnessed equally diverse strategies for building economic, social and political autonomy. The ants, a powerful metaphor for solidarity and organizing in numbers, join hundreds of other species under the canopy of the ceiba tree.
To inform the initial design of the illustration, a swarm of Bees from Mexico, Canada and the U.S. journeyed from Puebla, Mexico, to Panama for over five months in 2004. During the following years, consultation with affected communities continued, as we updated and added to the stories and information at hemispheric convergences such as the Social Forum of the Americas in 2008. The Beehive gathered first hand stories from more than 75 grassroots groups and countless individuals. Our consultations took a variety of forms, from community-wide round table discussions, to interviews and informal conversations, to discussions over e-mail and reading peoples reports on the effects of Plan Puebla Panama and Project Mesoamerica. This intensive and collaborative design process is essential to the Beehive’s goal of coordinating our graphics campaigns in the most accurate and respectful way.