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Medicinal plant garden at Compitch everyone else. From June through November 1999, over 35,000 plants were collected for scientific purposes using a preexisting permit obtained for Ecosur. Berlin may have thought he was following the rules, such as they were. But to his critics, the fact that collecting had begun at all, was evidence that the project was going much too far, too fast. Nevertheless, a vague sort of truce had been arranged. To obtain the consent of some 50 Highlands communities, the project had developed a one-hour play that was performed and narrated by the Maya members of ICBG in each of the communities. The Berlins proposed a workshop placing the Maya ICBG project in the context of global concerns about biodiversity and its implications the projects’ host communities. To Compitch, that was hardly enough. The play did not present the larger picture. Berlin had proposed a workshop where this could be discussed. Compitch said they would get back to him after they took the proposal back to the local communities.The morning I arrived in San Cristobal, it did not look like there would be much interest in a workshop on biodiversity and patents. Among those I spoke to was a medical doctor who had come to Chiapas twenty years earlier to work in a government program. Unlike many young physicians dispatched to Chiapas from urban universities, Rafael Alarcon was fascinated by traditional Mayan medicine and decided to stay on. It wasn’t just plants, he explained. It was a whole way of life, a whole philosophy and belief system. He worried that conflict in Chiapas was taking its toll on young people, who were further removed from that belief system. The iloles’power came from their dreams, and young people weren’t dreaming anymore, he explained. One of the things that bothered him was that Berlin always focused on the plants, but there was a lot more to Mayan medicine. He was also bothered by the fact that he saw too many people with the chronic respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases of poverty. Alarcon insisted that the project wasn’t what the regioned needed. Drugs like taxol might be a wonderful for breast or lung cancer, but they weren’t affordable and he had to worry about at kind of drug wasn’t affordable here, and besides he had to worry about those chronic diseases first. Although he insisted that he had nothing against Berlin or his research prior to the ICBG Maya project, Alarcon thought the whole thing ironic. How could researchers come to Chiapas and listen to people for years, and then try to re-package what they learned to those very same people? He complained that the project was becoming too much of a drain on his own time. He had spent hours on the Internet trying to learn about bioprospecting, and to him it all came down to money. “How much was that knowledge, those plants worth?” he asked. Was it worth the thousands of dollars of laboratory equipment that Ecosur had received to turn. the region into a maquiladora for the pharmaceutical industry? The next day I posed that question at Ecosur. Like Alarcon, the scientists I spoke to, Mario Gonzalez and Luis Garcia, complained that the controversy over the ICBG project was taking a disproportionate amount of their time. Ecosur had hired a physician to work on community relations for the project. A staff person was spending hours listening to and transcribing Alarcon’s interviews on local radio stations. The doctor had been denouncing the theft of Chiapas’ natural resources. Ecosur was founded about 25 years ago, with a mission that focused on conservation, sustainable development and health and population studies. It has several branches throughout southeastern Mexico, and has somewhat of an elitist reputation. The Berlins have been teaching there part of the year for over ten years. After the Zapatista rebellion, Ecosur was one of the institutions the area that received an influx of funding from the Mexican government. Until recently, Ecosur had had a positive relationship with Compitch, and continues to work with the healers’ organization on other projects. The last thing anyone wanted for Chiapas, Garcia said, was anything that caused more division. There was already too much division in the highland communities. Garcia is an agronomist who studies traditional farming practices that are often more beneficial than so-called modern farming for many local communities. He saw the ICBG Maya project as a way to further that research. Still, he was somewhat reticent. The controversy had taught them somethingEcosur needed to rethink its relationship with indigenous communities and rethink the way research projects were designed and organized. Maybe Ecosur would sponsor a workshop with the communities later that fall. Before I left Chiapas, Ecosur arranged for me to visit one of the gardens that had been established by the ICBG project at the request of a community in ChenalhO. The 20-mile trip from San Cristobal took about two hours. As the Ecosur van approached the checkpoint at the outskirts of town, we were quickly waved through. We zipped past the bleak plaza, parked the van, walked down a long muddy trail, up a steep incline and past a milpa or cornfield. The Ecosur workers apologizedthe trilingual signs for the garden were not yet ready. On our way, we had passed a single shack, and a young woman who lived there was now coming to join us. She told us that her father had known about medicinal plants, but until recently, she did not. At Compitch .1 had met a midwife who said she had been stopped in ChenalhO when she passed the 12 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 6/22/01