By Jennifer O’Riordan
More than 10,000 people turned out for a series of holiday concerts in Guatemala City and Quetzaltenango to raise awareness about the Pinabete (Abies guatemalensis), an endangered Guatemalan fir tree species.
The concerts were held on December 7 and 8 in Guatemala City and in Quetzaltenango the week after. The events combined an awareness campaign with a festive event, providing an ideal forum to inform people about the endangered tree. Each concert was preceded by a public message and a brief documentary detailing the Pinabete’s importance and how everyone can contribute to its conservation.
The Pinabete is an endemic species to the Guatemalan highlands and faces two main threats: deforestation and the illegal commercialization of the tree during the holiday season.
For years, Pinabete branches have been harvested and sold in the capital, and other Guatemalan cities, during the holiday season. The evergreen branches have a pleasant aroma that makes them particularly popular as a decoration for the home.
“The seedlings of the Pinabete are produced during November and December, so by cutting down the branches at this time of year the trees cannot naturally propagate,” explains Rony Mejia, Director of Counterpart International’s Community Tourism Alliance in Guatemala. “The commercialization of the Pinabete has become so widespread that the survival of the species is now at risk.”
One concert was held in Quetzaltenango, a key harvesting and transportation region for the endangered tree. The other three concerts were held in Guatemala City, the main market for illegal Pinabete branches: two at the National Theater and a larger one in the capital´s main square.
Counterpart´s Alliance for Community Tourism, which is financed by the U.S. Agency for International Development, collaborated with the National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP) to host the series performed by Guatemala’s prestigious Symphonic Orchestra. The program included a variety of holiday classics, popular melodies and special soloist performances.
For several years, CONAP has been leading efforts to certify sustainable plantations of the Guatemalan Pinabete and advocates for sustainable practices among producers, distributors and consumers.
Counterpart first started working in Guatemala in 2003. Through the Alliance for Community Tourism, which began in 2006, more than 1,100 small and medium enterprises have accessed over $1 million dollars in credit, generated $15 million in new sales and created almost 5,000 jobs.