have migrated here, too. Rural-to-urban migration is a key regional feature in Latin America. Diego's siblings face the same problems.“Poquito nos tocó a cada uno y por eso que cada uno...”TRANSLATOR:Since we each got very little land, each one has to move wherever they can to support one's family. That is why we are scattered all over the place.NARRATOR:The same forces that push Indians out of the highlands also led to the violence. What are those forces, and what are the prospects for change? The future for these children will grow out of Guatemala's troubled past. For a historical geographer, the past is fertile ground. George Lovell is researching patterns in both time and space to explain the collapse--and now the explosion--of Maya population. After the conquest in the 16th century, the Spaniards had little interest in highland resources. They saw something in the hills more valuable than land. It was labor. The Spaniards saved Mayas' souls and forced their bodies to work silver mines and lowland plantations.LOVELL:To supply them with ready pools of labor, Spaniards forced Maya Indiansto build and to live in compact towns like this...NARRATOR:And this...and this. The new settlements, called “congregaciones”, were laid out in classic Spanish-American grids and located in valleys. The dense urban settlement pattern helped decimate Maya population. The conquistadors brought from Europe a host of exotic diseases, like smallpox. The close living quarters and poor sanitation just accelerated the devastating illness.Lovell estimates that the Guatemala Maya numbered two million before the Conquest and fell to 128,000 by 1625. It was part of the largest population collapse in human history, but when the Spanish Empire itselfcollapsed here, many Indians left the congregaciones to return to their age-old pattern of dispersed rural settlement. Gradually, their numbers,
too, rebounded, to the point where many now fear a dangerous population explosion. George Lovell wants to know why.The year 2000, and Doña Magdalena is now 92. With Diego now working in Guatemala City, she relies on one of her other grandsons, Paulino, still living in the compound. George Lovell visits the Gonzales farm to see if growth of their family provides insights into the larger Maya society. Why did Diego have to leave? Why can't the land support the whole family? Harvests of corn have sustained life here for thousands of years. The size of Maya population was limited largely by the size of the corn harvest. The land has been good to the Gonzales family. Doña Magdalena now has 24 great-grandchildren. She has just divided the land into separate plots for her six grandchildren. But are the plots big enough for each family? “Aquí es... ya empieza el de Diego Ezequiel...”LOVELL (\translating\):This is the boundary marker between my land, which lies behind me, here, and over here, in front of me, is my brother Diego's land. You can see just how narrow the strip of land is.