It is important to note that in 1972 a Presidential Decree declared the Lacandona Community proprietors of the land that is today Lacantún Biosphere Reserve. It is part of the Frontera Corozal territory, which is one of the five Lacandona sub-communities. The other sub-communities are Nueva Palestina, Lacanjá-Chansayab, Naha and Metzabok (INE 2000).
Lacantún was recently recognized as one of the most pristine reserves in Mexico and free of human settlements. Yet, in 2001 the first human invasion into the reserve was reported. As a result, 18 hectares were cleared and 23 small huts were constructed. In 2002, monitoring revealed that the affected area had grown to 26 hectares (CI 2002).
Frontera Corozal's population center is located outside of Lacantún, near the banks of the Usumacinta River and Yaxchilán Natural Monument. Within the reserve, locals use temporary housing called "trabajaderos" (CONANP 2003b). These areas are used for agricultural activities and they are distributed throughout the eastern portion of the reserve, close to the border highway.
Communities adjacent to the reserve include Frontera Corozal, Lacanjá-Chansayab, Benemérito de las Américas, and Quiringuicharo along the banks of the Lacantún River. The last two communities are immigrant communities. The inhabitants have come from different states and have the greatest impact on the reserve. They log precious woods, fish, poach, engage in wildlife trafficking, and in some places, they cultivate narcotics.
The main access road to the reserve is the border highway that travels from Palenque to Benemérito de las Américas. The reserve is also accessible by the Lacantún River in boat. Finally, small airplanes that leave the city of Comitán or Palenque fly to the communities in the region, although not many people chose this mode of transportation since it is costly and the new asphalted highways are accessible.
Working areas or "trabajaderos" of the Frontera Corozal community within the Reserve's region, including grazing lands and cultivation lands
Within the reserve there are absolutely no infrastructure or services. Within the communities, on the other hand, one can find rustic accommodations, supply stores, health clinics, primary and secondary schools, and other services such as electricity, telephones, and public transportation to the cities of Palenque and Comitán de Domínguez, Chiapas. Commercial activity has grown notably in the border community of Benemérito in the last eight years because of its geographic location on the banks of Usumacinta River next to Guatemala. Many Guatemalan and Central American immigrants pass through this community on their way to the United States. Many of them are detained by the Mexican police and deported to the other side of the Usumacinta, yet they continue to try until they achieve their goal and some end up staying temporarily or permanently in Benemérito.
Total population in 2000 for Benemérito was 6,150 people (INEGI 2004). This economic and demographic growth has occurred in other large border cities, but in this case it has created social problems such as sordid nightlife, drug addictions, alcoholism, and drug trafficking.
In Frontera Corozal, there are approximately 5,000 indigenous Choles (INEGI 2004). This community has been considered a starting point for tourists visiting the Mayan ruins of Yaxchilán Natural Monument. The inhabitants have created cooperatives to offer hotel accommodations in Escudo Jaguar, where they have lodging, restaurant, bathrooms, telephone, and river transportation to the Yaxchilán ruins and Guatemalan communities like Técnica. Frontera Corozal also has public transportation (vans and buses) to the city of Palenque. This community has grade schools, high schools, and distance learning centers as well as a rural health center and a rural medical unit of the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS). This community's cultural way of life is very laid-back and tranquil. The adults work the land, fish from the riverbanks, and raise cattle.
Yaxchilán and Bonampak archeological reserves are the most visited of the region. Tourists, mostly from Europe and United States, usually take pre-arranged vacations organized by tourist agencies based in Palenque, Chiapas and Villahermosa, Tabasco. There are also national tourists, but not as many. Statistics on precise number of visitors are unavailable; the Chol community in Frontera Corozal and the Lacandona community in Lacanjá do not maintain systematic records. The National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), present in both sites, could not give precise information either.
The Lacanjá-Chansayab community, found close to the reserve's northern sector, has 754 indigenous Lacandona inhabitants-the most of any community (INEGI 2004). There are several lodging options in this community, most administered by indigenous Lacandona people, including small hotels and campgrounds in conserved forest. In some cases, they have formed agreements with companies in Palenque called "Explora." Most of the indigenous people involved in tourism have invested their own money, but some receive funding from governmental agencies such as the Secretary of National Tourism.
Inhabitants of Lacanjá-Chansayab and Frontera Corozal are part of the Lacandona Community and their productive activities are mostly subsistence, although they do engage in some commercial resource use. Benemérito and Quiringuicharo are immigrant communities and their economy is based on agriculture, grazing, and commerce, in addition to some illegal activities like logging and drug trafficking.