This article, and the collection of essays it introduces, discusses the development and use of participatory mapping (PM) in Latin America. The methodology, with roots in participant observation and collaborative research, represents the fullest involvement of local people who are trained to do research or applied work with the researcher, facilitator, or team. PM transforms cognitive spatial knowledge into map and descriptive forms. Two types exist: one type, including participatory action research mapping (PARM) and participatory rural appraisal mapping (PRAM), uses mapping for social action; the other, participatory research mapping (PRM), aims at research. The PM approach developed among geographers and anthropologists studying indigenous populations in Latin America. The articles in the collection detail five different PM projects working with about 20 different indigenous populations, living in some of the region’s most important conservation lands in Mosquitia, Veraguas, Darién, and western Amazonia. The projects show how PM has become a “keystone activity” in a wide range of research and development work. This novel methodology for collecting geographic information is helping to meet a variety of research and societal needs. Indeed, the superior results from some applications challenge even the most deeply rooted norms about the construction of cartographic knowledge.

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