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Mayo Ethnobotany

Mayo Ethnobotany: Land, History, and Traditional Knowledge in Northwest Mexico

Copyright Date: 2002
Edition: 1
Pages: 372
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  • Book Info
    Mayo Ethnobotany
    Book Description:

    The Mayos, an indigenous people of northwestern Mexico, live in small towns spread over southern Sonora and northern Sinaloa, lands of remarkable biological diversity. Traditional Mayo knowledge is quickly being lost as this culture becomes absorbed into modern Mexico. Moreover, as big agriculture spreads into the region, the natural biodiversity of these lands is also rapidly disappearing. This engaging and accessible ethnobotany, based on hundreds of interviews with the Mayos and illustrated with the authors' strikingly beautiful photographs, helps preserve our knowledge of both an indigenous culture and an endangered environment. This book contains a comprehensive description of northwest Mexico's tropical deciduous forests and thornscrub on the traditional Mayo lands reaching from the Sea of Cortés to the foothills of the Sierra Madre. The first half of the book is a highly readable account of the climate, geology, and vegetation of the region. The authors also provide a valuable history of the people, their language, culture, festival traditions, and plant use. The second half of the book is an annotated list of plants presenting the authors' detailed findings on plant use in Mayo culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92635-6
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
    David Yetman
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)

    • 1 The People and the Land
      (pp. 3-15)

      In 1980 one of the most popular major league baseball players was a Mexican named Fernando Valenzuela. On the nights he pitched his legendary screwball for the Los Angeles Dodgers, management could count on as many as ten thousand additional admissions. For five years bleacher seats were sold out for every home game in which Valenzuela pitched. He is a Mayo Indian from southern Sonora.

      While public relations technicians extolled Fernando’s humble peasant origins in promoting his image, little was made of the fact that in his youth Valenzuela had danced thepascola, the traditional Mayo dance, and that he...

    • 2 A Brief Ethnography of the Mayos
      (pp. 16-29)

      Mayos have inhabited the region since well before the Conquest, though for how long before is unknown. According to Almada (1937:19), a prestigious regional historian, Cáhitas (Mayos and Yaquis) penetrated well into the Sierra Madre. Describing their presence in the region, Almada (1952) wrote:

      The Cáhita civilization ruled in what is now the state of Sonora until the arrival of Aztecs as they ranged southward in the twelfth century, remaining there during their forced stay. The Aztecs, the bigger and stronger tribe and forced to remain in the region of Sinaloa, came to dominate the Cáhitas, absorbing them and completely...

    • 3 Historical and Contemporary Mayos
      (pp. 30-61)

      While the focus of this work is primarily ethnobotanical—the plants used by Mayos—we present the following history in an attempt to clarify the historic and present land tenure in the region in a way that is sympathetic to the Mayos. The fact that most Mayos live today in scattered small villages over a large region and are familiar with a variety of habitats can be attributed to historical forces that impelled or drew them in one direction or another. They defended their traditional lands fiercely, and their history is largely one of a defense against encroachment.

      The Mayos...

    • 4 Plant and Animal Life
      (pp. 62-78)

      The plant communities found in the lands inhabited by Mayos are varied and complex, more so than in the lands of any other groups indigenous to northwest Mexico. In keeping with Martin et al. (1998) we have adopted the following categories for classifying vegetation: coastal vegetation, coastal thornscrub, foothills thornscrub, tropical deciduous forest, and oak woodland. The last category is represented only marginally in Mayo lands in specialized soil situations. Arroyos, canyons, andcajones(narrow canyons) also present special plant associations that add considerably to species diversity in the region. For example, species normally associated with tropical deciduous forest are...

    • 5 Eight Plants That Make Mayos Mayos
      (pp. 79-106)

      The plants described below have key roles in the life of Mayos, so much so that we suppose that without them the Mayo way of life would be quite different. We selected these species because of their variety of uses and the Mayos’ general familiarity with them. They are presented in no particular order. While none of them is endemic to Mayo lands (the jito is endemic to the Cáhita region), their wide use indicates their importance. Most of these plants are well known to virtually all Sonoran Mayos, even though not all of them are found everywhere in Mayo...


    • 6 Plant Uses
      (pp. 109-126)

      A traditional Mayo house constitutes a remarkable primer for initiating an ethnobotanical study. As the annotated plant list in chapter 7 indicates, a host of native plants are to be found in every such Mayo house, used for everything from building materials and home implements to foods and livestock management materials. Medicinal plants are stored between the vigas (beams) andlatas(narrow poles laid side by side) of the ceiling, often near the portal. Many of the tools scattered around the home are fashioned from native woods. The beds (tarimes) and other furniture are usually fashioned from locally harvested materials....

    • 7 An Annotated List of Plants
      (pp. 127-272)

      In gathering the following data on the Mayos’ knowledge and use of plants, we visited the region and consulted with Mayos for nearly ten years, beginning in the early 1990s and concluding in 2000. We also familiarized ourselves to the maximum possible extent with Mayo history, the geography and geology of the region, the region’s fauna and flora, and the state of contemporary Mayo culture. We have doubtless omitted important data and considerations, but we hope that others will complement our work and continue to encourage Mayos, young and old, to carry on the old traditions which our many acquaintances...

  8. APPENDIX A. Mayo Region Place Names and Their Meanings
    (pp. 273-275)
  9. APPENDIX B. Yoreme Consultants
    (pp. 276-280)
  10. APPENDIX C. Gazetteer of the Mayo Region
    (pp. 281-292)
  11. APPENDIX D. Mayo Plants Listed by Spanish Name
    (pp. 293-302)
  12. APPENDIX E. Mayo Plants Listed by Mayo Name
    (pp. 303-312)
  13. APPENDIX F. Glossary of Mayo and Spanish Terms
    (pp. 313-318)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 319-330)
  15. Works Cited
    (pp. 331-336)
  16. Index
    (pp. 337-359)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 360-360)