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Land, Livelihood, and Civility in Southern Mexico

Land, Livelihood, and Civility in Southern Mexico: Oaxaca Valley Communities in History

Scott Cook
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    Land, Livelihood, and Civility in Southern Mexico
    Book Description:

    In the Valley of Oaxaca in Mexico's Southern Highland region, three facets of sociocultural life have been interconnected and interactive from colonial times to the present: first, community land as a space to live and work; second, a civil-religious system managed by reciprocity and market activity wherein obligations of citizenship, office, and festive sponsorships are met by expenditures of labor-time and money; and third, livelihood. In this book, noted Oaxacan scholar Scott Cook draws on thirty-five years of fieldwork (1965–1990) in the region to present a masterful ethnographic historical account of how nine communities in the Oaxaca Valley have striven to maintain land, livelihood, and civility in the face of transformational and cumulative change across five centuries.Drawing on an extensive database that he accumulated through participant observation, household surveys, interviews, case studies, and archival work in more than twenty Oaxacan communities, Cook documents and explains how peasant-artisan villagers in the Oaxaca Valley have endeavored over centuries to secure and/or defend land, worked and negotiated to subsist and earn a living, and striven to meet expectations and obligations of local citizenship. His findings identify elements and processes that operate across communities or distinguish some from others. They also underscore the fact that landholding is crucial for the sociocultural life of the valley. Without land for agriculture and resource extraction, occupational options are restricted, livelihood is precarious and contingent, and civility is jeopardized.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-75477-5
    Subjects: Anthropology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Maps and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    The modern nation-state of Mexico geographically encompasses roughly three-quarters of the territory of the ancient New World civilization of Mesoamerica. Together with Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, China, and Peru, Mesoamerica was one of the independent centers of civilizational development in world history, and it was the homeland of two great pre-Hispanic empires, the Maya and the Tenochca (Aztec or Mexica), which were still in existence at the time of the Spanish Conquest (Kirchhoff 1968; Sanders and Price 1968, 6–7; Ribeiro 1968, 55).¹

    Within Mesoamerica, the Valley of Oaxaca was a “key area” in the Southern Highland region (between the Sierra...

  7. CHAPTER 1 The Teitipac Communities: Peasant-Artisans on the Hacienda’s Periphery
    (pp. 23-40)

    The Teitipac cluster of three communities (San Juan, San Sebastián, and Magdalena) provides a good point of departure for a historical inquiry into the struggle for land, livelihood, and civility in the Oaxaca Valley. The community known as Zeetoba/Quehuiquijezaa in Zapotec and as Teitipac in Nahuatl, and renamed San Juan Bautista in the sixteenth century by the Spaniards, was a major religious-ceremonial center in pre-Hispanic regional civilization. Moreover, owing to the Teitipac area’s early colonial involvement in mining, especially near Magdalena, this cluster is well represented in the colonial archival record and in key historical sources like Burgoa (1934). Spanish...

  8. CHAPTER 2 Hacienda San Antonio Buenavista from Two Perspectives: Hacendado and Terrazguero
    (pp. 41-63)

    As oppressive as life was for San Sebastianos under the Marcial cacicazgo, it was even more oppressive under the hacienda regime experienced by the terrazgueros of Hacienda San Antonio Buenavista (see Map 2, center bottom, for location vis-à-vis San Sebastián). One afternoon in 1966, in the shadows of the ruins of the hacienda, I interviewed eighty-eight-year-old Eduardo Mendoza (b. 1878), whose testimony provided a compelling depiction of exploitation, oppression, and violence that he, as the oldest founding ejidatario and ciudadano, and other Buenavistans experienced during their lifetimes. Although exact dates were absent in Eduardo’s account, and chronology was somewhat disordered,...

  9. CHAPTER 3 San Juan Teitipac: Metateros Here and There
    (pp. 64-87)

    We do not know for certain if metate production originated in San Juan or San Sebastián, or exactly when metate production originated as an industry in the Oaxaca Valley. Popular archaeological evidence supports the thesis that metates were being made in Teitipac when the Spaniards arrived. In the early 1960s, Rosendo Carranza, a metatero from San Juan Teitipac, uncovered ancient remains in his quarry. I visited and photographed the site and the artifacts recovered by Carranza, but these were not examined by professional archaeologists.

    Uncorroborated testimonial evidence from San Sebastián suggests that the quarry in question may, in fact, have...

  10. CHAPTER 4 San Sebastián Teitipac: Metateros and Civility
    (pp. 88-122)

    The most direct route to San Sebastián was by an unpaved road that departed from the Pan-American Highway at the 559-kilometer marker 3 kilometers east of Tule and wound its way through the pueblos of Güendulain, Rojas de Cuauhtémoc, and Santa Rosa Buenavista. After departing Rojas, located about 2.5 kilometers from the highway, the road gradually rose from the valley floor as it skirted the range of mountains to the west for the roughly 3 kilometers to Santa Rosa Buenavista. Before reaching Santa Rosa, high up on a mountain to the southwest a white area was visible on the green...

  11. CHAPTER 5 San Lorenzo Albarradas, Xaagá, and the Hacienda Regime
    (pp. 123-137)

    The consolidation of Hacienda Xaagá was critical to the formation of the communities of San Lorenzo Albarradas and Xaagá. Local discourse identified the residents of Xaagá, together with those of San Lorenzo and Unión Zapata, as castellanos in a Zapotec region. This implied their common origin but provided no explanation of it.

    It has been speculated that the Spanish-speaking populations in Mitla’s neighborhood, including Xaagá and San Lorenzo Albarradas, were descendants of non-Zapotec speakers from the Mixteca or from another region of Mexico. According to this thesis, non-Zapotec speakers were imported into the greater Mitla region in the early 1520s...

  12. CHAPTER 6 “Castellanos” as Plaiters and Weavers: San Lorenzo Albarradas and Xaagá
    (pp. 138-162)

    As described in Chapter 5, San Lorenzo Albarradas and Xaagá may well have shared a common indigenous origin, but their shared identity as “castellanos” was forged from the sixteenth century into the twentieth century as subalterns of the same hacienda. They were divided in terms of settlement, means of material support, and specific relationship to the hacienda but were similarly subjected to exploitation and oppression by it. San Lorenzo evolved as a peasant-artisan community with some resources to produce subsistence staples and a modicum of palm products to sell, although its residents probably paid a surcharge for palm cut on...

  13. CHAPTER 7 The Jalieza Communities: Peasant-Artisans with Mixed Crafts
    (pp. 163-189)

    Santo Tomás, administrative center of the Jalieza cluster of villages, is located approximately 26 kilometers from Oaxaca City on the highway to the district town (cabecera de distrito) of Ocotlán de Morelos, 6 kilometers farther south. At least since the early 1940s, and in escalating fashion after 1960, Santo Tomás was on the tourist circuit out of Oaxaca City that typically included guided tours of black pottery–making workshops in San Bartolo Coyotepec; of the backstrap-loom weaver’s market in Santo Tomás, conveniently located next to the highway at the entrance to the community; and of the bustling Friday market in...

  14. CHAPTER 8 Santa Cecilia Jalieza: Defending Homeland in Hostile Surroundings
    (pp. 190-213)

    From the sixteenth century and earlier, Santa Cecilia Jalieza experienced subjugation, conflict, invasion, and resettlement without loss of its identity or place in the regional landscape. The archaeological record shows that the greater Jalieza area had shifting settlements and fluctuating populations related to its location in a strategic zone of passage between the Tlacolula and Ocotlán branches of the Oaxaca Valley. This zone of passage was contested first between Zapotec cacicazgos (e.g., Zaachila versus Teitipac), and then among the Mixtec, Nahua, and Zapotec. During the colonial period, it was contested by competing Spanish jurisdictions and interests (e.g., caciques in Teitipac...

  15. CHAPTER 9 Magdalena Ocotlán: From Terrazgueros to Artisanal Ejidatarios
    (pp. 214-245)

    Magdalena Ocotlán qualifies for the dubious distinction of being among a handful of Zapotec communities in the Oaxaca Valley that failed to preserve their territorial integrity and economic independence throughout the colonial period (Taylor 1972, 8), with the proviso that its preconquest and early colonial history is murky. It was among thirty pueblos in the Oaxaca Valley mentioned in a 1776–1777 document as having a fundo legal (Méndez Martínez 1983, 96). Oral history suggests that it originated in the colonial period as a congregation of Coatecans. Whatever its origin, the pueblo fell victim to the consolidation of the region’s...

  16. CHAPTER 10 Magdalena’s Metateros: Servants of the Saints and the Market
    (pp. 246-276)

    Magdalena exemplifies the thesis that occupational structures in Oaxaca Valley indigenous communities are subject to abrupt change. This was illustrated in Chapter 9 with the case of embroidery that was first introduced in the 1970s but also by the case of stoneworking. In 1880, Magdalena did not have a resident metatero, yet in 1901 a prominent Oaxaca writer specifically cited it (and no others) as one of the communities in the state where “the indígenas are dedicated to making metates, manos de metates, and mortars and pestles (tejolotes), indispensable artifacts in our pueblos … that serve to grind corn and...

  17. CHAPTER ELEVEN Conclusion
    (pp. 277-296)

    This book’s purpose is to promote understanding of a complex historical process of struggle for land, livelihood, and civility in the Oaxaca Valley. It was organized to achieve this through a series of community studies, by allowing subjects to speak for themselves, and by expanding the voice of selected subjects who were especially representative of particular communities and occupations, or were witnesses to particular events. Four haciendas—San Bartolo, Xaagá, San Antonio Buenavista, and San José La Garzona—affected the livelihoods and sociocultural life of several communities in different subregions of the valley and its mountain hinterland. The approach and...

  18. Photo Essay
    (pp. 297-318)
    (pp. 319-326)
  20. NOTES
    (pp. 327-358)
    (pp. 359-370)
  22. INDEX
    (pp. 371-383)