Zapotec Science: Farming and Food in the Northern Sierra of Oaxaca

Paperback | August 15, 2001

byRoberto J. González

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Zapotec farmers in the northern sierra of Oaxaca, Mexico, are highly successful in providing their families with abundant, nutritious food in an ecologically sustainable fashion, although the premises that guide their agricultural practices would be considered erroneous by the standards of most agronomists and botanists in the United States and Europe. In this book, Roberto González convincingly argues that in fact Zapotec agricultural and dietary theories and practices constitute a valid local science, which has had a reciprocally beneficial relationship with European and United States farming and food systems since the sixteenth century.

González bases his analysis upon direct participant observation in the farms and fields of a Zapotec village. By using the ethnographic fieldwork approach, he is able to describe and analyze the rich meanings that campesino families attach to their crops, lands, and animals. González also reviews the history of maize, sugarcane, and coffee cultivation in the Zapotec region to show how campesino farmers have intelligently and scientifically adapted their farming practices to local conditions over the course of centuries. By setting his ethnographic study of the Talea de Castro community within a historical world systems perspective, he also skillfully weighs the local impact of national and global currents ranging from Spanish colonialism to the 1910 Mexican Revolution to NAFTA. At the same time, he shows how, at the turn of the twenty-first century, the sustainable practices of "traditional" subsistence agriculture are beginning to replace the failed, unsustainable techniques of modern industrial farming in some parts of the United States and Europe.

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Zapotec farmers in the northern sierra of Oaxaca, Mexico, are highly successful in providing their families with abundant, nutritious food in an ecologically sustainable fashion, although the premises that guide their agricultural practices would be considered erroneous by the standards of most agronomists and botanists in the United S...

Format:PaperbackDimensions:342 pages, 9 × 6 × 1 inPublished:August 15, 2001Publisher:University Of Texas PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0292728328

ISBN - 13:9780292728325

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments1. The Conceptual Bases of Zapotec Farming and Foodways2. Locating Talea: Geography, History, and Cultural Contexts3. The Craft of the Campesino: Measures, Implements, and Artifacts4. "Maize Has a Soul": Rincón Zapotec Notions of Living Matter5. From Milpa to Tortilla: Growing, Eating, and Exchanging Maize6. Sweetness and Reciprocity: Sugarcane Work7. The Invention of "Traditional" Agriculture: The History and Meanings of Coffee8. Agriculture Unbound: Cultivating the Ground between Science TraditionsAppendix A. Pronunciation of Rincón Zapotec TermsAppendix B. Talean Food PlantsAppendix C. Talean Livestock and Game AnimalsAppendix D. Selected Average Crop YieldsAppendix E. RecipesNotesReferencesIndex

Editorial Reviews

Zapotec farmers in the northern sierra of Oaxaca, Mexico, are highly successful in providing their families with abundant, nutritious food in an ecologically sustainable fashion, although the premises that guide their agricultural practices would be considered erroneous by the standards of most agronomists and botanists in the United States and Europe. In this book, Roberto González convincingly argues that in fact Zapotec agricultural and dietary theories and practices constitute a valid local science, which has had a reciprocally beneficial relationship with European and United States farming and food systems since the sixteenth century.González bases his analysis upon direct participant observation in the farms and fields of a Zapotec village. By using the ethnographic fieldwork approach, he is able to describe and analyze the rich meanings that campesino families attach to their crops, lands, and animals. González also reviews the history of maize, sugarcane, and coffee cultivation in the Zapotec region to show how campesino farmers have intelligently and scientifically adapted their farming practices to local conditions over the course of centuries. By setting his ethnographic study of the Talea de Castro community within a historical world systems perspective, he also skillfully weighs the local impact of national and global currents ranging from Spanish colonialism to the 1910 Mexican Revolution to NAFTA. At the same time, he shows how, at the turn of the twenty-first century, the sustainable practices of "traditional" subsistence agriculture are beginning to replace the failed, unsustainable techniques of modern industrial farming in some parts of the United States and Europe.This is a superb ethnographic work that can, and should, revolutionize a good deal of anthropology and the philosophy of science. . . . For anyone interested in Latin American traditional agriculture, it will be a ‘must read.’ - Eugene Anderson, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Riverside