Cahita - Economy

Precontact Cahitans relied on river flooding to water crops of maize, beans, and squashes, but modern farmers irrigate their fields of cotton, wheat, and safflower. Even today Cahitans still use the remaining wild desert areas to supply some variety in their diet—deer, small game, fish, shellfish, fruits of numerous cacti, beans of the mesquite, agave, and many other seedand fruit-producing plants. Working as small-scale farmers, wage laborers, and fishermen, they borrow money from banks, request irrigation water from the hydro commission, and plant the recommended commercial crops. With cash or credit from the sale of their crops or fish, the Mayo and the Yaqui purchase much of their food, clothing, and household items in the local mestizo markets. The Cahitan concept of wealth itself is dual in nature: land, farm produce, and modern Mexican material goods stand opposed to respect and Holy Flowers. One should give freely of the productivity of one's fields in support of Cahitan ceremonialism and thus achieve respect in this world and heavenly rewards after death.

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Modern Cahitan technology and subsistence focus upon farming, fishing, and wage labor. Before the Conquest, Cahitans raised two food crops per year, fished, and collected wild foods that constituted perhaps up to 40 percent of their diet. Jesuit missionaries introduced sheep, goats, and cattle as well as wheat and irrigation agriculture but did not basically change the Cahitan economy. Modern irrigation and farming technology, however, have dramatically modified Cahitan subsistence.

Industrial Arts. Most families own a jacal (mud thatch) or adobe dwelling with a separate cooking room, a table, chairs, folding cots or wooden beds, a set of enamel or glass bowls and cups and enamel spoons, and a wooden trunk for pictures, valuables, and documents. A few individuals, chiefly among the Mayo, still weave blankets and petates (split-cane mats), make pottery, and carve ceremonial masks and wooden utensils.

Trade. Besides farming, most households raise chickens and some keep pigs, turkeys, and cows. The pigs are generally sold, but the cows are often butchered for fiesta contributions and ceremonial exchanges.

Division of Labor. Age and sex provide the major dimensions in the division of labor. The major production roles are carried out by young adults within households, which are the major production and consumption units. Among the adults, labor was divided along gender lines, with women collecting wild foods and caring for household production while men hunted and farmed. This division of labor still exists, although both adult men and women will work for wages in the fields when such work is available. A few of the women are trained as weavers and cantoras (singers who accompany the maestros ), and a few men fill the roles of maestro (chanter and lay minister) and maso (deer) dancer and paskola (ceremonial) dancer and musician. A healthy household with a larger percentage of young adults will grow in wealth and influence. In general, however, no long-term, wealth-based stratification system has developed to separate households and provide the basis for a more complex division of labor.

Land Tenure. About three-fourths of the rural families hold small parcels of land, either as private holdings or as ejido members. In the larger villages and towns, however, often as many as one-half or more of the families in the community hold no lands at all. Ejido membership ( socio ) and rights to land carried by membership are inherited and can be passed to a wife or a daughter as well as to a son, as stipulated by the socio.


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