Yaqui - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Reliable sources indicate that precontact Yaqui were farmers who frequently had to emigrate because of floods. They grew maize, beans, calabashes, amaranth seeds, and cotton. They complemented such activity with hunting, fishing, and gathering, as well as raids on their closest neighbors. During the colonial period, labor was regulated by the missions. New crops were introduced, and production increased to such an extent that it was possible to satisfy local needs. During armed conflicts, the pacified Indians were left in charge of agriculture, whereas the "Broncos" alternated their fighting activities with work as laborers on haciendas. Nowadays the main Yaqui economic activity continues to be agriculture. Since 1940 the collective exploitation of the land has led to the end of subsistence agriculture and to a new need to sell farm products in order to buy food that was formerly produced locally. Other important economic activities are fishing and cattle raising (which are conducted through cooperative societies), wood cutting, coal mining, pitch mining, temporary migration, and the exploitation of salt deposits that have been in use since the time of the Jesuits.

Industrial Arts. The design and manufacture of ceremonial paraphernalia constitutes the main artistic activity of the Yaqui. This has no commercial purpose; the dancers and musicians themselves make the items for personal use. A few families are devoted to the manufacture of petates (sleeping mats), baskets, and reed crowns, while others make earthenware cups and saucers that are used exclusively at ceremonies.

Trade. From the time of the Jesuit missions, the farm produce from the eight traditional villages provided for other missions that were situated in less fertile territories. Currently, the crops and the catch are primarily destined for regional and national markets.

Division of Labor. Farm labor is primarily performed by men, but women help with certain activities during those periods requiring a larger labor force. Fishing, cattle raising, and work in the salt mines are almost exclusively done by male workers. Young women take teaching jobs and are employed as social workers and occasionally as home aides.

Land Tenure. Since the presidential acknowledgement of an exclusively Yaqui territory in 1936, the land-tenure regime has been communal. Every head of a family is assigned a piece of land on which to build a home and to work collectively in farming associations.


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