Cretans - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Rural Crete is predominantly agricultural, with transhumant pastoralism (now being sedentarized) among the mountain villagers who rent winter pasturage in the coastal areas to the north and northeast. Goat- and sheepherding are common and increasingly commercial pastoral activities. Cattle are now rare, but pigs and chickens are raised for food and mules and donkeys remain an important mode of transporting produce and People over short distances. Major crops include vines (for wine, table grapes, and raisins) and olives; the latter increasingly predominate because of their greater ease of cultivation and high yield. Little grain has been grown, especially since Government subsidies to certain areas since 1964 have discouraged further investment. Fruit production includes bananas, pears, and citrus (mostly oranges); the avocado has recently been introduced and seems destined mostly for export. In the fertile Messara Plain, huge tomato-growing greenhouse nurseries have proliferated, providing wages for poorer villagers from all over the island. Carobs are an important item, and some tobacco is grown (especially in areas populated by Asia Minor refugees). Coastal communities are extensively engaged in fishing; the Asia Minor refugees introduced nighttime fishing with decoy lights.

Industrial Arts. Urban occupations include an extensive carpentry tradition; metalworking and boot making, once important, have decayed. Until about 1960, Rethimno was a major producer of soap, utilizing the large resources of olive oil from the rural hinterland. Today there is an extensive cottage industry in some (mostly mountain) villages producing woven goods for the tourist trade, and tourism is also the major source of income for the coastal towns and villages near archaeological sites.

Trade. Small all-purpose stores predominate in the Villages; in the towns, supermarkets are threatening their survival. Itinerant vendors, often Gypsies from the Greek mainland, provide cheap goods and also work as metalworkers and chair makers, but they are treated with contempt. The village woven goods, produced by women at home, are distributed to tourist markets by wholesalers from the home villages. Produce is distributed through Cooperatives and markets.

Division of Labor. There is a strong sense of sexual division. Men tend the flocks and engage in political life; women may work in the fields, but growing "embourgoisement" reduces this involvement in fieldwork and tends to close them up at home. Women do all domestic chores, including cooking (although men may roast meat on certain occasions). In the towns, women may take on domestic labor in the tourist sector. Both sexes tend shops, even the male-only coffeehouses.

Land Tenure. Cretans of both sexes inherit land from both parents in a system of equal, partible inheritance. Some lands belong to monasteries. Urban dwellers mostly own some ancestral village property, which they either tend themselves or work on a fifty-fifty sharecropping basis ( simisako ) with local kin. Land tenure in the towns is largely through Recent purchase or inheritance, and renting of houses and apartments is common.

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