Amuzgo - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Nowadays the economy of Amuzgo communities is based on agriculture. The main cultigen is maize, the foodstuff that forms the basis of the indigenous population's daily diet. Beans, squashes, chilies, cacao, coffee, various fruits, and poultry complement the indigenous diet. Panela (raw-sugar loaves) and aguardiente (white rum) are made from sugarcane, which is still pressed in the animal-powered sugar presses introduced during the colonial era. Given the area's soil quality and the hilly nature of the land, the system of agriculture is slash and burn. Implements include the machete, tarecua (a weeding tool), coa (native spade), and enduyo (a planting tool). The amount of seed sown is measured in maquillas (units of weight) or cajones (boxes). Only very few indigenous families can afford to maintain cattle. The Amuzgo complement crop and livestock production by producing handicrafts, mainly weaving and embroidery.

Trade. Indigenous products formerly played a major part in commercial exchange, but, in the hands of the mestizo population, trade has turned toward modern goods and increasingly less toward local handicrafts. Commercial activity increases during the festivities in the various pueblos of the area, but the majority of the merchants who come to sell at the fairs are from outside the area.

Migration. There has been a rapid increase in migration. The migratory flow is within the surrounding area, to the capital, to nearby cities, to Mexico City, and to the United States.

Division of Labor. Men generally work in the fields, and women in the home; however, in some cases women help the men with agricultural labor or tending herds and flocks. Handicrafts generally fall within the domain of women.

Land Tenure. In Amuzgo communities, landownership is in the form of ejidos (federal land grants to peasant farmers), communal lands, and smallholdings. Landownership has been a constant struggle for the Amuzgo, as they have had to contend with mestizos recurrently buying up land. Given the system of slash-and-burn cultivation, it is necessary for plots of land to lie fallow. Access to ejido and communal land guarantees the use of monte (hillside land) for planting, pasture, gathering, and hunting. Private property is mainly in the form of encierros—fenced plots of land wherein cattle are grazed—and cultivated land, which only the owner can use.

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