Subsistence and Commercial Activities. As a laborintensive society, the Awakateko practice subsistence agriculture and livestock raising, employing the use of the hoe, plow, draft animals, irrigation, and the digging stick. Sheep and goats are utilized for organic fertilizer and wool. Small livestock consists of chickens, turkeys, pigs, and goats. Cows and horses are draft animals. The diet is based on maize, the most important staple food. Maize tortillas, atole (maize gruel), and tamales are just a few examples of foods made with maize. As a source of protein, the Awakateko most commonly consume pork and poultry.
Different varieties of vegetables and fruits—such as squashes, beans, bananas, and mangoes—contribute to the diet. Coffee plantations in the coastal lands have had a great impact on the economy. Coffee emerged in the late nineteenth century as the major national export crop, and, as a result, the population and coffee production grew hand in hand. Through coerced labor operating under strict national labor laws enforced by the Ladino government, and through seasonal migration, the Indians were taken away from their own subsistence plots, resulting in a cycle of low yields and debt. The cash cropping of garlic and onions, the irrigation of new lands, and the abolition of forced labor on the coffee plantations allowed local native farming to become productive. With the profits from irrigated agriculture, Indians were able to buy back land from Ladinos and irrigate more of it.
Industrial Arts. The Awakateko create original handwoven clothing, pottery, and embroidery work, for which there is a large market in the United States. Intricately designed sashes and skirts are also produced.
Trade. Most Awakateko trade takes place in the market held in the central plaza of the pueblo. Here, numerous buyers and sellers, mainly women, exchange eggs, fruit, and vegetables for baskets, pottery, and clothes in the center of the plaza, while the men remain on the outside, bartering for potatoes, maize, beans, and animals.
Division of Labor. Cooking, washing, tending the animals, caring for the children, and collecting firewood are all responsibilities of Awakateko women. Children are taught skills by sharing the duties of the household, daughters helping their mothers and sons helping their fathers. Farming and raising cattle and horses are male activities, although in times of need, women work beside the men in the fields. Traditionally, men have played the dominant roles in Awakateko society.
Land Tenure. Land is kept within the family and passed on patrilineally. Those Awakateko possessing 30 cuerdas (57 hectares) are considered extremely wealthy. Aguacatan males who do not own their own land must rent it, work as laborers, or live with their fathers-in-law, which is looked upon by other Indians as a sign of poverty.