K'iche' - Economy

The majority of K'iche' are agricultural workers who combine traditional maize production (milpa farming) with cash cropping and wage labor. Milpa plots have not changed much since the pre-Hispanic period. Land is cleared by burning off the existing vegetation, then the soil is turned with large-bladed hoes. Maize, beans, and squashes are grown together on the milpa plot to ensure a variety of crops for dietary consumption.

Within the region, a number of other crops are cultivated to supplement the K'iche' diet. These include wheat, potatoes, chilies, apples, pears, peaches, plums, avocados, lemons, limes, and oranges.

Certain regions do not participate as heavily in agricultural production but are known for pottery making, blanket manufacture, lumbering, and woodworking. Increasing numbers of K'iche' are beginning to practice carpentry, tailoring, and butchery, professions that have historically been Ladino occupations.

The largest indigenous craft is that of weaving. There are three types of weavers: blanket weavers, napkin or handkerchief weavers, and blouse weavers. Both men and women weave fabric, but the majority of women are spinners, and the majority of men are weavers. In this way, men and women are dependent on each other for economic subsistence.

Markets are held in the regional centers, and merchants travel long distances to attend markets in other communities. Some even travel outside of Guatemala in order to trade their wares. Most traders are men, and they deal largely in commodities such as clothing, blankets, unprocessed foods, and livestock.

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