Mixe - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Maize as well as beans, chilies, and squashes are grown by means of slash-and-burn agriculture. Bananas, potatoes, root crops, and a variety of tropical fruits are also cultivated to a certain extent. Turkeys and chickens are kept around the household, and, in some villages, sheep, goats, pigs, and cattle are raised. Fishing and hunting constitute a significant, but not major, means of obtaining provisions. The Mixe also take on part-time occupations as merchants, traders, and craft specialists. In various villages, coffee is grown and sold as a cash crop. Because many villages are inaccessible to motorized transport, supplies such as maize, sugar, salt, and beer are brought in by pack animals. Store owners in larger villages sell dry goods to the local and surrounding population. Many store owners also sell maize and beer in large quantities to muleteers who then transport this merchandise to surrounding villages, where it is exchanged for coffee or cash. The Mixe region participates in the national and world economy by exporting large amounts of coffee. The profit from the cash crop, coffee, and the price paid for commercial maize and other imported merchandise depend on how far a village is from motorized transport facilities.

Industrial Arts. Pottery, baskets, and woven wool and cotton cloth for ponchos, women's blouses, sashes, belts, and headdresses are produced in a few villages for the local market. Each village has one or more specialists in sandal- and leatherworking, carpentry, butchering, bread baking, masonry, and the construction of clay griddles for heating maize-meal cakes. Most male adults are able to construct habitations with adobe, wattle and daub, or logs, and furniture such as wooden stools.

Trade. The Mixe region has a number of village markets, where a wide variety of foodstuff products and merchandise, such as clothing, is sold. Village marketplaces operate on different weekdays to form a mutually interdependent regional market system. Itinerant traders carrying fish, rope, sandals, hats, and other merchandise ply their wares from house to house. These items are usually exchanged for coffee, which serves as an all-purpose exchange medium. The traders bring the coffee to the lowlands to be sold, and return with more merchandise.

Division of Labor. Men do most of the agricultural work, but they are assisted by women in the weeding, harvesting, shelling, and storing of the maize. The two sexes also share in the harvesting and preparation of coffee beans and in attending to the pigs and poultry, gathering firewood, sewing, housekeeping, marketing, and carrying loads. Men are responsible for the pasturing of livestock and beasts of burden, house building, hunting and fishing, distant marketing, and the repair of tools. Politics, government, and the administration of village feasts are also in the hands of the men. Women care for the children, prepare and cook the food, do laundry, and clean the house.

Land Tenure. In villages that annually shift plots, cultivated fields are held in usufruct by a family for one season, after which it reverts back to the community. In villages with longer intervals between fallow periods and annual cultivation, the land is held by a family as long as it is worked continuously. Since the land is legally owned by the community, only usufruct rights and capital improvements made on the land may be transferred to another individual by cash payment. Only coffee trees can be sold, not the soil on which the trees are grown. Lands unsuitable for agriculture are used as a communal source of firewood and grazing.

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