Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Variations in patterns of cultivation are determined by differences in soil, climate, and irrigation in the cold and temperate zones.
The main cultivated crops in the cool highland zone are maize, beans, chilies, and squashes, whereas in the lowland zone the preferred crop for cultivation is coffee, and in still lower-lying regions, sugarcane, bananas, pineapples, oranges, and mangoes. On a lesser scale, maize, chilies, beans, and squashes are also grown there.
One of the factors leading to low agricultural production is the unevenness of the terrain; the Egyptian plow, in common use on the plains, cannot be used. Another factor is the scarcity of water for irrigation and the lack of financial and informational resources for the use of chemical fertilizers.
Industrial Arts. Family industry is geared to the manufacture, for sale, of women's dresses, called huipiles , on the malacate (a horizontal strap loom, with four stakes). Shirts and belts are also made, and palm hats and baskets are woven for personal use.
Commerce. The exchange of agricultural produce, products of the hunt, and domestic animals for manufactured goods from nearby mestizo cities takes place mainly in local markets twice a week. The markets provide the indigenous population with industrial manufactured goods and with grain for local consumption when the supply has run out.
Division of Labor. Men cultivate the land, and women do the domestic work. With the approach of the harvest, men go to tend their fields, remaining there for several days until the work is finished. Women help in clearing the field of weeds, but planting is done only by men.
Land Tenure. Economic life rests on the communal property—both lineage and clan—and private property held by nuclear families. The use of communal property requires customs for cooperation and solidarity, and use of private land leads to competition between nuclear families. Communal land belongs to the entitled population, which has rights of common usufruct of the pasturelands and forest. Property rights are inalienable, and the indigenous community can increase landholdings by requesting it of the "lineage head" and the Comisariato de Bienes Comunes, an institution that is attached to the Ministry of Agrarian Reform.