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Zapotec Science

Farming and Food in the Northern Sierra of Oaxaca

By Roberto J. González

Publication Year: 2001

In this book, Roberto González convincingly argues that Zapotec agricultural and dietary theories and practices constitute a valid local science, which has had a reciprocally beneficial relationship with European and United States farming and food systems since the sixteenth century.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. xi-xii

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Chapter 1. The Conceptual Bases of Zapotec Farming and Foodways

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pp. 1-31

The Zapotec people of Oaxaca have continuously cultivated maize, beans, squash, and other crops for more than 5,000 years. Evidence strongly indicates that their ancient Mesoamerican ancestors domesticated maize from a wild grass and that its propagation and improvement required a level of...

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Chapter 2. Locating Talea: Geography, History, and Cultural Contexts

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pp. 32-69

Contextualizing Talea poses a formidable task because the village, though relatively remote in some respects (it is a five-hour trip from Oaxaca City by bus), sits squarely in the world of international migration, mass communication, and global trade. The economic reliance of most Talean households on maize...

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Chapter 3. The Craft of the Campesino: Measures, Implements, and Artifacts

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pp. 70-101

Talean campesinos make use of many implements,methods, and measures, some dating to the prehispanic period, others (with Old World roots) to the colonial and postcolonial eras.Here I examine some of the most important in order to set the stage for an analysis of maize, sugarcane, and coffee...

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Chapter 4. "Maize Has a Soul": Rincón Zapotec Notions of Living Matter

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pp. 102-129

In the mid-twentieth century North American development agents, in partnership with their ‘‘Third World’’ counterparts, exported a particular version of factory farming—based on the use of mechanized equipment, chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, and hybrid seeds—to parts...

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Chapter 5. From Milpa to Tortilla: Growing, Eating, and Exchanging Maize

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pp. 130-174

In this chapter the focus shifts from Zapotec conceptions of ‘‘nature’’ to the knowledges and techniques deployed by Talean campesinos—that is, to their science and technology. I begin with a brief discussion of land tenure, labor arrangements, and classificatory systems employed by the Zapotec...

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Chapter 6. Sweetness and Reciprociity: Sugarcane Work

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pp. 175-194

The history of sugarcane in Talea is remarkable because over the course of nearly 500 years the crop has been integrated almost seamlessly into the diets and farming routines of villagers. It is a staple food taken with literally every meal, since it is used to sweeten coffee....

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Chapter 7: The Invention of "Traditional" Agriculture: The History and Meanings of Coffee

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pp. 195-233

This chapter is about the adoption and appropriation of coffee by Zapotec campesinos over the last century. History is part of the story. Nearly 1,000 years ago the crop began traveling across the globe, preceding the ‘‘Columbian exchange’’ (Crosby 1972) of New and Old World organisms...

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Chapter 8. Agriculture Unbound: Cultivating the Ground between Science Traditions

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pp. 234-262

The Rincón Zapotec have incorporated new crops and techniques into their farming and dietary repertoires to improve upon a strong base of agricultural knowledge and practice. Through this process they have created a system which is neither static nor ‘‘underdeveloped,’’ but rather...

Appendix A. Pronunciation of Rincón Zapotec Terms

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pp. 263-264

Appendix B. Talean Food Plants

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pp. 265-271

Appendix C. Talean Livestock and Game Animals

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pp. 272-273

Appendix D. Selected Average Crop Yields

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pp. 274-275

Appendix E. Recipes

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pp. 276-277


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pp. 279-294


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pp. 295-318


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pp. 319-328

E-ISBN-13: 9780292796447
E-ISBN-10: 0292796447
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292728318
Print-ISBN-10: 029272831X

Page Count: 342
Illustrations: 23 b&w illus., 4 line drawings, 2 maps, 9 tables
Publication Year: 2001