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Volume I Issue 2 Through the work of Ruiz


and her fellow Tzotziles, the inhabitants of Naranjatic Bajo, Chenalhó, and other indigenous communities consume what they cultivate. Coffee is their most important beverage. One often sees mothers giving it to their children, adults sipping it dur- ing the day, and the elderly tak- ing strength from the dark brew. Coffee production is an old tra- dition to the indigenous people of this region and a foundation of the local economy. Despite the passion of the


she speaks both Tzotzil and Spanish. “I make my tortillas, I take


care of my kids, and I clean the house,” Ruiz tells me, counting off the many household respon- sibilities she has as a Tzotzile woman. But she is also a farm- er and a laborer who does work that cannot be done by steel- and-rubber machines: “I cut cof- fee.” Ruiz shows me how she picks the raw fruits of the cof- fee plant when they show a vivid red or yellow color. Collecting the beans is a tough job that takes days, weeks, and months, of skilled and redundant labor.


Tzotziles for the plant and its beverage, they hardly earn any income from selling coffee be- cause they cannot directly access markets and must accommodate external distributors and mer- chants. Regardless of its source or justification, this inequality and economic imbalance defines most indigenous commerce in the township of Naranjatic Bajo, the state of Chiapas, and the na- tion of Mexico as a whole. While women like Ruiz are


keeping their homes in order or cultivating coffee, their hus- bands are usually working in the milpas, or cornfields. They start work at dawn, as the first rays of light illuminate the sky, and end only when it is too dark for them to walk between their plants. Corn, as a food and icon of the rural livelihood, is the base of indigenous Mexican culture. Ma- yan ancestors of the Tzotziles worshipped the gods of corn.


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