Front Cover
 Letter of transmittal
 Table of Contents
 List of Illustrations
 Phonetic note
 The setting and the people
 The community
 Religion and ceremonial
 The individual and the culture
 Conclusion and further problem...
 Data on food plants and food from...
 The ceremonial organization of...
 Report on maize from Cherán

Group Title: Institute of Social Anthropology publication - Smithsonian Institution ; no. 2
Title: Cherán
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00054967/00001
 Material Information
Title: Cherán a Sierra Tarascan village
Series Title: Publication Smithsonian Institution. Institute of Social Anthropology
Physical Description: x, 225 p., 8 p. of plates : ill., maps ; 26 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Beals, Ralph Leon, 1901-
United States -- Interdepartmental Committee on Scientific and Cultural Cooperation
Publisher: U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
Place of Publication: Washington D.C
Publication Date: 1946
Subject: Tarasco Indians   ( lcsh )
Indians of Mexico   ( lcsh )
Cherán (Mexico)   ( lcsh )
Genre: federal government publication   ( marcgt )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (p. 223) and index.
Statement of Responsibility: by Ralph L. Beals ; prepared in cooperation with the United States Department of State as a project of the Interdepartmental Committee on Cultural and Scientific Cooperation.
Funding: Publication (Smithsonian Institution. Institute of Social Anthropology) ;
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00054967
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 26689774
lccn - 46026110

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Page i
        Page ii
    Letter of transmittal
        Page iii
        Page iv
    Table of Contents
        Page v
        Page vi
    List of Illustrations
        Page vii
        Page viii
        Page ix
    Phonetic note
        Page x
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
    The setting and the people
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Exploitative activities
            Page 13
            Page 14
            Page 15
            Page 16
            Page 17
            Page 18
            Page 19
            Page 20
            Page 21
            Page 22
            Page 23
            Page 24
            Page 25
            Page 26
            Page 27
            Page 28
        Domestic animals
            Page 29
            Page 30
            Page 31
            Page 32
        Manufacturing processes
            Page 33
            Page 34
            Page 35
            Page 36
            Page 37
            Page 38
            Page 39
            Page 40
            Page 41
            Page 42
            Page 43
            Page 44
            Page 45
            Page 46
            Page 47
            Page 48
            Page 49
            Page 50
            Page 51
            Page 52
            Page 53
            Page 54
            Page 55
            Page 56
            Page 57
        Page 58
            Page 59
            Page 60
            Page 61
            Page 62
            Page 63
        Costs of production and income
            Page 64
            Page 65
            Page 66
            Page 67
            Page 68
            Page 69
            Page 70
            Page 71
            Page 72
            Page 73
            Page 74
            Page 75
            Page 76
            Page 77
            Page 78
            Page 79
            Page 80
            Page 81
            Page 82
            Page 83
            Page 84
            Page 85
        Value and price
            Page 86
        Wealth and property
            Page 87
            Page 88
            Page 89
            Page 90
    The community
        Page 91
        The municipio
            Page 91
        The town and its subdivisions
            Page 92
        The population
            Page 93
            Page 94
            Page 95
            Page 96
            Page 97
            Page 98
            Page 99
        Kinship terminology and behaviors
            Page 100
            Page 101
        The compadre system
            Page 102
            Page 103
            Page 104
            Page 105
            Page 106
            Page 107
        Barrio functions and communal improvements
            Page 108
            Page 109
            Page 110
        Fiscal system
            Page 111
        Unofficial organizations
            Page 112
            Page 113
        Conflict and law
            Page 114
            Page 115
    Religion and ceremonial
        Page 116
        The church
            Page 117
        The priest and the church organization
            Page 118
            Page 119
        Religious fiestas
            Page 120
            Page 121
            Page 122
            Page 123
            Page 124
            Page 125
            Page 126
            Page 127
            Page 128
        Secular fiestas
            Page 129
        Fiestas in other towns
            Page 130
        Mayordomia organization and the cult of the saints
            Page 131
            Page 132
            Page 133
            Page 134
            Page 135
            Page 136
            Page 137
            Page 138
            Page 139
            Page 140
            Page 141
            Page 142
        Comparative notes
            Page 143
            Page 144
            Page 145
            Page 146
            Page 147
            Page 148
            Page 149
            Page 150
            Page 151
            Page 152
            Page 153
            Page 154
            Page 155
            Page 156
            Page 156
            Page 157
            Page 158
            Page 159
            Page 160
        Miscellaneous beliefs
            Page 161
            Page 162
    The individual and the culture
        Page 163
            Page 163
            Page 164
            Page 165
            Page 166
            Page 167
            Page 168
            Page 169
            Page 170
            Page 171
            Page 172
            Page 173
            Page 174
            Page 175
            Page 176
        Marriage and sex relationships
            Page 177
            Page 178
            Page 179
            Page 180
            Page 181
            Page 182
            Page 183
            Page 184
            Page 185
            Page 186
            Page 187
            Page 188
            Page 189
            Page 190
            Page 191
        Adult life
            Page 192
            Page 193
            Page 194
            Page 195
            Page 196
            Page 197
            Page 198
            Page 199
            Page 200
        Old age
            Page 201
        Sickness and its cure
            Page 202
            Page 203
            Page 204
            Page 205
            Page 206
            Page 207
            Page 208
            Page 209
    Conclusion and further problems
        Page 210
        Page 211
        Page 212
    Data on food plants and food from la Cañada
        Page 213
        Page 214
    The ceremonial organization of Chilchota
        Page 215
        Page 216
        Page 217
        Page 218
    Report on maize from Cherán
        Page 219
        Page 220
        Page 221
        Page 222
        Page 223
        Page 223
        Page 224
        Page 225
        Page 226
        Plate 1
        Plate 2
        Plate 3
        Plate 4
        Plate 5
        Plate 6
        Plate 7
        Plate 8
Full Text




Prepared in Cooperation with the United States Department of
State as a Project of the Interdepartmental Committee
on Cultural and Scientific Cooperation




Washington 25, D. 'C., June 21, 1944.

SIR: I have the honor to transmit herewith a manuscript entitled
"CherAn: A Sierra Tarascan Village," by Ralph L. Beals, and to recom-
mend'that it be published as Publication Number 2 of the Institute of
Social Anthropology, which has been established by the Smithsonian Insti-
tution as an autonomous unit of the Bureau of American Ethnology to
carry out cooperative work in social anthropology with the American
Republics as part of the program of the Interdepartmental Committee on
Cultural and Scientific Cooperation.
Very respectfully yours,
Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.



Foreword---- ------.................................
Phonetic note----........ ...----... ...... ................
The setting and the people....-----------...............
Technology---....-..---.........----------- .....-- ..--......
Exploitative -activities ---------....... ..............
Collecting..---.......-..-............ ......
,Use of minerals-...-- -----------........
Water supply-----.....---.....--------.........
Forest utilization----........--. .........------
Hunting----------.... .........................
Agriculture -----...---------------.......................
Types of farm lands----.......--.........-..
The farming cycle........---------............-
Soil preparation------.............-. .........
Maize ......--------------------.....--.... ......
W heat----------------.---------.........--...
Minor crops.------------.......................
'Beliefs and customs--- ---.................. -
Domestic animals --........----------..........-....-
Manufacturing processes ..-.....................--
Ceramics ..- -...................-----------......
Textiles....----- ------ ----..................
Clothing and dress habits......--..........
Woodworking techniques ...................
Miscellaneous processes ---...................
Specialized service occupations..-....-...
Food processing and diet-----...-..........
Meat foods -..----..-.. --.............. ..
Maize foods.----------.....................
Rice foods.......----------..........-.....
Amaranth foods......--------..........-
Wheat foods----.....---............-- ......
Vegetables and fruits--...............
Beverages ------------ ----..................
Some fiesta foods....-----------........-
Quantities and cost of foods ...---..-
Comparative notes ---.................
Eating customs --...----..........-- .....
,Economics ............-----------.......................
Production .--.---.---------------------------...............
Land--------- ------------- --..........
Labor ..........----------.. ....................
Capital ......................................
Credit, loans, and interest..--..............
Costs of' production and income.--.......---.....
Agriculture ........ .. _-------______
Animal husbandry --------...... .......
Woodworking ----..--.. --........ ..... ....
Mineral processing and use-.....-....-....
Textile manufacture ---..-....................

ix Economics-Continued
x Costs of production and income-Continued
1 Minor activities -............................
4 Distribution ...........-.............................
13 Traders..................... ----...
13 Transportation -.......-..-.................
13 Storekeepers ...-..-...........................-
14 Markets......-- .................................
15 Consumption .-.......................................
15 Value and price......- .............. ................
19 Wealth and property...........-.............-......
20 The community --------............
20 A The municipio -------------------------
21 The town and its subdivisions---......-..........
21 The population-................................
22 Kinship terminology and behaviors............
25 The compare system ...-.-----.- ---------
26 Government -----.....................................
28 Barrio functions and communal
29 improvements --.........----...................
33 Elections ......-...--.... ----.....................
34 Fiscal system -------............
34 Unofficial organizations ................---
38 Conflict and law.-..-...................-------------
42 Religion and ceremonial....................------------
43 / The Church.....---...-.........................
46 The priest and the Church organization......
47 Religious fiestas ------...............------....-----
48 Fiesta of the patron saint----....-..........
49 The Fiesta of Corpus...................-----
52 Fiesta of La Octava-..................
52 Carnival ------........................
62 Lent and Holy Week-.....-.................
52 Minor fiestas ------- -----..................
53 Secular fiestas .............. -------...
53 House-roofing fiesta..---........-------...... ---
54 Fiestas in other towns.....---..-..........---
55 Mayordomia organization and the cult of
57 the saints---.............-----........----------
58 Mayordomias.........--- ...------- -----------
59 Mayordomia of the Santo Nifio-......-
59 Mayordomia of Santa Nieves.............
.60 Mayordomia of Guadalupe-----...... --.....
62 Mayordomia of San Isidro-.....-...-..-..
63 Mayordomia of San Jos ....-----------
64 Mayordomia of Santa In6z ..-........
64 Mayordomia of San Rafael.........---
68 Mayordomia of San Antonio....---....
69 Mayordomias of San Anselmo...--..--....
70 Mayordomia of the Three Kings.-...-..
71 Mayordomia of Santa Cecilia.............-


Religion and ceremonial-Continued
The Miraculous Holy Child-...........--..
Comparative notes---...........---- .....-.......-
Dances ........-................. ........ -....
The mors -----..............................--------
The negritos. ------------.........
Unorganized Christmas dances---.........
The pastorela ......--.-......... -..........
Dance of the viejos or Europeos -------
Other dances -........................ .......
Dances in other towns....--..................
Musicians ----.. --.....-.......... ..- ....-- ....
Witchcraft ---------------
Witchcraft in Capacuaro ..................
Miscellaneous beliefs....-........................--
The individual and the culture ....................-
Birth........-.....--... .......----.......
Infancy -....-- ......... .... --- ..-... ... ... ....

The individual and the culture-Continued
Childhood ..........- -----------------
142 Youth ...--.........--------------------
143 Marriage and sex relationships................
144 A Tarascan wedding.-- ...........-......
144 Adult life .....--------------..........----
144 Old age .. ----......................-----
147 Sickness and its cure -- .... --.......--
148 Death -----....-....................--
149 Conclusion and further problems--........-.........
154 Appendix 1. Data on food plants and food from
154 La Cafiada ............................---...........
156 Appendix 2. The ceremonial organization of
156 Chilchota ..... ------------------------
159 Appendix 3. Report on maize from Cherin, by
161 Edgar Anderson ... ------......................
163 Summary .. ---------------------------......
163 Bibliography --------
169 Glossary ........... ------------.-....



(All plates at end of book)

1. Cherin landscapes and methods of carrying objects.
2. Women, carrying methods, and hair grooming.
3. Cheran aqueducts, board sawing, shake splitting,
and wheat winnowing.
4. Plowing, ditches to protect fields, log hewing, and
Cherin plaza during fiesta.
5. Market and bull fighting during festival.
6. Castillo, pastorela, negrito dancers, and wedding.
7. Roofing fiesta and wedding.
8. Specimens of maize ears.


1. Woodworking implements ---.....................
2. Turpentine still.................------------- ..........
3. The Cherin plow---..- ..-------........ .........
4. Pear picker -----------------..-.. .... ....-. .. ..
5. Tilemaker's implements ----......----..-..........
6. Spinning wheel and associated implements-_


7. Belt loom ...- ..... ... ....... ... ............
8. W omen's dress------------------......................
9. Lathe------- ------.----- .. ...................
10. Rope-twisting device ----------.------.... ...........
11. Market at Chilchota-.------ ...................
12. Cherin kinship ........-..-..........-.- ............
13. Cherin kinship -----.------.. ---..--- .............
14. Cherin kinship ----.....--- ...----- ...------ --- .......
15. Cheran kinship -.........---- .....---...........
16. Negrito dance figure ----------.. .....---..........
17. Dance of the Europeos-----------------.--..........
18. A Cherin wedding.--.-----------.............. ....
19. Characteristics of Cherin maize.--............

1. Modern Tarascan territory..................
2. Cherin lands ------------........... ...... ...... .--
3. The municipio of Cherin.........--...........
4. The town of Cheran, house types and
specialists ----.............................
5. The town of Cherin (street map) --------. _




The Institute of Social Anthropology was
created within the Smithsonian Institution to
carry out cooperative research and teaching in
the field of social anthropology as part of the
broad program of Cultural and Scientific Co-
operation under the State Department's Inter-
departmental Committee.
One of the most important cooperative pro-
grams of the Institute of Social Anthropology
is with the Escuela Nacional de Antropologia
del Instituto. Nacional de Antropologia e
Historia of Mexico. The field research of this
program will be directed toward a study of the
Tarascans of Michoacan, a large. group of
Indians whose culture is of great interest to
science and whose role in national life is of
great importance to contemporary Mexico. In
undertaking this work, it is the good fortune of
the Institute of Social Anthropology to help
further a program already extensively carried
out by the University of California in coopera-
tion with the Departamento de Antropologia
de la Escuela de Ciencias Biol6gicas del Insti-
tuto Politc6nico Nacional, now the Escuela
Nacional de Antropologia del Instituto Nacional
de Antropologia e Historia, and the Departa-
mento Aut6nomo de Asuntos Indigenas. The
present monograph is a community study of
CherAn, a Tarascan village, made by Dr. Beals
in collaboration with the Mexican institutions.
r--"This study is a basic document for under-
Sstanding native American communities from
Sthe point of view both of their individuality
and of their gradual assimilation to national
life through economic and ideological accultura-
Stion. Although Cherin, like many other towns
\ of the Tarascan area, is thought of and thinks
of itself as Indian, it is difficult to identify any-
thing that is aboriginal besides its language
and racial type. Cheran's domesticated animals,
Many of its crops, its patterns of cultivation,

and its general technologies and material cul-i
ture are almost exclusively European. It is
presumably European in its individual land
ownership and inheritance, though the assump-
tion that aboriginal America had collective land
ownership needs further proof. Wholly Euro-
pean is its cash system, involving even a
monetary standard of values, loans made for
interest, and the purchase from elsewhere of
most goods other than the local agricultural
and forest products. It might be expected that
these European economic patterns would have
repercussions in other aspects of the culture;
actually, the degree of Hispanicization of reli-
gious and social life is astonishing. Religion
is strictly Catholic, witchcraft is European in
type, and even the curers with their herbs and
applications betray virtually nothing that is
clearly aboriginal. Cherin's large, compact
community of 5,000 persons is seemingly in the
Spanish rather than Indian settlement pattern
(a problem to be solved by archeology), and it
may have been facilitated partly by the use of
pack animals for transportation. The social
configurations are likewise Spanish: the family,
with a large circle of relatives by blood and
marriage; the innumerable godparents; the
mayordomias (festivals for the saints); the
elaborate wedding ceremonies; and the dances,
music, games, and other recreations.
With virtually all aspects of Cherin culture
that can be formally categorized clearly Spanish
in origin, why is Cheran considered Indian?
Cheran's strongfi-attachmen-t to tlflocaility, to
the local group, and to traditional culture
characterizes many other "Indian" communities
in Mexicb, Central America, and the Andes.
The essential characteristic of an "Indian"
would seem to be his failure to integrate emo-
tionally and actively with national life rather
than a demonstrable aboriginal content in his
culture. The culture that he preserves in com-

parative isolation may, in fact, be far more
that of 16th-century Spain than that of native
America. This is not to say, however, that a
pure 16th-century Spanish culture survives any-
where. In the case of Cherin, Beals suggests
that the distinctive characteristics may repre-
sent the "pattern influence of native ideas" on
European features, together with the effects of
Bishop Vasco de Quiroga's application of
Thomas More's "Utopia." For historical an-
thropology, these communities clearly pose im-
portant problems 'concerning 16th-century
Spanish culture, its imposition through the con-
quistadors and priests on the Indians, and the
subsequent long interval during which many
areas stabilized their culture in comparative
Despite being considered Indian, Cherin
seems to contain the potentialities for rapid
acculturation. Its essential economic patterns
will, so far as local productivity through agri-
culture or manufactures permit, facilitate fur-
ther economic development as the new highway

stimulates increased commerce with other
areas. Its essentially Spanish social patterns
and- its present proletariat consciousness and
political sense seem to afford a ready basis for
further assimilation of national culture through
the informal means of outside contacts and the
more formal means of governmental programs.
Its strong Catholic background will pave the
way for further Church influence. One cannot
predict the future of such a community in
detail, for it will depend partly upon national
and even international developments as well as
upon Cheran's reaction to them. General
trends are now observable among comparable
communities; and the work that the Institute
of Social Anthropology is now carrying on in
cooperation with the-Escuela Nacional de An-
tropologia of Mexico among other Tarascan
villages that have slightly different character-
istics and degrees of acculturation and the
Institute's studies in other parts of Latin
America will yield data that will both clarify
general trends and high-light local peculiarities.


The phonetic symbols used conform to the Tarascan alphabet approved by the
Congress de Fil1logos y Lingiiistas of Mexico in 1939 and employed by the Tarascan
Project of the Departamento de Asuntos Indigenas. The alphabet is based on standard
Spanish usage insofar as possible, with additional symbols added for Tarascan and with
some clarification of the Spanish symbols as indicated below.
The vowels a, e, i, o, u have Spanish values. The vowel A is intermediate between
Spanish i and u.
The consonants b, d, f, g, j, k, 1, m, n, p, r, s, and t have regular Spanish values. In
addition the following symbols are used:
0 is the equivalent of English or Spanish ts.
6 is the equivalent of English ch.
17 is used for the sound of English ng in "sing."
a is intermediate between Spanish I and r.
r is the equivalent of Spanish rr.
is the equivalent of English sh.
0', 6', k', p', and t' are aspirated forms of the consonants given above.
f, 1, and r occur only in foreign loan words in Tarascan; b, d, and g occur primarily
in words of Spanish origin but occur sometimes in purely Tarascan words.

Cheran: A Sierra Tarascan Village



The study of CherAn was carried out in
1940-41 as part of the Program of Anthro-
pological Investigations among the Tarascans,
a cooperative undertaking of the University of
California, the Escuela Nacional de Antropologia
del Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e His-
toria (formerly the Departamento de Antropo-
logia de la Escuela de Ciencias Biol6gicas del In-
stituto Politecnico Nacional), and the Departa-
mento Aut6nomo de Asuntos Indigenas. In
general, the program aims at a thorough in-
vestigation of the Tarascans and their culture,
both past and present.1 An extensive program
of this character is obviously the work of many
persons and involves many individual projects.
Consequently, a number of subjects whichi
might have formed a part of the study of
Cherin were not undertaken because they will
be dealt with in other studies. The chief omis-
sion-has been the lack of any general considera-
tion of the Tarascans as a whole or any investi-
gation of historical backgrounds. In some
respects the study of Cheran would be more
rounded and intelligible had fuller knowledge
of the historical changes in Tarascan culture
been available.
Unfortunately, the historical aspects of the
Tarascan program are still little developed.
Several years of documentary research would
have been necessary to approach the study of
Cheran with reasonably full background knowl-
edge. Consequently; thedescription of_CherAn
is primarily a cross section of the culture of
the community at the time of the study without
any effort to interpret its historical develop-
1For a fuller discussion of the Program, see Rubin de la
Borbolla, D. F., and Beals, Ralph L. (1940) and Beals, Carrasco,
and McCorkle (1944).

Financial support for the field work came
from two sources. The Board of Research of
the University of California contributed ma-
terially to field expenses and to the preparation
of the manuscript. In addition, a substantial
amount was made available for field expenses
by the Departamento Aut6nomo de Asuntos
Indigenas in M6xico. Funds for a preliminary
survey of the Tarascan area, which resulted in
the selection of Cheran for study, were sup-
plied by the Board of Research of the Univer-
sity of California and the Instituto Politecnico
The village of Cheran was chosen for, several
reasons. In the first place, it is the largest of
the..mountain Tarascan -villages, and conse-
quently offered an advantageous opportunity
for several people to work simultaneously.
Until about 1937 Cheran was also one of the
most isolated of the mountain Tarascan towns.
In that year the grade for the branch highway
from the Guadalajara-Mexico City highway to
Uruapanwas established. Paving of this high-
way was completed in 1940, but little effect on
Cherin had yet taken place. This situation
offered an attractive opportunity for later in-
vestigation of the results of lessened isolation.
Finally, Cheran is an almost wholly Indian
town, a situation which is not true of most of
the large mountain Tarascan settlements.
Actually, in 1940 only a few families in Cherin
did not regard themselves as Tarascan. The
non-Tarascan families were more or less tran-
sient and occupied a low position in the social
scale; most of them were the flotsam left from
the highway construction crews and had
neither influence nor status in the town. The
majority actually left the town during 1940.


The exceptions were two storekeepers, both
from essentially Indian towns themselves, two
school teachers, a Federal tax collector, and the
town Secretary.
The field work in Cherin was a cooperative
enterprise, involving the work of numerous
assistants. Most important of these helpers
was Thomas McCorkle, of Berkeley, Calif.
His greatest contribution was in accumulating
the endless amount of detail necessary to the
economic study, although there is scarcely a
section of the paper which does not make use
of data collected by him. Dr. Emmanuel
Palacios, of the Departamento Aut6nomo de
Asuntos Indigenas, is responsible for a great
deal of the data on childbirth, infant care,
midwifery, and medical practice in general.
Sra. Silvia Rend6n, of the Escuela Nacional de
Antropologia, worked particularly in the field
of foods, but also contributed extensively on
other topics, especially on matters dealing with
women. She also supplied data from other
towns, especially Angahuan, Capacuaro, and
Chilchota. Sr. Pedro Carrasco R., of the
Escuela Nacional de Antropologia, worked pri-
marily on housing. His major contributions
are included in two other papers (Beals, Car-
rasco, and McCorkle, 1944; Beals and Carrasco,
1944), but he also provided miscellaneous notes
from Cherin, AngAhuan, Capacuaro, and
Chitchota and some of the Lake PAtzcuaro
towns. Some comparative notes from Patam-
ban were collected by Ricardo Pozas, of the
Escuela Nacional de Antropologia, in the course
of a study of pottery manufacture, the details
of which are not included in this paper.
Finally, some data were collected by Dorothy
Beals and Margery McCorkle.
In addition to the foregoing, many persons
in Cheran were of assistance. Throughout the
entire period of the study two were especially
helpful, Agustin Rangel and Pedro Chavez.
The former, although a full-blooded Tarascan,
had been born and educated in California. As
a literate assistant he was extremely useful in
many ways; for example, in searching the town
archives. and recording many important facts
therefrom. Perhaps his most important ser-
vice, however, was in providing an entree into
the homes of his almost innumerable relatives.
Particularly to be mentioned are his parents,

his aunt, Dofia Feliciana Bautista, and his uncle,
Don Antonio Sanchez. Agustin also afforded
fascinating data himself, as we were able to
observe closely the process of his assimilation
into the culture and life of the community. In
the course of the study, he changed from a not
untypical United States high school graduate
into a pretty typical resident of Cherin.
A particular debt of gratitude is also due
Pedro Chavez. A native of Cherin, Sr. ChAvez
had been educated in a Government boarding
school and was serving as a school teacher.
Owing to the lack of facilities, he was able to
teach only at night, and he spent his days aid-
ing in the investigation, without compensation.
No amount of pay could have secured more
conscientious and faithful aid, day after day
for many months. Regardless of the weather,
or, I suspect, very often regardless of his per-
sonal concerns, Sr. ChAvez either worked as
systematic informant or accompanied one or
the other of the investigators on endless visits,
opening many doors to them which otherwise
would have been closed. When not actively
assisting, he wrote lengthy accounts of various
phases of town life. A person of some emi-
nence in the town, as well as belonging to the
dominant political group, he had served as
town Treasurer and was a member of the com-
mittee which administered the town's forest
The hundreds of Cheran residents who aided
us at one time or another cannot, of course, be
listed. Many gave long hours of their time
and courteous and intelligent aid on numerous
problems. Essentially, this report is their
report and the outsiders acted primarily as
guides, recorders, and interpreters. That the
people of Cheran were willing to do this was due
partly to the unreserved cooperation of the
municipal authorities who endorsed the study
on every occasion. I am also indebted to the
Executive Authority of the State of MichoacAn
for providing me with the proper introduction
to the town.
A word should be said about field methods at
this point. Obviously, working with a large
group of investigators presents special prob-
lems. Perhaps the most important special
technique was to arrange to have all field notes
transcribed at the earliest possible moment.


Usually, field notes were classified, typed in
triplicate, and filed according to a modification
of the system of the Outline of Cultural Mater-
ials prepared by George P. Murdock and others
for use in the Cross-Cultural Survey at Yale
University (Murdock and others, 1938). In
this way it was possible for all workers to find
immediately what had already been collected
on a subject and to discover discrepancies in
accounts when these existed. The system also
served to show deficiencies in the data.
Certain other problems in field methods arose.
CherAn habits place some obstacles in the way
of field work. The main occupations of the
town are farming and forest exploitation. In
the former case, men are usually in the fields all
day, often at points several miles distant from
town. In the latter instance, men may be away
from town for 4 or 5 days at a time. In certain
seasons the town is almost deserted during the
day. As women will not talk with strange men
in the absence of their husbands, it often took
many visits to find at home a man we wished to
query on some specific point. In addition,
yards are surrounded by high walls and it is
customary to greet visitors at the yard gate
and converse with them on the street. Con-
sequently, it is difficult to gain much insight
into home life. Only women can get free ac-
cess into the houses, and it is unfortunate that
Sra. Rend6n could not have spent full time in
the field. Certain aspects of this study would
then have been much better than they are.
In general, the method followed was first to
discuss a topic with Sr. Chavez in detail, obtain-
ing from him as complete an account as possi-
ble. In some cases Sr. Chavez also wrote sup-
plementary accounts. Efforts were always
made to get the names of specific people who
were involved. Once we had obtained what
might be considered Sr. ChAvez's view of a
particular aspect of the culture, this was some-
times checked with Sr. Rangel. On other occa-
sions we started with Sr. Rangel and checked
with Sr. Chavez. An effort was then made to
visit and talk with a large number of the people
concerned. For example, after securing Sr.
ChAvez' account of childbirth, a list of all the
professional midwives in town was secured.
These were all then visited by Dr. Palacios and
interviewed intensively. Some were inter-

viewed independently by other staff members.
Data were likewise taken from as many women
as possible. In another instance, accounts
were secured of as many fiestas and mayor-
domias as possible. Each mayordomo and
other ceremonial official was then visited and
interviewed, often several times. Finally, in
this instance, as many ceremonies as possible
were observed. In the case of economic life,
virtually every specialist in town was inter-
viewed and the data were checked and cross-
checked. In addition, a representative sample
of forest workers and farmers were inter-
viewed. This process was facilitated by the
existence of a complete roster of males of voting
age for two barrios, together with their major
occupations, given to us by the town authori-
ties. In the case of farmers, the tax rolls of
the tax collector's office were opened to us,
giving some check on land ownership. Some
fields were paced to estimate size (measure-
ment was out of the question for various local
reasons), and observations were made on the
length of time taken to complete various farm
tasks. At harvest time, the actual production
of fields was determined by observing the har-
vest closely. In this case, data given by infor-
mants proved markedly variable from the facts.
Prices of all products were established by ques-
tioning numerous producers and also by ques-
tioning buyers. Obviously procedures varied
with different topics, but the examples given
perhaps sufficiently indicate the general method
In conclusion, acknowledgment should be
made of assistance and encouragement given by
persons not directly concerned with the field
study. Dr. Morris Swadesh, director of the
Proyecto Tarasco, an experiment in bilingual
education with headquarters in the nearby
town of Paracho, together with all the mem-
bers of his staff, was extremely helpful in
many ways. Scores of residents of Michoacin
at one time or another rendered personal assist-
ance. In Mexico City, Dr. Paul Kirchhoff and
Miguel O. de Mendizabal were helpful, both in
personal matters and in giving numerous sug-
gestions and leads for problems to -investigate.
Sr. Luis ChAvez Orozco, then chief of the
Departamento Aut6nomo de Asuntos Indigenas,


gave much time and effort to forward the pro-
gram. Dr. Alfonso Caso discussed many pro-
blems and gave valuable advice. Numerous
members of the staff of the Instituto Polit6cnico
Nacional also gave of their time. President
Robert G. Sproul of the University of Califor-
nia, arranged a special leave of absence to make
the study possible. Above all, thanks are due
to Dr. D. F. Rubin de la Borbolla, then head of
the Department of Anthropology of the Insti-
tuto Polite6nico Nacional and now director of
the Escuela Nacional de Antropologia, collabor-
ator in the general program, who gave many
days of his time in completing necessary ar-
rangements to make the study possible.
In addition to the persons mentioned, I wish
also to express my gratitude to those who have
helped further the general Program of Anthro-
pological Investigations among the Tarascans:
General LAzaro CArdenas, former President of
the United States of Mexico; Dr. A. L. Kroeber,
of the University of California, Berkeley,

Calif.; Dr. John M. Cooper, Catholic University
of America, Washington, D. C.; Sr. Luis Chavez
Orozco, former Chief, Departamento de Asuntos
Indigenas, Mexico; Dr. Gerardo Varela, Direc-
tor of the Escuela Nacional de Ciencis Bio-
16gicas, Mexico; Lic. Gilberto Loyo, Director
General of the Census, Mexico; Dr. J. B.
Lockey, former Chairman, Board of Research,
University of California, Los Angeles; Dr.
Vern 0. Knudsen, Dean of Graduate Studies,
University of California, Los Angeles; and the
late Dr. Charles B. Lipman, Dean of Graduate
Studies, University of California, Berkeley.
The excellence of the drawings is due to the
intelligent cooperation and skill of Virginia
More Roediger, who worked not only as an
artist but as an illustrator.
Finally, I gratefully acknowledge the assis-
tance of the Institute of Social Anthropology,
Smithsonian Institution, for editing this manu-
script and for publishing it in this series, which
is devoted to inter-American cooperation.


The modern Tarascans occupy the west cen-
tral section of northern MichoacAn, Mexico.
In prehistoric times the Tarascan area was
larger, including most of the State of Micho-
acAn, except possibly the rather abrupt and not
very hospitable seacoast, as well as parts of
the State of Jalisco to the northwest, Guana-
juato to the northeast, and the lower end of the
Balsas River basin in Guerrero to the south.
This expanded area apparently represented the
results of a series of conquests. Two or three
centuries before the arrival of the Spaniards,
the Tarascan area probably was not greatly
different from that of today.
The State of MichoacAn is one of the most
densely populated rural States of Mexico. It
lies to the west of Mexico City, and its capital,
Morelia, is about 250 miles from the National
Capital by road or railroad. Despite its dense
population, much of the State is rugged and
mountainous. Its eastern and northern parts
are on the plateau of M6xico. Level areas are
often above 7,000 feet elevation, but, although
it is technically a part of the Central Mexican
plateau, only the northern margins of the State

have large level tracts, for most of the elevated
part of the State is in the so-called "volcanic
axis" of Mexico. In many regions, and this is
particularly true of the area occupied by the
Tarascans, the characteristic sky line is a series
of old volcanic cones, often surrounding basins
or long depressions, in which more recent low
cinder cones frequently occur (pl. 1, upper and
lower left). DIozens of peaks have elevations
of over 10,000 feet, but only one may exceed
11,000 feet.
To the south and southwest the terrain drops
sharply toward a great basin formed by tribu-
taries of the Balsas River. The slope is steep
and so thoroughly dissected by streams that,
despite the opening of many roads and truck
trails in recent years, it still is not possible to
reach the Balsas River by road from highland
MichoacAn. This great basin forms an impor-
tant portion of Michoacan and is much visited
by the Tarascans. Tropical vegetation and
climate characterize the basin except for a
semiarid section in the west.
The Pacific coast of the State is paralleled
by a large range of mountains, the Sierra de


Coalcomdn, which again reaches elevations of
over 10,000 feet. The rain shadow of this
range accounts for the subarid conditions of
part of the basin area. Although these moun-
tains are little known, apparently they rise
fairly steeply on both faces and the coastal
area beyond is narrow and of little use.
The drainage of Michoacin presents some
peculiarities. In the north and west central
region are lakes of various size, of which per-
haps the best known is Lake PAtzcuaro. In
common with some other lakes in the area,
Lake PAtzucuaro has no outlet, but its waters
are nevertheless not brackish. The high poros-
ity of the volcanic soil may account for this
phenomenon, for the lake has evidently been
isolated from other drainages for a long period
of time. This isolation is attested by the fact
that the native fish are all very primitive
\ viviparous species.
Moreover, despite heavy rainfall in some
areas (at Lake Patzcuaro the average annual
rainfall is around 60 inches), there are virtu-
ally no permanent streams and even springs
are rare. Most Tarascan towns suffer from
almost constant water shortage despite the
heavy precipitation. In contrast, some of the
lower lands have abundant large running
streams. In places, underground springs of
great size emerge at elevations of about 5,500
feet. Near Uruapan, for example, a large
stream is formed by a group of such springs.
The present-day range of the Tarascans can-
not be defined with great accuracy, partly be-
cause of the lack of detailed studies and partly
because of the degree of acculturation under-
gone by many settlements. Villages which
outwardly differ in no visible respect from well-
known Tarascan settlements often contain no
persons speaking Tarascan. All around the
edges of Tarascan territory occur villages in
various degrees of assimilation to Mexican cul-
ture and with various degrees of physical
mixture with the Mestizo population. As a
result, the present-day distribution of the
Tarascans can only be approximated (map 1).
On the east, the basin of Lake Patzcuaro is
definitely Tarascan, although some towns, such
as Tzintzuntzan, the traditional capital of the
Tarascan "Empire," are no longer Tarascan-
speaking. The western edge of Tarascan ter-

ritory is close to the railroad which runs
through the town of Zamora to Los Reyes.
The southern boundary might be defined
roughly as on a line from Los Reyes to Uruapan
and thence close to the railway from Uruapan
to PAtzcuaro, while the new highway from
Mexico City to Guadalajara in some places runs
just inside the northern limits and in others,
just outside. Within or near the borders of
the present-day *Tarascan area occur a number
of old Mexican towns closely associated with the
historic Tarascans and their contemporary cul-
ture, which provide the administrative centers
and the major market places. These towns are
Ptzcuaro, Zacapu, Pur6pero, Zamora, Los
Reyes, and Uruapan. In some instances other
towns of local importance have arisen more
recently, towns which were once Tarascan but
are now occupied by Mestizos and deculturated
Tarascans. A good example of such a town is
Viewed as a whole, the Tarascan area'may
be characterized generally as an elevated tem-
perate region of sufficient rainfall, deep volcanic-
soils, and pine or mixed pine and hardwood
forests. In detail there are differences, and a
number of regions may be identified.
The easternmost region is that about Lake
Patzcuard. The lake has an elevation of
slightly over 7,000 feet, and most of the villages
are either on the shore or upon islands in the
lake. The forests have been cleared away
around the lake except upon lands too steep to
cultivate with the plow. Rainfall is heavy, but
is concentrated in the summer months. The
climate is temperate and cool even in mid-
North of Lake PAtzcuaro is a large fertile
valley or depression near Zacapu, ringed about
by hills and mountains covered with forest.
Although there is but little difference in eleva-
tion from Lake P~tzcuaro, the climate is warm-
er and some tropical or subtropical plants such
as sugarcane are grown on a small scale.
Over a range of mountains to the west of
Zacapu is a fertile valley known as La Cafiada.
Here the climate is warmer and more arid, as
is evidenced by the frequency of irrigation and
extensive cultivation of citrus fruit, bananas,
and similar tropical and subtropical plants.

*J/IRIO ? PA TASAv P ^ V'&X/tu
*U3/CQ/C//O TAC/

P... *AHIAIY 0 s R
\ '- I < FL/IPE S I/A' PI CHATARO. q'-^ 0

*rRN'.vIo cvcUcV/Co Z






MAP 1.-Tarascan territory. Towns in italic are Tarascan in culture and speech. Towns in roman are either of Mestizo origin or are primarily
Mestizo in population and culture and Spanish in speech. The list of Tarascan towns shown is complete only in the vicinity of CherAn;
the inadequacies of existing maps make it impossible to show all the Tarascan towns with any approach to accuracy.


West of Lake Patzcuaro and south of La
Cafiada is the rugged area known as La Sierra,
extending as farwest as the town of Tinguindin.
This region is relatively homogeneous, with an
essentially temperate climate. Although the
elevation of towns varies from about 6,000 feet
to about 9,000 feet, generally the temperature
is cool. Heavy rainfall and the presence of
numerous 10,000-foot peaks apparently com-
bine to prevent cultivation of most subtropical
plants. Extensive steep, forested slopes and
lava flows are interspersed with numerous val-
leys and depressions in a high state of cultiva-
tion. Only in the west, where rainfall appar-
ently is less, are a few towns favored by a
milder climate. South of La Cafiada and about
equidistant from Uruapan, Zacapu, and PAtzcu-
aro is Cheran, largest of the mountain Tarascan
towns and, uitil very recent years, one of the
/most isolated.
SSituated on a sloping bench, Cherin looks
westward over a long depression, dotted with
villages and interrupted here and there by
cinder cones rising as much as a thousand feet
above the depression (pl. 1, upper and lower,
left). North and south of Cherin, the series
of peaks which bound the depression to the west
culminate in two 10,000-foot cones. Eastward
is another smaller basin of fertile soil, similarly
marked by cinder cones and by the striking
isolated volcanic peak of El Pil6n, also over
10,000 feet in height.
Except for occasional marginal farm clear-
ings, the steeper slopes, and those areas where
relatively recent lava flows make cultivation
impossible, are covered with forest. The pre-
dominant species are three or four types of
pine, but completely pure stands are rarely
found. Usually there is a fair intermixture.
of oak and madrofia, while, beginning at the
level of Cheran, fir trees occur and increase in
number at higher elevations. These forest
lands provide one of the important resources of
the CherAn population.
Wherever the land is sufficiently level to per-
mit regular cultivation, the forest has been al-
most entirely cleared away. In many places,
areas hundreds of acres in extent are contin-
uously cultivated. Maize and, to a much smal-
ler extent, wheat, are almost the only field
crops. Cultivation of these, plus exploitation

of the forest resources and the breeding of a
few sheep and cattle, provide the sustenance of
the great majority of Cheran's population.
The town of Cheran has a population of
about 5,000. The community is unique among
Tarascan towns, not only for its large size-
almost 2,000 more than that of any other
settlement-but because the municipio of the
same name contains only two, unimportant
rancherias. Most municipios in the Tarascan
area consist of one moderately large settlement,
the cabecera, and a surrounding group of small
settlements known as tenencias, and still smal-
ler communities known as rancherias or by
other classificatory terms. Usually the total
populations of these municipi6s approximate
the population of CherAn or even exceed it.
Consequently, the unique feature of the municip-
io of CherAn is the concentration of almost
the entire population in the cabecera.
Despite the concentration of population in the
cabecera, the municipio of Cheran comprises
a large area. Much of this area is mountain
and forest, but there are many relatively large
tracts of arable land (maps 2, 3). This cir-
cumstance, in part at least, has been the cause
of numerous boundary disputes and some loss
of territory. The most notable recent loss of
territory has been the secession of the one
tenencia of Cheran, the rather large settlement
of Cheranfstico to the northwest, which seceded
in 1939 and joined the municipio of Paracho.
The immediate cause of this secession again
appears to have been a boundary dispute be-
tween the tenencia and the cabecera.
CherAn differs from the ordinary Tarascan
agricultural village only in size. Throughout
the area the type of settlement is the" compact
village. Probably in most cases the villages
represent settlements of Spanish type, with a
central plaza about which are the church
(sometimes not actually on the plaza), the
municipal building, and, more recently, the
school. From the central plaza radiates a
rectangular grid of streets, modified only where
necessitated by the irregular terrain (maps
4, 5). In the case of a large settlement such
as Cherin, there usually exists some fragmen-
tary legend of origin of the settlement through
amalgamation of aboriginal groups dispersed





[ ;M------ r -.I NAHUATZEN
o.o.. T' EBNA


3.-' -^-' -*V I

MAP 2.-Cheran lands, showing topography, principal cultivated areas, and various cultural


MAP 3.-The municipio of CherAn, showing the more important place names. See map 2 for
explanation of symbols.

"0 ..

"' -- T, '- v 1 I "-I \. \\
171 7,

i2 aRi Z
FFRII""1 AV; ;14 1


t el

MAP 4.-The town of Cherin, showing the distribution of house types and specialists. The fine line bordering streets indicates vacant property.

The medium line indicates the presence of wooden structures without masonry (although the lot may be walled with masonry). The heavy line
indicates the presence of masonry or adobe structures. The majority of the latter also have one or more wooden structures on the same lot.
Location of the majority of the specialized business or occupations is shown. The numbers refer to the house numbering system as of 1940.
Location of the majority of the specialized businesses or occupations is shown. The numbers refer to the house numbering system as of 1940.



< \\ c c c

< *- :OCCIOtI TAL: I

aC ,

\ 0R- L/ 6ALAZAR

M- -- MOR LS=- M l

0 < MY <
0o 7 oLr
C 1n cv ca cm cm E >
< N 0 < < a

t 4
co cn ca cm



MAP 5.-The town of Cherin, showing street names and the barrio numbers. C, cuartel, or barrio; M, manzana, or block. Numbers indicate
the town numbering system. i


in smaller communities in the nearby moun-
In the absence of documentary evidence, it
may be surmised that Cheran is an old settle-
ment. Archeological remains occur at several
nearby places which may represent the ante-
cedent smaller aboriginal settlements spoken
of in tradition. About the period from the
founding of the original settlement until 1910
there are few data, documentary or traditional.
Although individuals were encountered who
claimed to remember the time of the French in-
tervention in Mexico, apparently events in the
rest of the country influenced Cheran very
little. Some outside settlers apparently lived
in the town before 1910. Frequent references
were made to a German family that owned a
considerable amount of land and had a preten-
tious house on the plaza, now in ruins. Physi-
cal evidence in the shape of ruined structures
suggests there once were a number of families
of greater wealth in the town than is now the
case, but apparently, with the exception noted,
these families were native Tarascans.
During the revolutionary period, the town
was in the center of the agrarian movement in
Michoacan. This movement was related to the
Zapatista movement in Morelos, and residents
of other villages claim-to have been Zapatistas.
As Michoacin is also a Catholic stronghold,
some villages participated in the religious
wars of the twenties. Cheran, however, seems
not to have taken an active part in any of these
movements. Nevertheless, it suffered from
them, and more particularly from the general-
ized banditry which operated under the cover
of one label or another. Twice the town was
attacked and burned in the period shortly be-
fore 1920, the last time being almost completely
destroyed. Apparently many hundreds were
killed or starved to death, while still more made
their way to the United States, starting a
migration which continued until 1929. Since
that time, the tide of migration has been to the
town. Probably a majority of families in
town, though, have been in the United States
or have relatives still living in the States.
Some general details of the flora of Cherin
have already been mentioned. Nothing can be
added to these remarks, as the region is un-
studied botanically. The situation with respect

to the fauna is equally unsatisfactory. Despite
the extensive forests, wild life is scarce. No
one in Cheran gets a living from hunting, and
the amount of game taken forms an incon-
siderable amount of the food supply. Deer and
peccary are sometimes hunted and occasionally
damage outlying fields, but they do not seem to
be numerous. Squirrels, rabbits, wild pigeons,
and quail .are among the animals of -most
economic importance. Badgers are known, but
are not eaten. An exception to the general
scarcity of wild life is the coyote. This animal
appears to be numerous and to be a danger to
livestock in the outskirts of the town. Larger
predatory animals, such as the jaguar and the
mountain lion, are unknown. Informants
could recall only one mountain lion being seen
or killed in the vicinity of the town. The re-
gion is, of course, too high for the absence of
the jaguar to be surprising, but smaller mem-
bers of the genus Felis are also rare. Only the
wildcat is reported. The rattlesnake and
culebrilla occur, but are not common. As there
are few handicrafts practiced in Cheran, the
community is consequently primarily agricul-
tural and the only use of the forests is for
lumbering, charcoal making, and grazing.
Little need be said about the people of Cheran
or their language. Although white admixture
certainly exists in the town's population, there
are virtually no acknowledged Mestizos. Until
studies of the Tarascan population are com-
pleted, it perhaps will suffice to say that the
people of Cheran seem to be typical Tarascans,
on the average relatively short and slender,
although stocky individuals are not uncommon.
Their complexion is relatively dark, the hair is
straight, and the features are attractive. Cor-
pulence in old age is very rare. Goiter or
incipient goiter is common, especially in the
mountain towns, although the disease is less
frequent in CherAn than in many other settle-
ments. Teeth are bad, a condition observed v
for the area in pre-Columbian remains also. ,
Not only are caries frequent, but malocclusion
is common. Individuals with attractive regu-
lar teeth are the exception. (Pls. 1, upper and
lower right; 2; 3, center and lower right and
Thelanguage of CherAn is Tarascan, a tongue -
which shows relatively few dialectic differences.


Probably no group of Tarascans has great diffi-;
culty in understanding any other group. As
Tarascan has not been subjected to intensive'
grammatical analysis, thus far no affiliations
for the language have been seriously proposed.?
To summarize the discussion, the Tarascalns
appear to be fairly typical of the plateau In-
dians of Central Mexico in type, but they speak
a unique language. Both anciently and today k

they occupy a temperate to cold environment,
which offers rich rewards to a farming people
but which otherwise possesses relatively meager
resources. In prehistoric times the Tarascans
were able to utilize the present area as a base
to develop a modest empire. In historic times,
,their empire gone, they still have maintained a
degree of individuality in the face of an en-
croaching modern civilization.


In this section are described the techniques of
the Chernn Tarascans for the exploitation of the
environment. With a few exceptions, manufac-
turing processes, the uses to which the products
are put, and the economic system into which
they enter are discussed in later sections.

Plants.-No food plants are collected regu-
larly. Recourse is sometimes had to edible
greens in times of starvation or as an occa-
sional means of bringing variety into the diet.
Most useful plants, except medicinal herbs,
exist in the town in virtually a semidomes-
ticated state. This is particularly true of the
most commonly used plants such as kulantro
-(silantro),2 the most frequently employed herb
for flavoring food. Similarly, manzanillo,
probably the most generally used medicinal
herb, is to be found in every garden. Discus-
sion of these plants can therefore best be de-
ferred to the discussions of medicine and the
house gardens.
A. small wild maguey growing in the moun-
tains and in the malpais (lava flows) is col-
lected from November to May. The heart is
' roasted in pit ovens and sold.
One minor commercial enterprise, formerly
of some' importance, is collecting raiz de paja,
the roots of a coarse grass. The roots are cut
off and carried to Cherin, where they are care-
fully laid out in rows on sunny, dry days.
After drying, they are tied in bundles for sale
2 Tarascan words are in Roman and Spanish words are in italic
unless they are in frequent English usage. Spanish words with
special local meanings are in quotation marks.

for the manufacture of brushes. The entire
family may work at this task. While some
collecting of raiz de paja still is carried on,
the market collapsed badly with the outbreak
of war in 1939, depriving a number of families
of an important .part of their livelihood. In
good times, the roots sold at 30 to 35 centavos
a kilo.3
A root, Ealank6te, is used for washing wool-
ens and is considered superior to soap.4 It is
dug in the barrancas, both for use and for sale.
In AngAhuan, Rend6n found seeds of a bush
called k6merame used for the same purpose, as
well as leaves called apdpen and roots' of the
plant pa6Ankua.
Honey gathering.-The one collecting tech-
nique still important in Cherin is gathering
wild honey. Not only are there still specialists
who spend many weeks at the occupation dur-
ing proper seasons of the year, but there are-
.numerous ceremonial associations. The pana-
leros or honey collectors are divided into two
groups, each with an image and a mayordomia
of San Anselmo, patron saint of the group.
There are also important ceremonial activities
on the part of the panaleros in connection with
the fiesta of Corpus Christi in June. The vari-
ous ceremonies are described later.
Most gathering of wild honey takes place in
the regions of old lava flows or malpais. The
malpaises of Turicuaro and Tanaco are con-
sidered among the best today for honey gather-
SIn La Cafiada, wild gourds, guajes (arumbas), are collected
and sold in the Chilchota market. The leaf of a wild bay (7),
baya (h6ngakua), is used in washing clothes by La Cafiada
Tarascans, who claim the plant is eaten by the Sierra Tarascans.
Soaproot, amole, is used in La Cafiada for bathing.
SThe orthography used for native words is that recommended by
Proyecto Tarasco and the Consejo de Lenguas Indigenas (Swadesh,


Probably no group of Tarascans has great diffi-;
culty in understanding any other group. As
Tarascan has not been subjected to intensive'
grammatical analysis, thus far no affiliations
for the language have been seriously proposed.?
To summarize the discussion, the Tarascalns
appear to be fairly typical of the plateau In-
dians of Central Mexico in type, but they speak
a unique language. Both anciently and today k

they occupy a temperate to cold environment,
which offers rich rewards to a farming people
but which otherwise possesses relatively meager
resources. In prehistoric times the Tarascans
were able to utilize the present area as a base
to develop a modest empire. In historic times,
,their empire gone, they still have maintained a
degree of individuality in the face of an en-
croaching modern civilization.


In this section are described the techniques of
the Chernn Tarascans for the exploitation of the
environment. With a few exceptions, manufac-
turing processes, the uses to which the products
are put, and the economic system into which
they enter are discussed in later sections.

Plants.-No food plants are collected regu-
larly. Recourse is sometimes had to edible
greens in times of starvation or as an occa-
sional means of bringing variety into the diet.
Most useful plants, except medicinal herbs,
exist in the town in virtually a semidomes-
ticated state. This is particularly true of the
most commonly used plants such as kulantro
-(silantro),2 the most frequently employed herb
for flavoring food. Similarly, manzanillo,
probably the most generally used medicinal
herb, is to be found in every garden. Discus-
sion of these plants can therefore best be de-
ferred to the discussions of medicine and the
house gardens.
A. small wild maguey growing in the moun-
tains and in the malpais (lava flows) is col-
lected from November to May. The heart is
' roasted in pit ovens and sold.
One minor commercial enterprise, formerly
of some' importance, is collecting raiz de paja,
the roots of a coarse grass. The roots are cut
off and carried to Cherin, where they are care-
fully laid out in rows on sunny, dry days.
After drying, they are tied in bundles for sale
2 Tarascan words are in Roman and Spanish words are in italic
unless they are in frequent English usage. Spanish words with
special local meanings are in quotation marks.

for the manufacture of brushes. The entire
family may work at this task. While some
collecting of raiz de paja still is carried on,
the market collapsed badly with the outbreak
of war in 1939, depriving a number of families
of an important .part of their livelihood. In
good times, the roots sold at 30 to 35 centavos
a kilo.3
A root, Ealank6te, is used for washing wool-
ens and is considered superior to soap.4 It is
dug in the barrancas, both for use and for sale.
In AngAhuan, Rend6n found seeds of a bush
called k6merame used for the same purpose, as
well as leaves called apdpen and roots' of the
plant pa6Ankua.
Honey gathering.-The one collecting tech-
nique still important in Cherin is gathering
wild honey. Not only are there still specialists
who spend many weeks at the occupation dur-
ing proper seasons of the year, but there are-
.numerous ceremonial associations. The pana-
leros or honey collectors are divided into two
groups, each with an image and a mayordomia
of San Anselmo, patron saint of the group.
There are also important ceremonial activities
on the part of the panaleros in connection with
the fiesta of Corpus Christi in June. The vari-
ous ceremonies are described later.
Most gathering of wild honey takes place in
the regions of old lava flows or malpais. The
malpaises of Turicuaro and Tanaco are con-
sidered among the best today for honey gather-
SIn La Cafiada, wild gourds, guajes (arumbas), are collected
and sold in the Chilchota market. The leaf of a wild bay (7),
baya (h6ngakua), is used in washing clothes by La Cafiada
Tarascans, who claim the plant is eaten by the Sierra Tarascans.
Soaproot, amole, is used in La Cafiada for bathing.
SThe orthography used for native words is that recommended by
Proyecto Tarasco and the Consejo de Lenguas Indigenas (Swadesh,


ing. The combs found here are round and
hang from tree branches. They are found by
observing the flight of bees; this requires good
eyesight and is difficult on cloudy days. The
clear weather of late spring and fall conse-
quently is the time of greatest activity. From
December until warm weather begins, the
honey is sugared and cannot be extracted from
the comb.
Several varieties of bees are sought. The
combs found near CherAn are white and have
little honey, most of the comb being occupied
by brood. In the region near Tanaco the
combs are red, small, and almost completely
full of honey, with little brood. Other combs
are described as being occupied by bees that
are muy bravo. Only this type of bee requires
the use of smoke to secure the honey. At times
this bee attacks passers-by and follows until
the victim covers himself with straw. Lemon
juice is used to alleviate the stings. In addi-
tion to these types, wild European bees are
sometimes found in hollow trees.
Once a comb is located, the panalero usually
climbs the tree and knocks the comb down. If
the tree is large, he cuts notches in the trunk
with a small special-type ax, tying himself with
a riata or a length of rope while he chops. The
rope is not tied, but passes around the tree
trunk and the two ends are held in the hands.
The panalero holds the rope tightly while he
edges up the tree. Then, with a skillful motion,
he throws the loop of rope higher up the tree
trunk. Once the comb is reached, the panalero
covers his face and hands with a blanket and'
taps the comb until the bees leave. The pro-
cedures are regarded as highly dangerous.
Panaleros are always careful to take a good
rest before climbing a tree. They are also par-
ticularly attentive to their saint, San Anselmo,
who is believed to protect them. The danger
of the occupation is increased by the fact that
the panalero always works alone and in case of
accident could expect no rescue.
Honeycombs are now said to be so scarce that
it is hardly worth while hunting them. Never-
theless, one panalero mentioned securing 19
combs on one trip which he sold for 9 pesos.
Sometimes the combs are sold as collected. At
other times the honey is extracted by squeezing
the comb in an ayate or carrying net. If very

clear honey is desired, it may be strained
through silk. The native wild combs contain
no wax. The larvae are sometimes eaten,
either toasted in their cells or fried. The latter
method of preparation involves picking the
larvae out of the cells. Yet another method is
to toast the larvae with onion, chile, and salt.
The latter method is said to be especially tasty,
but probably only panaleros ever use any of
these methods very often.5
The larvae of another insect, the traspanal
(jicotera in La Cafiada), are also collected and
eaten occasionally. This insect resembles the
native bee but is a little larger and makes its
nest in the ground to depths of 1 meter (3 ft.)
or more. No other animal food is collected and
the use of the eggs of wild birds was denied
with every evidence of distaste.
Stone, volcanic cinders, and clay are the three
mineral resources utilized in Cheran. Tuffs
and lavas are employed for house building,
foundations, and fences. The materials occur
either in the town itself or in barrancas within
a few hundred yards of the town. Volcanic
cinders are also quarried out of the sides of
barrancas, often within the town, and are em-
ployed to spread over slippery places on trails,
streets, and yards. The supply of materials
far exceeds demand, and the public domain
affords all needed supplies.
Most of the rock used in Cheran comes from
a quarry on the west face of the hill of Santa
Karakua (also called SantiAkujAkua) within
the village. Most of the rock is prised out of
the upper face of the quarry in large pieces,
which usually are broken up in the fall to the
foot of the quarry. The broken rock is then
placed in piles, which later comers will not
molest. Smaller rocks and spalls are abun-
dant and anyone may help himself to these.
The rocks are usually packed by tying them on
burros with ropes, while small pieces may be
placed in nets or in pack boxes.
Clay is somewhat more scarce. It is used
only for tilemaking and brickmaking, as no
one in Cherfn makes pottery. A sufficient sup-
ply of clay for all present needs is dug out
5At Sopoco in La Cafiada, Rend6n was told that the larvae are
sometimes eaten raw.


either from the sides of public roads or from
fields, with the permission of the owner. It is
dug with pick and shovel, put in bags, and
taken into town on muleback.
Adobes (ad6bi) and adobe mortar are made
from any convenient fine earth mixed with
manure. In some towns dry pine needles
("huinomo")6 or wheat or barley straw is used.
The mud (adimu) for adobes is mixed in a de-
pression in the ground. Dry earth is first
mixed with manure and water is added, in the
proportion of 10 loads (carretilladas) of earth,
half a sack of manure or straw, and 10 five-
gallon tins of water. The mud is then mixed
with a spade for about 3 hours.
A wooden frame (marco or adobera), the size
of the brick to be made, is now placed on care-
fully leveled ground. Mud is placed in the
frame and pressed down well with the hands
to insure complete filling of the space. The
frame is now lifted off and washed in prepara-
tion for making the next adobe. The adobes
are allowed to dry for 8 days, first in the
original position and then on edge.
The usual size of adobes is 60 by 40 by 10
cm., or 21/2 spans long. Cherin makes this
size and also a brick 3 spans in length.
Chern has a better water supply than most
Tarascan towns, but it is still far from ade-
quate. The larger of the barrancas through
town often has flowing water, but this is used
only for watering animals and washing clothes,
as it is not considered pure enough to drink.
At one spot, however, there are a number of
small springs in the walls of the barranca.
These have been improved by building cement
tanks to accumulate the rather small flow, and
people from the barrio of Paricutin and some
other nearby residents obtain their water from
the springs.
About 10 years ago an aqueduct was built
to large springs near the base of the mountain,
El Pil6n, a distance of 15 km. (9 mi.). A
2-inch pipe line was laid, but the pipe reached
only to the edge of town. From the end of the
pipe the water is carried to the center of town
by an arrangement of hand-hewn wooden
sWords regarded in Cheran as Spanish but which either do not
appear in dictionaries or have special local meanings are placed
in quotation marks.

troughs and pipes (pl. 3, upper left). Large
tanks exist in the approximate center of town,
and water is also piped to a fountain in the
plaza. The troughs leak, however, and in some
places are low enough to permit water to be
dipped directly from them. In consequence, if
the flow is small, water may not reach the tanks
in sufficient quantity. The lower portion of
the town receives no water directly and the
effort of obtaining water in those sections, par-
ticularly the southwest district, is considerable.
The forests are one of the important and
most utilized natural resources of Cherin.
Firewood, charcoal, posts, railroad ties, shakes,
and lumber of various sizes are secured from
the woods. Forests cover a very large part of
the Cheran lands and most of the timber is on
public domain, although some forest patches
may occur on privately owned land. The public
domain is regarded as belonging to the town,
and the Federal Government levies a nominal
land tax on the community for the forest lands.
Each head of a household pays a fee (ristica),
usually 25 centavos a quarter, which is collected
by a committee on community property (bienes
comunales). This sum covers the taxes and
gives each person the right to cut firewood
from public lands. Persons exploiting other
forest resources pay more.
Until recently utilization of other forest
resources was also open to everyone. The De-
partment of Forestry of the Federal Govern-
ment is now attempting to control the exploita-
tion of the forests, and since 1940 any use of
the forest for purposes other than cutting fire-
wood requires a permit. In 1941 an effort was
being made to restrict all lumbering and char-
coal burning to members of a cooperative.
This is discussed later.
With the exception of a few wealthy persons,
everyone who is not lazy cuts his own firewood.7
7 This is general even in such Mestizoized towns as Chilchota.
In the latter town, however, there is some selling of firewood.
During planting and harvest times the price is $0.36 a carga
(burro load in this case) ; the rest of the year it is $0.25 a charge.
Some people in Angahuan make a business of taking firewood to
Mestizo Zamora; similar cases occur in villages near Mestizo
towns. Ocote (pitch pine), used principally for light, is also
produced by the householder in Cheran. A long vertical cut is
made on one side of a tree, which is gradually cut away as pitch
accumulates. The tree is rarely cut through, but it usually dies
from the operation. In Chilchota, where ocote (pitch pine) is sold,


FIGURE 1.-Woodworking implements. a, Typical ax head, weighing 6 to 8 pounds. b, Same as a, with handle;
total length about 3% feet. c, Short-handled adz (angiru). d, Saw used for cutting planks (k'eriri
arikutarakua), about 6 feet long; the lower handle usually is of metal and clamps over the end of the saw,
engaging the saw teeth to hold it in place. e, Long-handled adz. f, Method of using long-handled adz to
dress beams or planks. g, Logging saw, "sardina," used to cut felled timber into desired lengths.


Consequently, every CherAn male is a fairly
competent axman and in a pinch can produce
other forest products. Oak is considered far
superior to other woods for burning, but it is
becoming scarce near the town. The best sup-
ply is near El Pil6n, several kilometers away.
With some exceptions, most skilled woodsmen
work only when they have to fill definite orders.
In other words, no stock of lumber or shakes
is accumulated against possible future sales.
Lumber or shake workers 'usually are farmers
who supplement their income by forest prod-
ucts when opportunity offers. Not infrequently
one or two members of a large household do
lumbering but help in the fields when necessary
or when unoccupied.
Pine is the main wood used for lumber, and
fir for shakes. Trees ordinarily are cut with
the ax (jaca). Trunks are cut in sections with
a saw sardinena") (fig. 1, g), which is operated
by'two persons. The trunks are cleared and
debarked with the ax. The trunk is then
squared by splitting off slabs ("tachones"),
with oak wedges some 20 cm. (8 in.) in length
driven by an oaken maul or the butt of the ax.
The slabs are used for firewood or fences.
Thick planks called vigass" (anything over 2
inches in thickness) are then split out with
wedges. Before use, heavy planks usually are
dressed with a long-handled adz (angAru)
(fig. 1, e). Thinner pieces, tablas (k'ereri),
are sawed from squared sections of logs (pl. 4,
upper right). The logs are elevated on a
scaffolding of poles (or sometimes laid on poles
across a saw pit) and sawed out by a saw
(k'ereri ajikutarakua) about 2 m. (6 ft.)
long and wider at one end than at the other
(fig. 1, d; pl. 3, upper right). The handle at the
wide end is fixed, and that at the narrow end is
hooked over the teeth of the saw. Before saw-
ing, the block of timber is marked with a cord
used like a chalk line but employing charcoal
instead of chalk. All the planks from a block
of timber are usually sawed about two-thirds
of the length of the block; work is then begun
at the opposite end. Planks customarily are

1 centavo buys a thick piece. In Parangaricutiro, partly Mestizoized,
there is some cutting of firewood as a business. In one case a
father and three sons, 10. 12, and 15 years of age, cut a cord a
day (16 cargas), which sold for $1.50 (all monetary values are in
Mexican currency). In Paricutin two widows without grown sons
buy firewood. The women are not poor.

about 1 inch thick, 6 to 8 feet long, and 6 to 8
inches wide. Planks cut from timber with a
heavy pitch content are said to last longer.
Beams are usually squared sections of red
(heart) wood. They are used primarily for
foundations and joists and are split out by
An important product of Cherin is shakes,
tejamanil (tasdmani). The product is all ex-
ported, mostly to Zacapu. Some is also taken
to Uruapan. Pine is rarely used for shakes,
as the product curls during dry weather and is
not as durable as shakes made from fir. How-
ever, fir shakes are more brittle. Fir trees
grow only sporadically among the pine forests
and must be searched for. Once a tree is
found, the shake maker examines it carefully,
studying the position of branches and estimat-
ing the probable straightness of the grain. If
the tree does not look promising, it is left.
Even after a tree has been felled with the ax,
it may prove unsuitable for shakes. In this
case it may be hewed into a beam, but it is
more apt to be abandoned.
If the tree proves suitable, it is cut in lengths
with saw or ax and the bark is removed, to-
gether with any rotten or insect-eaten portions.
Each length is now split in sections (p&ri) with
a wedge, cuiia (injarukua). Each section has
a width of four fingers at its outer edge, and
a tree of average size will produce eight sec-
tions. One end of each section is then marked
with a machete along the radii of the trunk.
The section is first marked in the middle; each
half is then divided in two, then each quarter,
until 16 divisions are marked. At each mark
the machete is driven in with blows of an oaken
club to a depth of about 5 cm. The shakes are
then split off with an oaken instrument called
a rajador (udiqgua). (P1.3, lower right and left.)
The completed shakes are thin and wedge-
shaped when viewed in cross section. After
drying in the sun for 2 or 3 hours they are tied
into bundles of 400 called an ir6pita (400 in
Tarascan). They are transported and sold by
the bundle, the price varying according to the
length. Different villages and Mexican mar-
kets have preferences for different lengths,
usually 4, 5, or 6 cuartas.8
SA cuarta equals % of a vara (the standard measure of length,
about 32 inches long).


FIGURE 2.-Turpentine still, a, Perspective view. b, Cross-sectional view from side. c, Schematic view of
fireplace from above.


Cherin prefers shakes 5 cuartas in length,
called "thick shakes" (tasimani tiApiti).
Shakes of 4 cuartas (1 vara) are sold primarily
in Uruapan and are spoken of as de comercio,
or "small shakes" (tasamani sapirati). Shakes
6 cuartas long, preferred by some Tarascan
towns, are called "long shakes" (tasimani
i6rati). In AngAhuan, shakes 5 cuartas long are
sold in Zamora and are sometimes called
Shake makers usually work from 8 a.m. to
6 p. m. A week's work routine is as follows:
On Tuesday suitable trees are sought and felled.
Wednesday is devoted to cutting trees in sec-
tions. Thursday and Friday the timber is split
into shakes. One day is spent drying the shakes
in the sun, and, if the maker is a professional,
the finished product is taken to Uruapan or
Zamora on Saturday and Sunday for sale. On
this schedule one person might make two bun-
dles of 400 shakes (two irepitas) in a week.
Railroad ties are usually made under contract
arrangements. The workers leave town on
Tuesday, usually arriving in time to cut a
week's supply of logs for splitting and shaping.
Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday are spent in
splitting and shaping the ties with the ax.
Saturday the ties are checked by the contractor,
and the men are paid in time to return home
that night.
A minor industry is cutting out blocks of
madrofia and jaboncilla wood. These are sold
in Paracho, where they are made into doors,
spoons, wooden bowls, and the various small
wooden objects for which Paracho is famous.
A few people in CherAn also make broom
A considerable amount of charcoal is pro-
duced on the more distant lands of Cheran.
Several men in town make their living entirely
from charcoal burning. Oak is used almost
exclusively for charcoal. Charcoal burners
usually spend from Monday until Friday in the
woods, and return home over the week end.
Charcoal is usually sold in the woods to dealers,
the. unit of sale being a stack 8 by 7 inches
by 6 feet.
In a number of Tarascan towns turpentine
production is an important industry. This has
been true of Cheran in the past, but, for rea-
sons not discoverable, output at present is

negligible. Turpentine is produced at any
season of the year. The first cut in trees is
made about 20 or 25 cm. (8 or 10 in.) from the
ground, with a small ax called gdrbia. The
initial cut is one-half cm. vertically and 10 cm.
horizontally. At the base of the cut a small
copper or pottery cup is fastened. The initial
cut is lengthened upward each year until, after
about 10 years, the cut is 1.50 to 1.70 m. in
height. A cut is then started on the opposite
side of the tree. Formerly it was the practice
to leave the cup for collecting the resin at the
bottom of the cut. This wasted considerable
resin, and now the cup is raised as the height
of the cut is increased. In order to lead the
resin into the cup, a small sheet of metal is
driven into the tree just above the cup. The
cup is emptied every 3 days and the cut cleaned
or enlarged.
The collected resin or brea is cooked in special
stills. An olla of resin is placed above a fire-
box (fig. 2). The cover and "coil" are made
of pottery (in the village of Patambau), and
the turpentine is caught in another vessel. Be-
fore the decline in turpentine prices caused by
World War II, a kilo of resin sold at 8 centavos
in the woods and a 5-gallon tin of turpentine
sold at 18 pesos. In 1941, prices were 4 or 5
centavos for a kilo of resin with a correspond-
ing drop in turpentine prices.
Probably no one in Cheran derives any con-
siderable part of his livelihood from hunting.
Some men hunt casually because their farms or
lumbering activities take them where game is
more plentiful. Others hunt a good deal be-
cause they enjoy it. Finally, sometimes people
hunt because they are poor and thus can aug-
ment their food supply or income.
The most commonly hunted animals are deer,
peccary (guakin), squirrels (both ordinary,
kuinike, and flying squirrels), rabbits, quail,
pigeons, and less commonly, armadillos. Other
local wild animals are not eaten. Heavy rifles
are used for large animals, usually .30 or .32
caliber, and .22 caliber rifles for squirrels.
Deer are sometimes trapped in pits in the
mountains. Squirrels are caught in snares.
Horsehair threads are used to make snares to
catch quail and pigeons. Quail snares are hung


in the tops of bushes in which quail perch and
peer about. When the bird puts its head in the
noose, the hunter, who is hidden nearby, pulls
a string. Pigeons are hunted mostly by boys,
who set snares near watering places. The
birds ordinarily water at dusk, alighting away
from the water and walking toward it. The
boys erect small fences by the water and hang
the snares in openings left at frequent intervals.
Deer meat is sold in the village at the price
of beef. It is said not to be liked very well.
Squirrels are sold at 10 centavos and pigeons
at 5 centavos each. Wild ducks are brought
from Zacapu and sold at 50 centavos to 1 peso
each, depending on size.

Cheran is primarily an agricultural village.
Many Tarascan towns have industrial special-
ties at which most of the inhabitants work full
or part time. For example, it is fair to say
that Paracho is a woodworking and weaving
village.or that Patamban is a pottery-making
village, even though a number of persons devote
part or all of their time to farming. In the
same way, although there are industrial special-
ists in Cherin and it produces an important
amount of forest products, such as lumber, rail-
way ties, and charcoal, farming nevertheless
overshadows all other activities. Most Cherin
residents own land or farm on shares, and the
majority engage in no other activities. In rela-
tion to all economic activities, then, farming
occupies a place comparable to that occupied
by pottery manufacturing in Patamban or fish-
ing in some Lake villages.
The basic crop of Cheran is maize. Second
in importance, but ranking far below maize, is
wheat. Yet despite the emphasis on these two
crops, Cheran farming is extraordinarily
varied, as the following list of cultivated plants

Broadbean (haba)
Squash (chilacaydte)


Maguey (agave)

Crab apples
Zapote blanco

The above list is but a portion of the total
number of varieties cultivated by the Tarascans
in other villages. Plants used in Cheran but
grown in other villages include onion, garlic,
tomato (several types), chile (many kinds),
sugarcane, sweetpotato, banana, lime, lemon,
orange, guava, mamey, mango, watermelon,
canteloup, avocado, zapote negro, and

The lands cultivated by the Cheran Tarascans
all have soils almost exclusively composed of
volcanic ash or cinders. However, low-lying
areas which receive materials washed from the
higher ground are usually more fertile and in
a few specially favored spots may be cultivated
annually. As a general rule, however, lands are
cultivated only in alternate years.
Cherin lands are of five main categories: (1)
"Plains" or valley floors, which' may include
some gently sloping or rolling areas but which
are relatively flat; (2) patches of sloping land
capable of permanent cultivation; (3) small
areas of level land, usually called "joyas," con-
sisting of small valleys, depressions in the midst
of lava flows, which were not covered by lava,
and the level depressions in the craters of
cinder cones; (4) relatively level or gently
sloping garden plots within the town; (5) tem-
porary fields on the steeper slopes of the
The so-called "plains" consist of several large
areas (maps 2, 3), subdivided in numerous
privately owned plots. Maize and wheat are
the principal crops grown. The "plains" are
cultivated in alternate years under supervision
of the town government. Harvest dates are
fixed by the town council; after the final date,
the "plains" become community pasture.
Fencing of individual plots is not permitted,
nor is planting in consecutive years. There-
fore, men who own land in only one "plain"
plant only every other year. Consequently,
everyone tries to have land in at least two
The largest "plain," usually referred to sim-
ply as el plan, is west of Cheran, extending
from the foot of the slope below the town to the


boundary with Aranza and Cherandstico (pl. 1,
upper left). The second most important
"plain" is south and southeast of the town and
extends on the east to the boundary with
Nahuatzen. On the north and south the plain
is bounded by hills and mountains, on the west
by the slope to el plan. This area is usually
referred to as Sharicho (garico). The "plan
of Arantepacuaro" is south of the range of
mountains of San Marcos, and extends to the
boundary of Arantepacuaro on the south. The
fourth and smallest "plain" of importance is
northeast of the mountain of El Pil6n.
Patches of sloping land under permanent cul-
tivation are found scattered throughout the
municipio. A large number of plots are found
on the slope between el plan and the town and
on the lower, gentler slopes of many mountains
and cinder cones. These lands may be fenced
or, more commonly, protected by deep ditches
with hedges of agave on each side. Thorny
crab apple or other fruit trees sometimes are
also planted along ditches. Weak spots may be
guarded by thorny brush and poles (pl. 4,
lower left).
The so-called "joyas" are usually patches of
only a few acres, often in isolated places far
from town. They may be fenced or ditched to
keep out animals and, like the other areas, are
privately owned. Unless they are unusually fer-
tile, "joyas" are cultivated only every other year.
The garden plots are within the town proper.
In a few cases they may occupy an entire block,
but normally they are merely part of a building
lot (solar). Few of them are as large as half
an acre. They are fenced and, unlike any other
areas, they are cultivated every year.
Temporary fields are created by clearing the
forest on community lands. Permission must
be obtained from the Federal Department of
Forestry, Hunting and Fishing. Extra forest
taxes must be paid, but charges are nominal.
Usually the areas cleared are steep and the soil
is poor and badly leached. Frequently, serious
erosion results from such fields. Although
cultivated only in alternate years, these fields
are short-lived and are abandoned after a de-
cade or so. Only use rights exist for such
fields and after abandonment they revert to the
public domain.

A clearer picture of the agricultural cycle
may be given by a monthly summary.
January: Little to do; second plowing of maize lands
may begin.
February: Second plowing of maize lands.
March: Maize 'planting begins.
April: Maize planting; first cultivation of early maize
at end of month; planting of vegetables and maize in
May: Wheat harvest; second cultivation of maize.
June: Second cultivation of maize; some wheat
threshing (continued in dry weather throughout rest
of year).
July: Fairly free month; weeding of maize begins;
second cultivation of maize continues.
August: Plowing for wheat.
September: Planting wheat; cutting maize fodder.
October: Plowing for maize; rains usually end; cut-
ting maize fodder; wheat threshing nearly finished.
November: Maize harvest (if lower lands planted);
December: Maize harvest on higher lands; plowing.
Land is prepared for field and garden crops
(except for small kitchen gardens of cabbage
and herbs) by plowing one or more times (pl. 4,
upper left). The plow used is usually a
wooden type (fig. 3). The Government has
given some 30 steel plows to the municipio,
which lends them to farmers; although these
are all in use, they care for only a small part
of the plowing.
Regardless of the type of plow, it is almost
always drawn by oxen. Mules, and perhaps
horses, undoubtedly are used sometimes, but
not as frequently as in adjoining Aranza; in
the entire season of 1940-41 no single instance
was observed on Cherin lands. If the wooden
plow is used, the long plow beam is attached to
the ox yoke directly. Steel plows are attached
to the ox yoke by a chain. An ox goad of wood,
often with a chisellike metal butt (for sticking
in the ground), is employed.
A great many farmers own oxen; if they do
not, they must rent them at 75 centavos to 1
peso a day, depending on the demand. If driv-
ers are hired, 50 centavos a day is usual. On
the other hand, if a man has rented his land on
shares, he must make sure his tenants plow at
the right time. Usually land is plowed twice
before planting, but the depth rarely exceeds
6 inches.


Except in the garden plots and a few other
highly favored places, corn is never planted on
the same ground on two successive years. Gar-
den plots are more carefully cultivated and are
fertilized to some extent by depositing organic
refuse of all kinds and, if available, manure.
Good farmers will even carry surplus manure
to the fields, but some are lazy and simply
throw it in one of the arroyos. It is then car-
ried down to the "plain" west of town. As a

result, a part of the "plain" where the water
sinks into the ground can be farmed every year.
The basin, of which the "plain" forms a part,
has no outlet. So porous is the volcanic soil
that streams run only briefly after heavy rain-
fall. The drainage of the entire basin collects
on the Cherin-Aranza boundary, where it sinks
into the soil within a few hours after a storm.
The entire sink area is cultivated and is highly
fertile. No rotation of crops is ordinarily
practiced on the plain; but in the mountains,



FIGURE 3.-The Cherin plow. a, Plow in use with oxen (see also pl. 4, upper left). b, Main frame, made from
a single piece of wood. c, Peg over which the tongue fits. d, Steel plowshare fastened on the point of the
main frame. e, Tongue which goes over peg (c), while the end fits in a socket on the main frame. f, yoke;
'the tongue (e) passes through the opening in the yoke and is held by a tapered peg (not shown). g, Bow
used on the plow in planting to spread the dirt into the already planted furrows; the bow is inserted into
the indicated hole.


when maize begins to do poorly in a field, with
small stalks and poor ears, barley is often
planted for 1 year. This "warms up" the soil
and good corn crops are secured for a few years.
Maize lands are plowed twice, the first time
in late summer or fall, the second in late winter,
the furrows of the second plowing being made
at right angles to those of the first. Planting
takes place in the spring after danger of frost
is past; on the plain this is as early as March,
but at higher elevations it may be later.
Three men and two yokes of oxen are used
in planting. One yoke of oxen draws a plow
which opens a furrow. A man follows this
furrow, dropping seed each step and pressing
it down with his foot. Two grains are dropped
unless worms are bad, when three or four may
be planted. Maize rows are about 1 vara (32
inches) apart. The second yoke of oxen draws
a plow which makes a furrow between the
planted rows, covering the seed to a depth of
about 4 inches. To aid in covering the corn,
the second plow has a wooden bow fastened
horizontally below the beam behind the plow
point. No digging stick is ever used except to
replant fields damaged by worms, and all work
is done by men. There is no exchange of labor
or lending of tools or animals, even among
Several types of maize are grown. Trimd-
sion is white with a somewhat larger grain and
is sown in the "plains." It has more and larger
stalks and ears. Tulukenio is yellow and has
small grains. It is sown in the mountains
about 8 to 15 days later, but matures at the
same time as Trimasion. The ears are short,
ordinarily about 4 inches in length, and the
stalks are smaller. The fact that Tuluk6nio
is always sown on poorer and colder lands
probably accounts for most of the differences,
although it is claimed that the differences per-
sist when the two types are planted in the same
fields. However, probably because of the
methods of seed selection and the isolation of
mountain fields, some regressive or primitive
types occur in Tuluk6nio which may have
genetic significance. Not enough Trimasion
types have been studied to define the differences.
In the garden plots a black or dark-blue
maize (Oirayki) is planted. It appears to have
some significant differences from Tuluk6nio,

although belonging to the same race (see Ap-
pendix 3). It is believed in Cheran that blue
maize will not grow in the fields, although an
almost identical genetic type is grown in the
fields in Sevina and Nahuatzen. The stalks are
taller and more slender and the ears are larger
and longer than those of other types. Although
it may be planted as early as Trimasion, the
maturation time is faster and some people
plant black maize late in order to have a single
harvest time. In no case is black corn planted
before Easter Saturday. However, much' of
the black maize is eaten in the milk stage as
roasting ears. The stalks are also sweeter,
apparently, and non-bearing stalks are cut and
chewed to extract the sweet sap.
All Cheran farmers preserve a red color
variant of the Trimasion and Tuluk6nio types.
Red ears are called c66u and are considered a
different variety, but genetically the type appar-
ently is only a color variant. A few red ears
are always planted in each field. The reasons
are discussed below. Red maize is said to be
sweeter and is used for two kinds of cookies,
an S-shaped cookie called cistika and a coiled
shape called tokere Edstika.
No effort is made to select seed at harvest.
All the maize is stored together, but as corn is
taken from storage for use, the farmer's wife
systematically lays aside red ears and the
largest and best-filled-out ears, always taking
inferior ears for food or sale. In this way,
when planting time comes, the best ears re-
main. These are sorted and a further selection
made. Grains from the butt and tip are
Maize seed selection is always done when the
moon is crescent. Neither selection nor shell-
ing is done after the full moon. This rule
applies to no other seeds. Each family keeps
its own seed (of all other plants as well as
maize) and obtains seed from others only if its
own is very bad.
Maize is subject to many plagues and animal
enemies. Pocket gophers do great damage to
maize (and also to wheat). Before planting,
and usually before plowing, gunpowder is ex-
ploded in the runways of the animals, which
is said to kill many. No effort is made to trap
or kill survivors, however, even though they
may be damaging growing crops severely.


While crops are small, posts are placed in the
fields to provide perching places for hawks.
Worms may damage small plants to the point
that reseeding is necessary, especially if there
are long periods of cloudy weather without
rain. Worms also damage about 35 percent
of the ears. Deer damage crops badly only in
isolated mountain fields. Badgers in some
places are serious pests. The only remedy is
to attempt to shoot the animals. Birds do lit-
tle damage. Some maize is attacked by a fun-
gus. The fungus is eaten, but it is not sold or
prized as a delicacy as is the case in some parts
of Mexico.
Trespass by domestic animals and theft must
be guarded against. Sometimes isolated fields
are completely stripped if not watched. Stray
animals caught damaging corn are taken to the
municipio and held in jail until the owner pays
for the damage.
Unseasonal frost often damages corn, par-
ticularly late plantings and in fields at high
altitudes. In 1940, frost, heavy enough to
damage some fields, occurred on September 29.
When maize is about 1 foot high it is culti-
vated ("escarda" also "trozando") by running
the plow between the rows, throwing dirt to-
ward the plants. This is done a second time
when the plants are about 18 inches tall. If it
is delayed too long, the roots may be cut, the
maize leaves will yellow at the tip, and no ears
will form.
When the maize is in tassel, after the rainy
season is well underway, the fields are weeded
"chaponeado." This is done by hand with a
short machete, called "os," with a sharp curve
at the point. Also, earth is piled around such
plants as were not sufficiently covered by the
cultivation. If the weeds are bad, a second
weeding is sometimes done, but not often. If
weeding is omitted, weeds climb high up the
stalks and the crop suffers considerably. The
weeds removed are piled up beside the fields'and
are not used for feed or fertilizer.
As soon as grain is well formed on the ears,
some maize is used for food, usually roasted.
At this time, also, guards must be set in the
fields, not only to keep animals out, but to pre-
vent theft. Whole families may move to tem-
porary field shelters at this time and remain
until the harvest. In the "plains," usually

only a few watchers are necessary. A pine
tree some 20 feet high is trimmed and set
firmly in the ground. The watchers climb this
and spend hours standing uncomfortably in the
crotches left by trimming the branches. Often
several families may cooperate in watching, or
several landowners may hire watchers, called
When the ears are well formed, but while
stalks and leaves are still green, fodder
("rastrojo") is cut. All stalks without ears, and
the ear-bearing stalks above the ears, are cut,
dried, carried to the house, and stored in sheds.
This forms the principal fodder for animals.
The stalks remaining in the field are not cut
after the harvest, but animals are allowed to
graze the harvested fields.
The main work of harvesting is done by men.
Women bring food to the men, and they also
glean, assisted by children. At harvest each
man takes two rows at a time. The ears are
picked, husked, and thrown in a round cane-
splint burden basket (gundis) carried on the
back with the aid of a tumpline. Ears which
miss the basket belong to the gleaners, who also
take the nubbins. When the basket is filled,
the corn is piled at convenient spots.
The harvest is the busiest time of year.
Except for a few specialists, the sick, and the
infirm, everyone works, either on his own har-
vest or as a laborer for someone else. Labor
also comes from other towns. Wages are 40
to 50 centavos a day, plus the right to glean.
Women and children follow the men of their
own household and close supervision is neces-
sary in order to prevent too many ears from
being dropped or overlooked. The workday is
about 7 hours. The larger landowners have
tried unsuccessfully to eliminate gleaning by
raising wages to 1 peso a day. Men refused to
work without gleaning rights, despite the opin-
ion of most objective observers that the maize
secured from gleaning had less value than the
additional wages. The landowners would have
saved through eliminating supervisors. When
the harvest is over, some farmers treat all their
help to a few drinks of aguardiente (6arAnda).
Most of the harvest is carried to town and
the storehouses on burros. Nets are used to
hold the ears. Sometimes other animals are
used, and for some fields employment of two-


wheeled oxcarts is possible, although they are
rarely used. Burros usually have to be rented
or borrowed; in the latter case, a gift of maize
or money equal to the rent is usually made.
Fifty centavos a day is the usual pay for burros,
which adds considerably to the expense of
bringing in the harvest from distant fields.
Often pay is in maize and is subject to some
The time of the harvest varies in different
places. If the "plain" west of town is planted,
the main harvest is in November, but if the
"plain" southeast of town is planted, the har-
vest is in December. In either case, the town
council, in consultation with the principal land-
owners, sets the dates for harvests. Where
lands adjoin those of neighboring towns, usu-
ally both towns begin the same day. Eight
days after the date set, anyone may turn
animals into the fields. Persons who have not
completed harvesting or carrying in their har-
vest may have difficulty protecting it from
As the harvest is a time of joint work, even
though not communal in character, it also is a
rather festive and social occasion. Moreover,
many workmen have more money than at any
other time. To protect them from tempta-
tions, keep them sober while working, and avoid
distractions, the sale of fruit or liquor is pro-
hibited outside the edge of town. Actually,
the "edge of town" becomes somewhat elastic,
and vendors may set up stands as much as half
a kilometer from town.
In 1940 the following schedule of harvests
was posted:
December 5. Huanaschucun (sloping lands at the
foot of the Cerro de la Virgen, northwest of town).
December 9. Eastern part of the "plain" of Sharicho
and Rincon de Paso.
December 16. Western part of Sharicho.
December 19. Plain of Arantepacua.

No rules were posted for smaller isolated
areas and fields which were fenced. The parts
of Sharicho and other areas close to the
Nahuatzen boundary were harvested beginning
November 26 in order to prevent conflicts over
animals crossing the boundary.
White maize and yellow maize are stored un-
shelled in the lofts of "trojes." Little effort is
taken to protect maize from rats and squirrels

and none at all to stop attacks of weevils or bee-
tles. There are no mechanical corn sellers in
Cheran, and bulk sales of unshelled maize are
often made. Small amounts may be shelled
for sale to storekeepers if there is need of a
few cents in cash. One common method of
shelling corn is to bind corncobs tightly with
wire or cord to make a bundle about 12 inches
in diameter. Maize ears are laid on the floor
and rolled with this crude implement.
Black maize usually is not completely
husked. Instead, pairs of ears are tied to-
gether and hung over poles in the house. The
best ears are often hung on a pole .on the
veranda. Good field ears may also be hung in
the house. Most black corn is consumed as
roasting ears. Otherwise it is usually saved
to make tamales in Easter week.
Discussion of land values, maize yields, and
labor costs is deferred to the section on
Wheat lands may be fertilized by hiring
sheep to bed at night on wheat fields. Lands
are plowed once before planting, and the seed
is then sown broadcast. The land is then
plowed lightly a second time, the furrows being
at right angles to the first. Thorny brush,
such as wild crab apple, is weighted and
dragged across the furrows to break up large
clods and to complete covering of the seed.
Some persons say only one kind of wheat is
grown at Cherin, a type planted between
September and November and maturing during
the dry season. However, both bearded and
beardless varieties were observed. Moreover,
a few families have a so-called winter wheat
("winter" in Cheran is the rainy season, tech-
nically our summer) which is planted before
the rainy season and matures in August or
September. The more commonly grown wheat,
it is said, would not survive so much water.
Some other Tarascan towns near Tangancicu-
aro are reported to grow a reddish-colored
The dry-season wheat is short-stalked and
often grows very sparsely. Moreover, most
wheat is grown on inferior sloping lands or
lands on which corn does not do well. Rains
often appear to be inadequate to produce a


good crop, although complete failure is rare.
A little wheat is grown in town lots, where it
seems to do better than in fields.
Wheat is harvested by hand with a sickle.
Men do most of the work, but women and chil-
dren help sometimes. The plants are cut as
close to the ground as possible, tied in sheaves,
and transported to the houses. One, and in
1940 two, small threshing machine is used in
Cherin, but the bulk of the wheat is threshed
by hand with flails. The flail used is a slender
pole about 8 feet long. To this are fastened
two or three heavy iron wires some 10 to 12
feet long. Threshing is done on, any hard
clean-swept ground when the weather is dry.
One stone threshing floor exists at the end of
Zaragoza Street. The owner is usually given
a liter or so of wheat for its use, although it is
built on public property. The straw is care-
fully saved, whether threshing is done by hand
or by machine. Both men and women winnow
the wheat on windy days (pl. 3, center). The
grain is stored in sacks.
Some wheat is consumed locally. It is
ground on the metate and made into bread or
atole. The bulk of the wheat is sold, however,
to four mills at Purdpero, Carapan, Tarataro,
Jacona, or as far away as Morelia (since the
highway has been built). Wheat is, indeed,
probably the major cash export crop of Cheran.
Prices and costs are discussed later.
Barley.-Some barley is sown in June and
harvested about October. Techniques of plant-
ing and harvesting are similar to those for
wheat. Barley is fed to animals or sold out-
side the town. It is stored in sacks. Most
barley is planted to restore failing cornlands,
and the quantity is not important nor is it
regarded as an intrinsically valuable crop.
Oats.-Although the growing of oats is re-
ported, no farmer was found who had planted
the grain. The quantity must be unimportant.
Beans.-The soil of Cherin is said not to be
good for beans; possibly the climate is also un-
satisfactory. Whatever the reason, Cherin
grows few beans and many are imported from
the Lake Pitzcuaro region.
The principal bean grown is a small pinkish
type called criolla. White, orange-yellow,

brownish, and various spotted beans with much
variation in size and shape were observed, and,
in many cases, were named by informants.
Until reports are received from botanists, the
details of variation seem of little interest. All
seem to be of climbing types.
Some people plant a few beans between the
corn rows, usually in the garden. Mixing of
corn and bean seed is said not to give good
results. Separate planting of beans is rare, if
it occurs at all. Beans are threshed by driving
burros over the straw, or children may trample
out small quantities.
Squashes and pumpkins.-A few pumpkins
are grown in gardens for home use. The most
common type is a squash known as chilacayote,
although it is not grown abundantly.
The chilacayote must be planted 15 to 20
feet apart, for the plant spreads widely.
Uusally it is planted in gardens. The fruit -is
large and green, resembling a watermelon in
shape and color. The flesh is white and watery.
Some chilacayote is eaten fresh, cooked with
brown sugar. Usually, though, it is cured by
leaving it in the sun on roofs or wall tops for
2 or 3 weeks. Sometimes the squashes are
coated with ashes mixed with water. This is
believed to harden the exterior. After curing,
they are stored in the "troje" or in the storage
loft and saved until spring. Planting time is
the traditional season for eating chilacayote,
for this is a period when there are almost no
fresh fruits or vegetables. The squashes sell
for 25 to 50 centavos.
Broadbeans or habas.-Broadbeans (Vicia
faba), a coarse variety of European vetch, are
usually planted in gardens or, more rarely, in
the field. They are planted in furrows, like
maize, and are cultivated similarly. Broad-
beans yield well in Cheran but relatively few
are grown, as they are not liked as well as
ordinary beans.
Potatoes.-Planting of potatoes began in
Cheran only 2 or 3 years ago. Apparently
they do well but only a few are planted as yet,
principally for sale in Mexican communities,
for they have little place in Tarascan cookery.
They are planted in April and harvested in
November or December.
Chayote.-The chayote is not grown abun-
dantly. Plants are found only in gardens,


usually near the house, where they spread over
kitchen roofs, sheds, and fences. Planting is
in the week of Candelaria. No fruit is borne
until the second year.
The tubers formed on the roots of the chayote
plant, called chinchayote, are dug up every
third year on New Year's day or shortly after.
They are found about a yard and a half from
the stalk at a depth of 2 feet. They are boiled
or fried and eaten, In flavor and texture they
are superior to potatoes, which they resemble.
If the tubers are not removed every 3 years,
they rot and the plant sickens and does not
Miscellaneous vegetables and herbs.-Green
vegetables and herbs are usually grown in small
garden plots within the patio or houseyard.
Most important is cabbage, of which two var-
ieties are grown, one which heads and one
which does not. The latter is the more com-
mon, producing a cluster of large leaves along
a stalk a foot or more in height. Cabbage is
an essential ingredient of the universal meat
dish, Euripo.
On rare occasions, other vegetables are
grown, such as carrots, tomatoes, and onions.
The latter two do not produce well in Cherin,
and carrots and other vegetables have little
place in Tarascan cookery.
Almost every garden has a few herbs, the
most common of which is silantro (kulantro),
used to flavor meat dishes. Two mints
(kuaiitiniS and kuaoitinig kamdta akda) are
grown for use in atoles.
Camomiles, manzanillo, of at least two types
are grown as carminatives.
Agave.-Although agaves (akimba) are
planted extensively along the ditches cut as
field boundaries to keep out animals, relatively
little use is made of them. There is some
collection of the juice, agua miel (urapi).
Some is consumed locally, but most of it is
shipped to Uruapan. No native residents drink
the juice after fermentation as pulque. Only
wild agaves are roasted.
To secure the juice, according to description,
a cavity is cut in the heart with a knife and the
SIn Paricutin village, chayotes (apfipo) are planted in stone-
lined pits to protect the seeds from gophers. The pit is about
30 cm. deep. The pulp is carefully removed from the seeds, which
are then carefully wrapped in maize husks and tied with the
same material.

pulp is chopped. Three days later the chopped
material is removed and the surface of the
cavity is scratched with a rakelike implement.
On the fourth day, collection of the juice begins
twice daily. Each time juice is collected, the
surface of the cavity is scratched with the rake-
like implement. The juice is dipped out with a
small pottery vessel and poured into a larger
container. If the juice is to be shipped to
Uruapan it is put in a 25-liter can. A good
plant produces slightly more than 2 liters a day.
The bud of the wild agave is cooked in a
round hole, 1 meter in diameter and 1 meter
deep. The hole is filled with small stones to
within 10 or 15 cm. of the top, and a large fire
is built on top of the stones. When the fire
dies down, the agave buds are thrown on it,
covered with leaves of agaves and trees, and
then sealed with earth. On the third day the
oven is opened. The thick fleshy end of leaves
of the smaller wild agave are also roasted.
The season is from November to May.
Approximately 20 men in Cherin roast agave
in season. They must eat sugar when the
agave is cooking so that it will emerge sweet.
They must also abstain from sexual intercourse
during the 3 days the agave is in the oven.10
Pears.-The most important fruit in Cheran
is the pear. It is carried by traders as far as
Guerrero. Three types are recognized: leche
(uergam6te), pardo (Oarapiti), and t'aWAni
(Spanish name unknown). The only signifi-
cant difference recognized is that the three
types mature at different times, although some
say only the u6rgam6te transports well.
Pear trees are always grafted on a rootstock
of wild crab apple, tejocote. (This is a sloe-
like fruit which bears a marked resemblance in
flavor and appearance to the true crab apple.)
The tejocote trunk is cut with a saw and then
split. A pear graft is inserted at each end of
the split, sealed in with wax, and wrapped in
clean cloth. It is believed the grafts will grow
only in January, February, and March, but a
school teacher with experimental tendencies
claims to have grown them at all seasons.
10 Agave is of varying importance in other towns. In Angahuan
the techniques are similar. The plant is known here as quiote;
the leaves are called itikua, the stalk or bud, iamag. Mestizoized
Chilchota makes mescal. .The leaves are cooked in earth ovens,
macerated with clubs in cement tanks, fermented several days, then
distilled. The Tarascan terminology relating to the agave and its
processing survives in part.


Pears and other fruit trees are not pruned,
cultivated, or fertilized. Fruit to be shipped,
especially pears, is picked with a special imple-
ment to prevent bruising. Three narrow pieces
of shake are cut to a point at one end. They
are then tied with string to one end of a long
light pole, forming a triangular funnel. The
funnel is placed under the fruit and raised,
detaching it gently from the tree (fig. 4).

FIGURE 4.-Pear picker, made of trimmed shakes, cord,
and any convenient long pole. The fruit is caught
in the opening, lifted until the stem breaks, and
then lowered to the ground. Bruised pears will
not stand shipment.

Miscellaneous fruits.-A bitter apple, man-
zana agria or chata, is grown in Cherin. A
larger, sweet apple is grown in PichAtaro, but
only four or five trees exist in Cherin.
Three kinds-of peaches are grown in Cheran:
blanco, a type with red flesh near the pit (name
uncollected), a green peach (prisku), and a
yellow peach (mel6kuta). Relatively few
peaches or apples are exported.
Two kinds of cherries, black and white, are
grown in Cherin. Both are dried in some
quantities and are sometimes sold in the market
at Paracho.
A few zapote blanco are grown in Cheran,
but most of this fruit consumed in Cheran is
imported. The same is true of plums.
The tejocote is said not to be cultivated, but
it sometimes is planted deliberately along field
borders and its fruit is used. As, with the ex-
ception of pears, this is all the attention ever
given to other fruits, it is fair to include the

tejocote as a domesticated type. It is har-
vested and exported for making jellies and
preserves. A few are used locally.
Some quince trees are found in CherAn.
They are little used, but some preserves are
Most beliefs and customs center about maize.
Most important are the beliefs about red ears,
665u. A red ear is described as the mother,
chief, and aEe (ceremonial leader) of all maize.
In the storage lofts, red ears are mixed in with
the yellow and white to act as guardian of the
rest. They are never eaten until all the white
and the yellow corn are gone. Care is taken to
plant seed from one or more red ears in each
field; otherwise it is believed that there will be
no harvest.
Red ears and black ears are both said to be
used in curing, but no details could be secured.
Twin ears, cuates (Ianinkuite), are said to
come because God wishes to send a little more.
Sometimes large ears have four or five points;
they are said to be the hand of the planter.
The family harvesting the first green corn in
the town places two or three ears on the altar
of San Francisco. Each family gives one or
two cargas of maize on the cob to the priest.
If the rains do not come at the proper time
near the end of May, the image of San Ramos
is taken to the peak of San Marcos. The image
is placed on a white sheet, held by a man at
each corner, and tossed in the sheet. If San
Ramos can be made to cry, it begins to rain
immediately. During the rite a rezador recites
a rosary, copal is burned, and cohetes are fired.
Every year, beginning in January, the grass
is burned, causing great damage to the forests
and destroying the last remnants of pasture.
The burning is said to prevent heavy frosts,
while the smoke hastens the coming of the
rains. Town officials and officers of the Forest
Service succeeded in extinguishing most of the
fires in 1940.
It is said there are no beliefs regarding
wheat. Nevertheless, wheat must be carried in
a wooden bowl while sowing or it will be at-
tacked by rust, "tecolote." Rust is a sign the
planter used his hat, blanket, or some other
improper article at planting. Girls plait elab-


orate ornaments of wheat straw at harvest
time, which are hung on the veranda or inside
the house. Beliefs about these ornaments were
No beliefs or customs were discovered re-
garding other plants except those connected
with roasting the wild agave.

The domestic animals found in Cherin are
cattle, horses, mules, burros, sheep, goats, pigs,
dogs, cats, chickens, pigeons, and bees. Of
these, cattle, burros, sheep, and pigs are the
most numerous and of greatest economic im-
portance. Turkeys, ducks, and geese are com-
pletely lacking, although they are found in
other Tarascan towns. Sevina, for example,
has a fair number of turkeys.
Cattle.-Ownership of cattle is widespread
in Cheran, but accurate knowledge of the extent
of ownership is impossible because of the tend-
ency to conceal wealth. As most cattle are
kept at pasture, usually in the mountains, house
censuses are of no value. Possession of cattle
seems to make little difference in the economic
position of their owners. Wealthy men often
own herds of some size which they do not
appear to exploit to their fullest extent. Such
men, though, probably gain some social prestige,
for their bulls will be sought for use in the bull
riding which forms an important part of the
fiesta of the patron saint of Cherin.
Cattle are raised for several economic uses:
meat, milk, draft animals, and sale outside they
town. Somewhat different treatment is ac-f
corded animals raised for various purposes;
consequently, separate discussion is indicated.
Relatively few cows are milked, and most/
families do not keep milk cows. There is no(
special breeding for milk cattle and a "very
good" cow will not give over 2 liters of milk a
day. The milk is sold in Cher6n, usually for
pregnant women or sick people, or it is made
into cheese. Only a small part of the local
demand for cheese is supplied in this fashion,
however. No butter is made.
Milking is done only by men, but women
clean the milk containers, make the cheese, and
may care for the animals. Milking is done by
primitive methods; the cow is tethered closely
at the head and the hind legs are tied together.

The calf is then tied nearby while the cow is
milked; it is then permitted to suckle.
The cow is milked only once a day and only
from June to January or February while pas-
tures are good. Ordinarily, the cows are kept
and milked in the fields. If only one or two
cows are milked, they may be pastured close
to the village and driven into the house yard
for milking. In this case, if the owner has
feed, the cow may be milked after February.
Oxen, and sometimes bulls, are used exten('
sively for plowing. In a very few cases they
also draw two-wheeled carts to bring in the
harvest, although most of this is done by pack
animals. Oxen are broken to the yoke after
they are fully grown, but fairly young steers
are sometimes yoked together in the pastures
in order to accustom them to traveling together.
Animals are not bred or raised specially for
beef. Cows, bulls, and steers are killed, the\
main consideration being the fatness of the
animal. A considerable number of the animals
slaughtered are oxen considered to have out-
lived their usefulness as draft animals. Al-
though specially fattened for slaughter, the
beef is as tough as might be expected. Calves
or young animals are never slaughtered. Ani-
mals dying of disease are not eaten in Cherin
but are in other towns. The hides of slaugh-f
tered cattle are valued according to prices in
adjacent Mexican markets.
Although Cheran raises more than enough
cattle for its own use, cattle raising is not re-
garded as a very satisfactory business because
of the lack of pasture during the latter part
of the dry season. Usually, numbers of ani-
mals die of starvation during April and May.
This is true of other grazing animals also.
When not in use, cattle are ordinarily pas-
tured in the mountains. They are visited every
third day to make sure they have not been
stolen and that they are getting water. They
are driven down to the farm lands and allowed
to graze on the cornstalks or wheat stubble
during the winter. This practice not only aids
the animals over part of the dry season with
its scanty pasturage, but is recognized as a
means of fertilizing the soil.
Little care is used in breeding, and new bulls
are never brought in from outside. If a man
owning a cow has no bull, he simply drives the


animal to a herd containing bulls. Sometimes
he will seek a bull regarded as superior. There
is no service fee. Cattle are branded when
young and draft animals almost always are
Pigs.-Probably the pig is the second most
-important animal in Cherin; certainly it is
the most common. Almost every family has at
least one sow. If a family has no sow of its
own, usually someone will lend a sow to be fed.
In this case the litter is divided; should the
animal lent be a male, the meat or proceeds of
sale are shared.
SThe pig is raised for meat and fat or for sale,
often outside the village. The skin has very
little value. No use is made of the hoofs, but
the entrails are prized as sausage casings. A
not unimportant function of pigs is their ser-
vice as scavengers.
Although some persons in Cheran were said
to keep boars for breeding purposes and to
charge a small fee for service (of from 25 cen-
tavos to 1 peso in Paricutin), evidently little
care is taken in breeding. Most males are
uncastrated until it is desired to fatten them.
As the pigs roam the streets and nearby roads
and woods during the day, little selective breed-
ing seems possible. Normally, pigs are fed
just enough corn to keep them returning home.
At night they are placed in pens to protect
them from coyotes.
Ordinarily only boars are fattened and
slaughtered. Some people castrate their ani-
mals before fattening them, claiming they will
fatten on less grain. Others dispute this, say-
ing further that meat from castrated hogs has
no flavor. Not every one knows how to cas-
trate, but field notes do not indicate whether
a charge is made for the operation when the
aid of a neighbor is necessary. Animals being
fattened are shut in small log pens with
wooden floors, which are cleaned at frequent
intervals. It is claimed that there are two
types of pig, one of which fattens more readily
than the other. At least 1 fanega (about 90.8
qts.) of maize is used in fattening a pig. Fat-
tened pigs are normally sold to butchers; own-
ers ordinarily kill their own pigs only for
Sheep.-Although relatively few families
own sheep, the number owned in Cherin is

fairly large and they assist materially in fer-
tilizing wheatfields. Wheat farmers will pay
about 30 centavos a night to have an average
herd bedded on their fields. This is not done
for cornlands, as the return is not' considered
No sheep owner gets his living from the
ownership of sheep, but in some cases individ-
uals or even entire families live on their wages
as sheepherders. Most sheepherders, however,
are boys of from 8 to 20 years and old men and
women. Very poor families may start their
sons to learn sheep herding as apprentices as
early as 6 years of age.
Ordinarily sheepherders return to town only
for fiestas or when they need new clothes.
Their food is taken to them by a woman in the
family. If the entire family work as shep-
herds, the wife returns to town periodically to
cook a supply of tortillas or gordas (thick
tortilla fried in fat, sometimes made of wheat
flour instead of maize).
The average wages of sheepherders are 5
pesos a month without food, but this evidently
varies with the size of the flock. One of the
larger owners, with a flock of about 200 sheep,
pays 10 centavos a head a month, 1 fanega of
maize, and permits slaughter of 1 sheep a
month. In all cases, shepherds may eat sheep
which die, if they think it safe to do so, but
the pelt must be washed and dried, and given
to the owner.
Shepherds watch one another to prevent mis-
behavior, such as secretly selling sheep, or
carelessness which would reflect on the profes-
sion. Shepherds care for the flocks, protect
them from coyotes, and put the ownership
marks on the lambs. They are aided by
specially trained dogs.
Sheep are herded in the mountains part of
the year, and on farm lands after the harvest.
Identification marks are made by notching or
cutting the ears. Males are not castrated.
During the dry season, numerous sheep die of
starvation unless their owners have feed (usu-
ally wheat straw). Sheep are not dipped and
in general receive little care beyond herding.
Coyotes are the principal enemies, although a
waggish informant listed the enemies of sheep
as "First, the coyote; second, the shepherd;
and third, the man who buys him for food."


Although mutton is eaten to some extent,J
sheep are raised primarily for wool. Sheen
are sheared twice a year, in late fall and early
summer. A sheep yields about 1 pound of wool
in two hearings, which sells at from $1.00 to
$1.25 (all monetary values are in Mexican cur-
rency). Black wool brings more than white
(as it is all used locally for serape weaving).
Goats.-Only a few goats are raised. Nor-
mally they are herded with the sheep and are
treated like them. In rare instances the goats
are milked, and the milk is made into cheese.
The most important use of goats is to sell them
for food, usually outside the town, as goat meat
is rarely eaten in Cheran. Goatskins are sold
uncured with the hair.
Horses.-Although some horses are bred in
Cheran and some care is exercised in breeding,
it is said the animals deteriorate because of the
cold climate. Consequently, most horses are
imported, but they also deteriorate rapidly.
More important than the cold,'undoubtedly, is
the fact that no one in Cheran understands the
care of horses. They are badly fed and receive
little protection from the weather. Stallions
are castrated.
In any case, horses are rare in CherAn and
are little used except as riding animals, es-!
pecially by those with numerous cattle or pack
animals. Riding and pack gear are the same
as those of the Mestizos. Although in other
Tarascan towns horses are used in plowing,
this was denied in Cheran. A rather poor.
horse costs about 70 pesos. Most horses be-
long to well-to-do men and primarily are indica-
tors of social position. Attitudes toward own-
ing a horse are a weak reflection of those of the
vanishing Mexican caballero. Women almost
never ride.
Horses are fed maize, oats, maize stalks, and
wheat or oat straw. Few people have any
knowledge of treating illnesses of horses.
Ownership is indicated by branding, and horses
are given names similar to those used by
Mestizos. Horse meat is not eaten, but horse
hides are valued for tanning.
Mules.-Mules are even rarer than horses
and have a higher value. Almost all are im-1
ported. They are used mostly as pack animals,
but occasionally they are ridden or used with

the plow. Care and practices otherwise are
the same as for horses.
Burros.-"The poor man's mule" is one of the
more common animals in Cheran. Often kept
in a shed by the house, the burro is employed
to bring in firewood (when he may be ridden to
the woods), to bring in the harvest, carry goods
on trading trips, and perform any other service
of burden carrying. Burros may be used as
light draft animals in such tasks as dragging
brush over wheat fields to cover the seed after
sowing. Often rented, especially at harvest
time, burros are frequently lent to friends,
neighbors, and relatives. Although hard-
worked, they are usually better cared for and
less abused than among the Mestizos. They
are often fed rather than pastured, and saddle
sores and other signs of abuse are relatively
Burros are bred in the town. Jacks are not
castrated. The flesh is never eaten and the
hide is regarded as of little value.
Dogs.-Usually each household has one or
perhaps two dogs, but large numbers of starved
animals are rare. Ordinarily a dog is fed
what the family has, and if a dog is underfed,
usually the family is also. Dogs are always
named, usually for "pretty things or animals"
such as Butterfly, Duke, Tiger, or Rattlesnake.
Others are named for their coat color or be-
cause the name is liked. No effort is made to
control the breeding of dogs.
Dogs are used in hunting, sheepherding, and
to guard the house. In the latter capacity, the
dogs of the barrio of Paricutin are much more
aggressive than in the rest of the town. This
may be because their masters are generally less
friendly or may simply reflect the more rural
character of the barrio.
Hunting dogs are used to chase deer, squir-
rels, rabbits, and other animals after they have
been wounded. Apparently no special train-
ing is given. Sheep dogs are trained by put-
ting them on a leash with a sheep during the
day and tying them near the sheep at night.
They are encouraged to bark at the right time
and to attack coyotes.
Cats.-Cats are not numerous in Cheran,
although they are valued fairly highly because
they combat the many rats which steal stored
corn. Cats seem well treated and are some-


times petted. One reason for having cats is
"because they give pleasure." They are given
"pretty" names or names of affection such as
Chulita and Negrita ("Pretty Little One" and
"Little Black One").
Cats are fed primarily on tortillas, although
they usually are given a little of whatever the
family is eating. Kittens are given away to
friends and relatives; they are never killed,
"for there are never enough cats." Strange
cats may be associated with witchcraft and
might be mistreated or killed, but this appar-
ently does not happen often. Eating of cats is
denied, although young fat kitten is reported
to be a delicacy for really poor people in near-
by Mestizo towns.
Chickens.-Many people have no chickens
and no one has large flocks. They are fed, but
receive little care. Fowls are sometimes eaten
on special occasions, such as a baptism, when
a cooked fowl may be presented to the god-
father. Eggs are rarely eaten but are sold to
traveling egg merchants from Mestizo towns.
An average egg will sell for 5 or 6 centavos,
which will buy enough beans for a whole family
to have a meal, while one egg "will not satisfy
even one person."
Chickens are fed whole corn or, if there are
very few chickens, nixtamal (masa or corn
dough for tortillas). Chicks are also fed
nixtamal. Boxes or baskets are provided for
nests. The first time a hen wishes to "set," it
is not permitted, but it is the second time.
Eggs from other hens are never placed under
a "setting" hen. Small chicks are placed under
box crates to protect them from "onzas" (from
descriptions, onza in CherAn means a small
weasellike animal).
Roosters are raised for cock fighting. How-
ever, organized cock fights are held only during
the fiesta of Octava.
Pigeons.-Although regarded as a domestic
animal, pigeons are really wild. Ownership is
not clear. As the birds are not fed, but help
themselves to stored grain- in the lofts of the
houses, ownership presumably would be felt
for the birds eating one's corn. The matter
seems unimportant, as the birds are rarely
eaten, although they are used in connection with
the San Juan fiesta. If eaten, only adult
pigeons are killed.

Bees-While a moderate number of families
have a few hives of bees, most of the apiculture
in Cherin is carried on by a few men who may
have 20 to 30 colonies. Only European bees
are kept.
Beehives are wooden boxes, about 80 cm.
long, 20 to 35 cm. wide, and 25 to 40 cm. high.
The entrance is at one end, while the wax and
honey are taken by opening the back. The
hives are placed on benches or poles at inter-
vals of about one-half meter. Lizards are be-
lieved to eat the larvae. Flowers and scented
herbs are often planted in the area surround-
ing the hives. Wherever bees are kept, copal
gum is burned in pottery censers. It is said
to "feed" the bees because "the odor of copal
is the odor of our Lord." It is believed it also
prevents bees from leaving. No other ritual
or belief could be discovered.
Honey and wax are usually taken from the
hives in October or November. If delayed
much after this'time, the honey sugars and can-
not be extracted. The honey gatherer places a
net over his head and burns wheat straw to
stupefy the bees. The top of the hive is
smeared with honey so the bees will not leave.
Should they leave the hive and not return by
late afternoon, a small bell is rung to attract
When bees swarm, a bell is rung to make
them alight in a nearby tree. A little honey is
smeared over the inside of a box, which is then
placed by the swarm. When a few bees have
entered voluntarily, most of the remainder are
brushed in and the box is closed and put in
place. When it is opened, the bees usually
remain. The function of the queen is known,
and beekeepers can identify her.
One of the largest apiaries in Cher6n con-
tains 42 hives. The owner started beekeeping
17 years ago when he encountered a wild colony
in the mountains and brought it home. He

recovers 10 kilos of wax a year, which he sells
in Cherin at $2.50 a kilo, and between 40 and
50 pounds of honey. Most of the latter he sells
in small quantities at his home, but some is
sold to stores.
All the work of caring for bees is done by
men (with one exception, a widow), but if the
wax is bleached, this may be done by women.
Wax is used mainly for making candles.


Honey is used primarily to sweeten atole and
as a treat for children."1
For the village of Capacuaro, Silvia Rend6n
reports what are probably native bees kept in
sections of hollow log hung on the walls. She
was told they produced "Campeche wax" (cera
de Campeche).
Pets.-Only domesticated animals are pets.
Dogs and cats are most commonly treated as
pets, being stroked, fondled, picked up, or
played with. However, this is not true of all
dogs or cats, nor is it true of all individuals.
Pigs often seem to be treated as pets, especially
young animals, but they are not picked up or
fondled. Kids are sometimes pets, especially
if the mother had died and the animal has been
reared by hand. Even more common, although
by no means general, are sheep. Lambs are
placed on a leash until half-grown; after this
they follow their masters everywhere, even to
automobiles. Many children have lambs as
pets. One boy of 10 had an immaculately
washed white lamb with a red sash tied about
its middle. The lamb followed him everywhere
and was even trained to stand on the pack pad
of a burro so it could be taken to the mountains
on wood-cutting trips.
Beliefs and ceremonies.-The only ceremony
connected with domestic animals is burning
copal for bees. Beliefs are likewise few. The
association of cats with witchcraft has been
noted. If a dog sits down and howls by day
closeby, it is a sign something bad is going to
happen. Coyotes are believed able to bewitch
the domestic animals they eat, especially chick-
ens. "Coyotes just shake themselves and chick-
ens will go right to them."
Curing of animals.-A few men are special-
ists at curing animals. They are usually paid
for their services. Wounds and sores are
cleaned by washing with lukewarm water, to
which salt is sometimes added, until all pus is
removed and bleeding begins. If the wound is
deep, a wick of cloth may be inserted to keep
it open; sometimes peroxide of hydrogen is
used as a disinfectant, but creosote is more
1 Beekeeping is very popular in La Cafiada. Nearly every family
has at least a few hives. Much of the honey is used in the house-
hold, and only the surplus and the wax are sold. Burning of copal
is not practiced.
In AngAhuan and Paricutin only a few people keep bees. The
largest apiary in Paricutin contained only four hives, and only
three people possessed hives.

common. If wounds are bound, carefully
washed lard mixed with sugar may be applied
or wet dressings may be used, dampened at
frequent intervals with salt water.
Rabies is believed to be caused by the bite of
some other animal, by inadequate food, or by
heat. There is no cure.
Dysentery, "posici6n," in horses and burros
is believed to be caused by cold or "salitre," a
very salty mineral-bearing earth. The animal
is fed pills of coffee, lemon, and bicarbonate
of soda.
"Onia" is caused by overwork, but the symp-
toms were not recorded. Treatment is bleed-
ing the side of the neck and rest. (In general,
overwork is regarded as an important cause of
Sore feet result from the feet becoming full
of blood. The bottom of the foot is bled and
the animal must rest until well.
"Roncha" is a disease caused by mosquito
bites; if it is not cured within 24 hours, the
animal usually dies. Symptoms and treatment
were not recorded.
"Pirojon" is very dangerous and kills in 24
hours. It is believed to be caused by mosqui-
toes or flies that have bitten a dead animal
already putrefying. One curer burns the bites
with a magnifying glass,
Evil eye, malojo, may affect animals that
refuse to eat. There is no cure. The best
thing is to sell the animal to the man who cast
the evil eye (at his price usually) ; the animal
then recovers.
Bats are reported to bite animals at night
and make them bleed. Nothing is done to pre-
vent this. As it is said bats never bite humans,.
and as Cherin probably is above the range of
vampire bats, the report may be folklore.

In the previous sections were described the
technological processes which involve the ex-
ploitation of the environment and the extraction
therefrom of raw materials. The present sec-
tion will describe techniques by which the raw
materials are processed and made ready for
consumption. Obviously, such classifications
must be somewhat elastic. No doubt, good rea-
sons could be advanced against including
domesticated animals under exploitative activi-


ties. Neither are descriptions of dress or house
use entirely appropriate under the heading of
manufacturing. processes. Nevertheless, there
is a certain cultural or associative logic involved
which would be violated by too rigid adherence
to the literal meaning of categories.

No native ceramic industry exists in CherAn.
Pottery is not made, but in 1940 two men, both
non-Tarascans, made roofing tile and brick.



d e

FIGURE 5.-Tilemaker's implements, a, Perspective
view of the mold. b, Direct view of the mold to
show proportions and the shape, which is narrower
at one end than the other, c, Wooden chisel or
knife used to loosen clay from mold if necessary
(length about 18 inches with other artifacts in
proportion). d, Outline of the form for tiles. e,
Perspective view of the form for tiles. The mold
is filled with clay and the top smoothed. The
mold is then lifted up, leaving the clay on a bench
top. The clay is then slid onto the form to receive
the curved shape of the tile. After a few minutes
drying, the unfired tile is slipped off the form onto
the floor to complete the drying process.

Both men had arrived with the highway con-
struction crews; neither was making what he
regarded as a satisfactory living and both hoped
to leave.
Tile and brick are made in an old chapel
and surrounding grounds, formerly part of the
curato or curacy. Ten percent of the finished
tile or brick is given to the municipio as rent
for the buildings and for the right to dig clay
on public lands.
A grayish clay is brought to the factory in
sacks by mules. It is mixed with water and
manure in a board-lined pit in the patio, where
it is turned with spades and hoes and trodden
with bare feet. The mixed clay is pressed into
a trapezoidal wooden form laid flat on a table
(fig. 5). The top is smoothed carefully with
the wet hand. The clay is then slipped off the
table onto a wooden form resembling half of a
truncated cone, but with a handle. After a few
moments, the clay, now in the shape of a tile,
is slipped off on the floor. When fairly well
dried, the tile is moved outdoors for further
Bricks are made in the same fashion but with
a different wooden form. Both brick and tile
are fired in a wood-fired kiln in the patio. The
wood is cut and hauled by the brickmakers and
tilemakers. The time required to make a thou-
sand brick or tile is about 9 days, as follows:
Getting and mixing clay............. 2
Cutting and hauling wood............ 1
Shaping 1,000 brick or tile .......... 5
Loading kiln ........................ 1

Total.......................... 9
Mats.-Most sleeping mats used in Cherdn
are imported, but at least three women make
them locally. The mats are made of tules im-
ported on burros from Erongaricuaro on Lake
Pitzcuaro. The mats are made in twilled tech-
nique, usually treating two tules as a single
weaving element. The only tool observed was
a stone fist hatchet for severing tules.
f Hat making.-About four men manufacture
en's hats of palm straw braid, although pro-
uction does not meet the local demand. The
activity involves complex trading arrange-
ments, for palms do not grow in Tarascan terri-


tory. Palm leaf originates in Ario de Rosales,
whence it is transported to the market at
Paracho. Weaving of the straw into braid is
done by women of the several small villages in
the municipio of Paracho. The finished braid
is sold in the Paracho market, the bulk of it
going to the village of Jaracuaro on an island in
Lake Patzcuaro. The thread used for sewing
the braid is an imported machine-made thread.
The tools of a hat maker include:
Sewing machine
3 or 4 hat blocks
Wooden paddle for blocking
Smooth stone for blocking
Wooden reel for thread (which is bought in
Iron punch for ventilators
Roller like a clothes-wringer for straightening
and smoothing braid

The type of hat most commonly made has a
low crown and broad brim. Each hat requires
about three bundles of braid. The braid is
sewn together in a spiral beginning at the mid-
dle of the crown. Each spiral of the braid
overlaps its predecessor about three-quarters or
five-sixths of its width. One man, working
steadily, can make about three hats a day, but
no one in Cherin works steadily every day.
Essentially, hat making is a part-time occupa-
tion. Some hat makers are also farmers, while
one is also a "tailor." Another also operates
a nixtamal mill. One hat maker employs an
assistant who is said to be paid 50 centavos a
hat. This is doubtful in view of hat prides and
the cost of materials.
Sometimes hats are whitened. They are
first treated with glue, then successively coated
with oxido (a crystalline material melted
down), a white pigment (blanco de sin), and
then a white varnish (blanco de Espalia).
None of these materials was further identified.
The price obtained for hats varies with the
thinness of the braid, fineness of the sewing,
and the finish applied.
Embroidery, crochet, and drawn work.-A
number of women ornament women's blouses
or make crocheted petticoat borders as a part-
time occupation. Women's 'blouses are some-
times equipped with crocheted yolks. Cro-
cheted bands are also placed on the short blouse
sleeves. Bands of embroidery for the bottoms

of petticoats are made by one woman, although
this technique is primarily found in Nahuatzen.
The proportion of women doing this work
seems significantly smaller in the third cartel
or barrio when compared with the other
The crochet may be replaced by embroidery
or drawn work, especially on finer materials
such as linen or rayon. Designs either comef
"from one's head" or patterns may be bought
in market. Usually the poorest designs come
from the market, but no evidence was found
either to indicate preservation of traditional
patterns on the part of those not using com-
mercial patterns, or to indicate creativeness in
designs. Blouses decorated with crochet in-
volve 1 week's part-time work, and embroidered
or drawn-work blouses, from 1 to 3 weeks.
Blanket weaving.-About four men in Cheran
weave blankets. These men buy raw wool, and
wash, clean, card, and spin the wool, and do
the weaving. White, brown, and black colors
are usually natural wool colors. For blue, the
only otlier common color, the weaver dyes white
wool with indigo. A urine mordant is used.
To produce a gray thread, white, black, and
blue wool are mixed together before carding.
Raw wool is washed and cleaned, losing about
one-third its weight in the process.
Carding is done with commercial steel cards
which cost $8.00 a set and last about 3 years.
A handful of wool is placed on one card and the
other is drawn across it several times. The
wool is then folded on one of the cards and the
process repeated. If wool of two or more
colors is being mixed, the rectangles of carded
wool are torn into pieces, mixed together, and
carded a second time in order to give a more
uniform color.
Spinning is done with a wheel (fig. 6). The
edges of a rectangle of carded wool are folded
along the long side. The rectangle is then
pulled apart down the middle except at one end,
giving a strip of carded wool about 11/2 inches
wide. One end is thrown over the left arm and
the other end fed into the yarn with the left
hand while the wheel is turned with the right.
When 6 to 8 inches are lightly twisted, the yarn
is stretched to from 24 to 30 inches, given a
tighter twist, and then wound on the spindle
(fig. 6).


b 3' vmIR
FIGURE 6.-Spinning wheel and associated implements, a, Scales for weighing wool; the weight is a 1-pound
stone; length of the beam is 14% inches. b, Carders used to prepare wool for spinning, about 9 by 12 inches;
the wires are merely indicated schematically and actually are much more numerous. c, Home-made spin-
ning wheel; the wheel is turned with the right hand, the wool fed into the thread with the left hand; the
spinner stands to operate the apparatus.

Weaving is done on a wooden European type
loom with heddles and treddle. A blanket is
always woven in two strips, and then sewed
together with an opening left in the center so
it may be worn as a poncho. Further details
are omitted pending a study of the handicraft
in a town specializing in weaving.
SLace weaving.-It is probable that this tech-
nique is misnamed. In any case it is not prop-
erly a CherAn technique, the only weaver being
a woman from Aranza. So far as is known,
only six or eight women in the latter village
know the technique.
A broadloom frame is used, about 8 feet by
4 feet. It is warped with white cotton thread.
The weft, also of cotton thread, is placed with
the fingers. Designs are set off by open work
and consist of human and animal figures.
A bedspread or tablecloth takes 2 months
or more to make and sells at $75.00 and
up (asking price). Often the design is

arranged to be cut up in small pieces. A 2-
foot square piece in coarse thread (which
weaves faster than fine thread) with figures of
a man, a burro, and two deer, was purchased
for $2.00.
SBelt weaving.-Perhaps five or six women
in Cherin weave narrow belts for women. A
small belt loom is used. One end is tied to a
house post or tree, and the weaver kneels on a
mat. A circular warp slips freely about the
yarn beams. Two heddles, a spreader, two or
more shed dividers, and a batten are employed
(fig. 7). The belts always have a central de-
sign with plain border. The main warp is
cotton, but the central design area has a double
warp, one being of wool. Sheds for intricate
parts of the design are picked up with a small
stick, not with the heddle. There is no shuttle;
the weft threads are wound in small balls or on
a piece of paper. No patterns are used for
designs. Belts take about 2 days of fairly in-




He-DDL ,





FIGURE 7.-Belt loom. Proportions are distorted to show detail; the actual width of- the belt is about 1%
inches. The central part of the warp is double. The lower view shows schematically the various sheds
created by the shed bar and the four heddles. Length is 3 feet 9 inches between the loom bars.





tensive labor, although the weavers usually do
some housework also.
Clothing manufacture.-Many persons make
their own clothes, but a number of persons
make clothes for sale or on order. Even men
may make clothes for sale if the family owns a
sewing machine. For example, one storekeeper
makes men's cotton trousers (calzones) and
men's shirts in his spare time, selling them in
the store. His wife also sews but less fre-
quently. Many storekeepers have one or more
sewing machines-the largest number observed
was three-which are rented to women who
come to the store to sew. One ambitious family
(whose sons were sent to Morelia to school)
made much of the family income from the labor
of mother and daughters. Most of the sewing
Sis durable but not skilled. No one in the town
knows how to fit a garment, and as standards
Approach those of the Mestizos, more and more
people buy ready-made garments from outside
in stores, markets, or in Mestizo towns.
Most of the "tailors" are specialists, making
only one type of garment. One woman makes
only men's cotton trousers. She makes six
pairs a day, double-stitched. Garments for
weddings are single-stitched. The cloth is pro-
vided and cut by the customer. This woman
works only intermittently on order. Trousers
require about 21/2 m. of cloth. Men's shirts
require about the same amount of material but.
cost more for sewing. One woman makes only
aprons, while another makes only children's
Men's dress.-Influence of the Mestizo world
is strongly evident in men's dress. Yet, aside
from the priest, no resident of the town dresses
completely catrin (i.e., in city style) in Cherdn,
and only rarely do individuals going to Uruapan
or some other town wear city dress. Many
men, it is true, commonly wear one or more
garments of "town" style. Coats, sweaters,
and jackets are owned by many. Tailored
woolen trousers, on the other hand, are rare,
while almost none own complete suits. Ordinar-
ily, the cotton trousers of the Mestizo coun-
tryman rather than woolen trousers replace the
white calzones of the Indian.

The most prominent and significant change
in men's dress in Cherin is not the entry of the
catrin garments of storekeeper and professional
man of the towns, but of the blue denim jeans
or overalls of the mechanic and factory worker,
the garment of the proletariat. As the con-
trolling group in town is allied to the Partido
Revolucionario Mexicano and the Confederacion
de Trabajadores Mexicanas, the town officials,
including mayor and secretary, often wear over-
alls, reserving their catrin clothes for visits to
Uruapan or Morelia or for important civic
The working dress of Cheran males, and the
exclusive dress of many, is trousers (calzones),
shirt or blouse of unbleached muslin (manta),
strawhat, and sandals (guaraches). A blanket
or poncho (serape) is worn or carried as pro-
tection against cold or rain (pls. 3; 4, lower
The calzones or trousers are tight-fitting in
the legs but cut full at the waist with a baggy
seat. There are no buttons on the fly; instead
of a fastening, the two ample sides of the fly
are lapped over each other, and a sash, about
6 inches in width, is wrapped about the waist
to hold the trousers. The lower part of the
trouser leg has a piece of cloth tape attached
which is used to tie the bottom of the calzones
tightly around the ankle. The shirt, or more
properly, blouse, likewise has no buttons. It
usually has no tails, or very abbreviated ones,
and is usually worn outside the calzones. It is
open part way down the front and has a roll
collar, but neither opening nor collar ordinarily
is fastened. Buttons are never used, except in
attempts to copy city garments, but strings may
be provided. Such fitting as is attempted is
badly done. A coat of manta may also be worn
on special occasions; it differs from the blouse
primarily in being open down the front and in
being of heavier material. It may also be
stitched in bright-colored thread.
Both shirt and coat may be modified by at-
tempt to copy urban models and sometimes are
purchased ready-made.
Sandals or guaraches have a heavy pointed
double thick leather sole and leather heel. Part
of the top is of leather pieces nailed to the sole,
but the major portion is made of woven leather
strips passing through slits in the upper sole


and the nailed portions of the uppers. The toe
is open. As the manufacture of guaraches is
practiced by only a few Cheran residents, most
of them recent arrivals, no detailed description
of techniques is given.
An inseparable part of the costume is the!
straw hat. From infancy, every male is equip-
ped with a hat, which he always wears out-
doors, no matter how inconvenient the circum-
stances. Awkward jobs, such as carrying
heavy timbers, are infinitely delayed because
every time a man's hat falls off, the entire
operation stops until the hat is replaced. More-
over, the first way in which a man makes an
extra "luxury" expenditure in clothing is to buy
a more expensive hat. The hat is frequently
embellished by a bright-colored string about the
front of the crown and, passing through two
holes at each side, then going around the back
of the head. Flowers also are often worn on
the hat. Hat manufacture is described under
From the above-described working costume,
many departures occur. Without achieving
catrin styles, a gay and well-dressed man may
wear a brilliant rayon blouse or shirt of blue,
red, or yellow, and bright-yellow high shoes
(the latter without socks). A brilliant rayon
kerchief may be added, as well as a colorful
serape or poncho, although in Cherin the latter
is usually dull in color. In such a town as
Capacuaro, however, Sunday or fiesta dress
might consist of calzones of manta supported
by a brilliant red sash, a vivid blue rayon shirt,
bright green rayon kerchief, yellow shoes, a
striking orange or strong pink poncho folded
over one shoulder, and a large whitened straw
hat with a big spray of pink gladiolus or a clus-
ter of geraniums. Worn with an air, the en-
semble is impressive.
In Cheran a good many men have shirts
bought in market or in Uruapan; a'necktie; a
pair or two of cotton trousers, perhaps made
by a tailor in Uruapan; a woolen sack coat; and
a felt hat. Such a costume normally would be
worn on Sunday or on trips by bus to Uruapan
or some other town. Very rare, though, are
individuals with a complete wool suit. Sweat-
ers are fairly common for lounging about home
or on the streets.
The dress of male children is similar to that

of adults as soon as they have learned to walk
and have established habits of toilet control.
However, it is said that small boys formerly
wore only a shirt; calzones for the young be-
came common with the advent of the highway.
Young boys, including even infants in arms,
have hats, but until the age of 10 or 12 these
are cheap woven straw hats costing 15 to 25
centavos rather than the more expensive sewn
braid hats worn by men. The acquisition of
an adult hat and a poncho is the principal
recognition of adulthood.
Today both men and boys wear the hairi
short, cut either at home or by a barber. Only
one boy in Cheran was observed with long hair;
his mother was not a native. Still remem-
bered, however, is the belief that to use scissors
or a knife to cut hair will retard small children
in learning to speak. Consequently, long hair
was formerly common among small children.
Although no memory persists in Cheran of long
hair worn by men, in other villages it is
asserted long hair was worn until a generation
ago. Elderly Capacuaro informants insisted
they had seen long hair worn by 'men in San
Lorenzo, while an old man in Chilchota, now
a Mestizo town, claimed his grandfather wore
long hair as did many others of similar age.
Women's dress.-Probably the majority of
women in Cherin wear cotton print dresses for
everyday wear. However, only a few wear
the styles found among Mestizo women, that is,
a fairly short one-piece, rather simply cut dress
of garish cotton print cloth which might be
duplicated among cheap cotton house dresses in
the United States. Much more common is a
garment of archaic cut and usually with small-
er, less colorful figures in the material. This
garment is usually longer and has a definite

skirt, pleated at the waistband, and a blouse,
although usually the two are combined into a
single garment. Flounces or ruffles are not
infrequent on the skirt and the back of the
waist. This garment, in some of its forms, is
not essentially different from that worn by
Mixe women, as well as women of other Indian
groups, and probably dates back to at least the
seventeenth century.
Virtually every woman in town also has a
traditional Tarascan dress. This is usually
worn for any formal occasion, even though only


FIGURE 8.-Women's dress. See text for description.
The petticoat is made more visible than usual in
order to indicate the embroidered edging. The
apron commonly reaches the bottom of the skirt.
The rebozo would normally be on the head or about
the shoulders, but is shown on the arm to permit
a view of details of the blouse, hairdress, etc.

for visiting or receiving guests, while a great
many conservative women wear it constantly.
In the latter case, if they can afford it, women
have two costumes, an old one for everyday,
a newer one for special occasions.
The complete Tarascan woman's dress con-
sists of petticoat, skirt, blouse, apron, rebozo or
shawl, and a number of woven belts (fig. 8).
The greatest variation is in the blouse. This
may be of cheap manta or even discarded flour
sacking, in which case it merely has an opening
for the head, short sleeves, 4 to 6 inches in
length, and is unsewn down the sides. The
open-sided blouse is often.worn by nursing
mothers, even though the materials are of bet-
ter quality. No matter how cheap the mater-
ials, however, some design in cross-stitching is
usually found about the neck opening.
Finer blouses may be of good cotton, rayon,
!or even silk, although cotton is the most com-
mon. The short sleeves may have a drawstring
at the end to tie them closely about the arm.
This gives a puffed sleeve appearance, although
there is no fitting. More commonly, except in
garments made for tourists, the lower end of the
sleeve is finished with a crocheted band about
1 inch wide in a contrasting color. Often the
lower seam of the sleeve is not carried to the
body of the garment. The side seam of the
latter is also often incomplete for about 2 inches
below the sleeve. The opening left compensates
to some extent for the lack of fitting. The
neck opening is bound either by solid cross-
stitching or a crocheted band similar to that
on the sleeve. An extensive cross-stitched
design usually gives the effect of a yoke, al-
though front and back of the blouse are a single
piece. The neck opening is tied together with
two pieces of cord, a piece sewn to each side.
Garments for sale may have a drawstring about
the neck opening, which then is not extended
down the front of the garment.
Cherin women's blouses are usually plainer
than those worn in other villages. The decora-
tion is usually a dull yellowish brown and is
applied with restraint. No study of the de-
signs was attempted, as it is hoped a general
study of the Tarascan textile and garment
industry will be made.
The petticoat is of white cotton cloth or
manta. It reaches from the waist nearly to the


ground, and the lower edge is decorated with a
band nearly 2 inches wide of cross-stitched de-
signs in blue, strong pink, or red. These
designs are made in Nahuatzen on long strips
of manta and are purchased and sewn on the
lower edge of the petticoat. The garment it-
self is tubular with a circumference of at least
6 yards. The top edge is folded back a foot or
more, giving a double thickness of cloth about
the waist. It is worn flat across the front and
then skillfully gathered in knife pleats across
the back, forming almost a ridge of material
across the back. The pleats are not sewn but
are laid in place each time the petticoat is
donned. The top of the petticoat comes at
least 6 inches above the waist. A woven belt
of wool, usually in brilliant colors, about 2
inches wide and 2 or more yards long, is then
placed very tightly about the waist to support
the petticoat. Only training from childhood
makes it possible to endure the tightness of the
belt constantly.
If Tarascan dress is worn constantly, women
frequently wear the petticoat without the skirt
and apron while working. This is true even
when running errands on the street. Any for-
mal occasion, however, is thought to require
the outer skirt and apron.
The outer skirt is of very dark-blue or black
wool cloth, either of commercial origin, or hand-
loomed materials from Paracho or Nahuatzen.
Two widths of the latter are required. The skirt
is tubular also, and the circumference should
equal or exceed that of the petticoat, the limit
being the purse of the family and the fortitude
of the woman. Skirts over 30 yards in cir-
cumference are known; a 15-yard circumfer-
ence is probably about the minimum for a really
stylish garment. The top is folded in, and the
surplus material is gathered, as in the petticoat,
in knife pleats across the back. The top of the
skirt is well above the waist and is held in
place by several narrow woven belts of bright
colors and designs. Despite their elaborate
designs, these belts are wrapped one on top of
the other. Although one would suffice, ideally
one belt is superimposed on another until they
reach a thickness of as much as 2 inches (pls. 1,
upper and lower right; 2, upper right and left).
The pleats of the skirt must be prepared
more carefully than those of the petticoat.

When the skirt is washed, two women fold in
the pleats while the material is still damp. It
is then laid flat to dry or clamped between two
or three pairs of sticks which project beyond
the sides of the skirt and are tied together.
The same device is often used when the skirt
is not being worn.
When both skirt and petticoat are worn, a
ridge of cloth extends across the middle of the
back large enough for a small child to sit on,
held by his mother's shawl. The thickness of
cloth is also folded under when a woman sits
on the ground, creating a seat quite as high as
the low stools or chairs used by men. When
walking, the skirt barely clears the ground and
only glimpses may be caught of the colored band
of the petticoat. In rainy weather or on muddy
roads the skirt becomes wet and muddy. In the
Lake Pdtzcuaro region, not only is the skirt
worn a little shorter, but it is often hitched up
nearly to the knees by using one of the many
belts to loop up part of the cloth at the back
into a bustle-shaped bundle. In the same area,
skirts are often of red plaid materials and the
upper part is made of lighter materials, making
the thickness of the folds at the waist much less.
The rebozo, or shawl, is an inseparable part
of the costume. The everyday rebozo, and the
only one owned by poor women, is a hand-loomed
cotton fabric from Parachoor Nahuatzen. The
color is dark blue with fine light-blue or white
longitudinal stripes. The color is from indigo
dye. A tasseled fringe some 4 inches in length
finishes the ends.
For special occasions, women who can afford
them wear a much finer gray or blue cotton
rebozo from Tangancicuaro. Such rebozos may
cost from 10 to 60 pesos or more, and the finer
specimens can be drawn through a finger ring.
An elaborate netted fringe 8 or 10 inches long
is waxed to make it stiff. Some fine rebozos
have a thin stripe, but the main effect is of a
pepper-and-salt mixture.
The rebozo is sometimes worn over the head
as a protection against rain, sunshine, or cold,
or to hide the face partly if the wearer is
embarrassed. At such times a fold may be
drawn across the lower part of the face and
caught in the teeth. Much of the time, how-
ever, the rebozo is worn as a shawl. Children
or small objects are slung on the back in a fold


of the rebozo (pl. 2, upper right and left). The
bare arms are also usually covered by the
rebozo. The ends may be used to lift hot ob-
jects or as a handkerchief. The rebozo is worn
with cotton dresses as well as with the tradi-
tional costume.
Women usually go barefooted on all occasions.
Today some wear shoes, but no woman was
even seen to wear guaraches. Occasionally
women may wear a man's straw hat over the
rebozo when traveling in hot sun. Usually,
though, a leafly branch is plucked and held to
shade the head.
Women dress one another's hair. The hair
is carefully combed and brushed, frequently
with brushes from urban sources or with
brushes of raiz de pa]a. Oil or lemon juice is
often rubbed on the hair to impart a sheen and
preserve the hairdress for 2 or 3 days. The
hair is parted in the middle and then carefully
braided in two braids. Young women and
some older women braid in pieces of bright-
colored yarn or narrow ribbons. Small girls
usually have yarn or ribbon only in one braid.
Very old women sometimes do not comb the
hair, letting it hang in a tangled mass, possibly
because they have no relatives or friends to do
this. A band or cord may, in this case, be tied
around the head to keep the hair out of the face.
In Mestizoized Chilchota, women still do not
comb their own hair but do it for each other.12
Girls frequently are put in the traditional
costume before they can walk. Usually a
portion of a worn-out skirt or serape is bound
on the infant with a belt. When the child can
walk, a miniature blouse and petticoat are pro-
vided, and usually a portion of a skirt, even
though ragged. Thus, even from infancy, the
girl is tightly bound about the waist and at an
older age is able to stand the tight belt neces-
sary to support the heavy petticoat and skirt
(pl. 2, lower right and left).
Both women and girls wear necklaces of
tubular red glass beads called corales (corals).
Three or four to several dozen strings are worn.
The strings go only part way around the neck,
being attached to two ribbons which are tied
behind the neck. Earrings are also worn.
2 In Sopoco in La Cafiada, women dress each other's hair after
the weekly bath. The hair is "fixed" with lemon juice and the
juice of an unidentified herb.

Miscellaneous cheap products of the markets
may be worn, but the proper type every woman
desires is a large hollow crescentic ornament
with wires from each end passing through the
perforation in the ear. These are of gold or
silver, gold being preferred. A gold pair costs
about $35.00.
Carpentry, including house building, is the
only wood manufacturing process in Cherin
except that of a single man who turns out
chocolate beaters and that of a family who
make broom handles. Aside from house build-
ing, carpenters mainly make doors for houses
and kitchens, gates in fences, and trap doors.
While several carpenters can do other kinds of
woodwork, they rarely make furniture, as
Cherin carpenters do not feel they can com-
pete with those of nearby Paracho.
The differences in the economic well-being of
towns situated only a few miles apart are
sharply underscored by this situation. Paracho
is a "poor" village with inadequate lands. A
considerable percentage of the population gain
their livelihood as hired laborers, traders, car-
penters, and weavers. Furniture makers in
Paracho receive ordinarily 50 centavos for a
chair, which takes perhaps a day to make.
Carpenters from Cheran, most of whom are
also landowners, feel this is a quite inadequate
return. Data from Cheran indicate carpenters
receive $1.50 or more a day for their labor.
It may be that the traditional specialization of
labor may have some influence upon the Cherin
carpenter's unwillingness to make furniture,
but differences in economic standards un-
doubtedly play a part.
Carpenters have a shop in their yard, usually
consisting of a shed with one or two sides
closed. Under this is a work bench of heavy
planks. The tools are a saw, mallet, chisels,
adz, hammer, and plane. Usually the metal
parts only are purchased, and handles and plane
boxes are made by the carpenter.
As the majority of Cherin houses are of
wood, another important activity of carpenters
is house building. Only the simplest house
construction would be undertaken without the
aid of a carpenter, and even the roofing of a
stone or adobe structure likewise calls for a



FIGURE 9.-Lathe driven by a bow. A candlestick, about 12 inches long, is in process of manufacture. The two
bottom views show the position of the cutting tool.

carpenter. Inasmuch as a detailed description
of houses, house use, and house furnishings has
already been published, no discussion is in-
cluded here (Beals, Carrasco, and McCorkle,
As mentioned previously, one man in Cherdn
manufactures chocolate beaters of simple type.
They are made of madroiio wood and are turned '
on a crude lathe (fig. 9). Power is provided
by a bow with the string wrapped about the
shaft of the lathe. The left hand is used to
work the bow. The lathe rests on the ground,
and both the bare feet and the right hand are
used to manipulate the tools. The tools and
technique are characteristic of Paracho, where
a wide variety of turned wood products is made,
including bowls, vases, candlesticks, chocolate
beaters, salt and pepper shakers, and chessmen.
Broom handles are made by one family, as\
already mentioned. Pine logs are split into
long staves, which are whittled into a roughly
round shape with a knife. The entire product

is sold in Pdtzcuaro, where there is a broom
Wax bleaching and candlemaking.-Beeswax
is often bleached by exposure to the sun.
Melted wax is poured into bowls so that it
forms a thin shell over the inside. These shells
are removed and exposed to the sun for several
days until the wax becomes white. Although
the wax loses weight by this process, it sells for
no more than unbleached wax. The extra
effort thus apparently results in an economic
loss, making the motivations for the work some-
what obscure. Although men do all other work
connected with beekeeping, women often bleach
the wax.
Candles are made by men. Two candle-
makers are reputed to live in Cherin. The
only one who could be located was always so
drunk at the time of interviewing that little
reliability can be attached to the data secured


from him. Wicks are attached to nails in a
wheellike frame and are then dipped repeatedly
in liquid wax until the candles reach the desired
thickness. The frame is suspended from the
ceiling by a rope.
Paper flowers.-The women of one rather
large household make paper flowers for funer-
als and paper ornaments for weddings. It was
impossible to establish satisfactory contacts to
learn details.
Blacksmithing.-Cherin has one reputed
blacksmith. The individual concerned was
never found at home, nor could any details
concerning his techniques be learned.
Baking.-A baker of sweetened breads (pan
dulces) established himself in Cheran in 1943.
He baked daily in a regular local oven belong-
ing to one of the wealthier storekeepers. The
bread was sold with the aid of a boy, who car-
ried it about town in a big basket hat such as
is used in Mestizo towns in the neighborhood.
Information on sales was refused, but probably
they were between $10 and $12 a day at three
breads for 5 centavos. Expenses each day
were 1 arroba (25 pounds) of flour, $3.62; 1
kilo (2.2 pounds) of lard, $1.50; 3 kilos of
sugar, $1.08; or a cash outlay of $6.20, plus the
labor of baker and vendor. This does not take
into account the firewood for heating the oven.
Profits evidently at best hardly justify the
secrecy shown.
Fireworks.-At least one man in Cheran
makes fireworks, both cohetes (explosive
rockets) and castillos (set pieces built about a
tall pole). The one man interviewed was born
in Pichataro (which suggests he may be
Mestizo in origin, although he apparently re-
gards himself as a Tarascan) and learned the
trade from his father.
Materials used in the manufacture of cohetes
are niter, chlorate, sulfur, paper, agave fiber
cord, and shakes. The worker interviewed
makes cohetes only on.order. He by no means
supplies all the Cheran market.
Castillos likewise are made only on order.
It is a general rule that castillos be bought out-
side the town, so the Cheran cohetero has never
made a castillo for a Cheran fiesta. In 1940
he made castillos for San Felipe, Cherandstico,
Ahuiran, and Pichataro.
Materials for castillos are necessarily quite

elaborate, as they require fuses of various
speeds, different colors of fire, and slow-burning
types of powder. As handbooks exist for this
type of manufacture and supply houses also
furnish information to their patrons, it was
felt that detailed inquiry into techniques was
not worth while. The cohetero usually receives
a small advance payment-5 to 15 pesos-when
he accepts an order. He receives no further
payment until the castillo is burned. Should
there be a failure, not only may the cohetero
fail to receive his pay, but he may be jailed and
Stonecutting.-Several men do stonecutting
on a part-time basis. Doorsills and bases for
door posts and pillars are the major products,
although some men also make grinding stones
for nixtamal mills. A fine-grained gray lava
from the barranca north of town is the most-
used material. Tools include an iron-headed
hammer, weighing about 2 pounds, steel chisels,
and a pair of calipers. Stones for the nixtamal
mills are made in pairs and are about a foot in
diameter and 6 to 8 inches thick. About 3 days
are required to make a pair.
Tanning.-The only full-time tanner of hides
in Cherin is a native of Aranza, who moved to
Cher6n because of the better water supply.
He has a house and lot on the east side of town
beside the aqueduct. Most of his work is done
on hides brought him by shoemakers and
guarache makers. Such work is charged for
on a fee basis.
A man and his uncle also tan hides on a part-
time basis. They are primarily farmers and
do relatively little of the tanning in Cheran.
Cowhides are tanned with oak bark. The
process takes 20 to 30 days, mostly occupied
with soaking the hides in the tanning mixture.
Sheepskins, used for inner soles of shoes, must
be put through a lye bath, scraped, and then
soaked with oak bark. A batch of five or six
sheepskins requires 2 days' labor and about 8
days' soaking.
The principal equipment consists of a num-
ber of large hollow logs for soaking the hides.
Lacquer.-One woman learned lacquer mak-
ing in Uruapan. She works fairly steadily,
producing a typical Uruapan black-background
lacquer with floral designs in four or five colors.
She sells all her product in Cherin.


FIGURE 10.-Four-ply rope-twisting de-
vice used in making horsehair lead
ropes. Three men are needed to
operate the device. Four groups of
horsehair threads (spun on a simple
spinning device, not illustrated) are
fastened at h and at f, passing
through the holes in the piece of
wood e. c is a second perforated
piece of wood fastened to a Y-shaped
stump. Crank f is first blocked so
it will not revolve. The first opera-
tor rotates the piece of wood at a,
causing cranks b to revolve and twist
the four hanks of thread (d), into
cords. Crank f is now released.
The first operator holds the board
(a) stationary, a second operator
rotates the crank (f), and a third
operator moves the board (e) toward
c as the rope is formed by twisting
the four cords (d) together. g is a
heavy billet of wood, about 5 by 1
by 1 foot. As the cords and rope
are twisted, the increasing tension
drags g forward about 6 or 8 feet.
h are short maguey fiber strings
attaching the cords (d) to the
cranks (b). These strings are not
part of the finished rope.


Shoemaking.-One master shoemaker with
two apprentices makes shoes of locally pro-
duced leather. The apprentices get no pay,
working from 6 months to a year in order to
learn the trade. The master shoemaker
learned in the same way. The techniques pre-
sent no unusual points of interest.
Equipment includes a sewing machine, lasts,
knives, and awls. The master shoemaker not
only must know his trade, but also he must be
able to judge hides and tanning and be a good
buyer. Only a portion of the Cher6n demand
is supplied locally, and many consider the local
shoes inferior to those from outside.
At least three men make guaraches to order
on a part-time basis. Guarache making does
not require a sewing machine, and the capital
required is small. Most guaraches are im-
ported. The type is described in connection
with clothing.
( Rope and twine.-One man makes kite strings
during the kite season in March. No interview
could be secured with this man. Another man
specializes in horsehair lead ropes and maguey
fiber riatas. A fairly complex twisting device
is used (fig. 10).
, Hair brushes.-One family of four makes its
entire living by manufacturing brushes of raiz
de paja. The family collects its own raw ma-
terials and dries the roots. Brushes are made
by fastening bunches of root in metal rings of
about 1-inch diameter, then trimming the ends
off square.
Masks.-One family makes wooden masks to
order, charging about 2 pesos a piece. The
workmanship is very poor and most masks are
bought in other towns, especially Sevina and
Cherandstico. The local masks are cheaper
and much easier to buy, but most people would
go to considerable trouble to get the out-of-
town product.
A number of occupations are. characterized
by the selling of services requiring specialized
knowledge rather than the sale of goods trans-
formed from raw material. Certain types of
trading occupations, such as storekeeping,
could logically be included here, but their con-
sideration is deferred to the section on econom-
ics. Other skilled specialists dealing in purely

non-material things, such as "prayers" or
rezadores, midwives, curers, and witches, are
also left for consideration in other sections of
this paper.
Butchers.-Except for mayordomias and large
weddings, butchering of cattle and pigs is car-
ried on by a group of specialists. Usually two
butchers share a beef so the stock can be moved
more rapidly. If the meat does not sell rapidly
enough, part of it may be dried.
All cattle are butchered at a "slaughter
house," a stone-paved area with a ramada. The
property is privately owned by Seferino Fabian,
mayor of the town in 1940, but he made no
charge for its use. A tax is charged of 5 pesos
or more, depending on the size of the animal.
Part of the tax goes into the municipal treasury
and the balance is forwarded to the State
treasury. Usually from four to nine animals
a week are slaughtered.
When cheese is scarce in the market, the
number of animals slaughtered is higher than
at other times.
Pigs are slaughtered at the home of the
The principal skills involved are removing
the hide in good condition (a considerable part
of the profit is from the sale of the hide) and
in selling the right proportions of the animal.
Individual sales are usually small, and the
portions are not weighed. The customer indi-
cates the amount of money she has and presents
a bowl. The butcher cuts off proper propor-
tions of meat, bone, a bit of the lungs, and a bit
of liver. There is rarely haggling over the
amount; if the customer complains, the butcher
may add a bit more. Or, if the customer is
dissatisfied, she may go to another butcher.
Shops are not open continuously. When a
butcher's supply is exhausted, it may be several
weeks before he butchers again. A red flag is
hung in the street to advertise that meat is
for sale.
Nixtamal mills.-Some seven or eight nix-
tamal mills in Cheran more than supply the
demand. To prevent ruinous competition, the
municipio has limited the number operating
on any one day to half the number. As costs
of operating the mill for a day are about the
same regardless of the number of patrons, this


arrangement guarantees an adequate number
of customers each day a mill is operating.
The miller must have some mechanical knowl-
edge as well as capital and business ability.
Most of the mills are driven by an old automo-
bile engine converted to operate on gas pro-
duced by a charcoal burner, usually made from
an old oil drum. A belt drive transmits power
and reduces the speed. Usually the owner (or
manager in some cases) supervises the motor
and the gas burner and an employee or member
of the family feeds the maize into the mill and
collects the charge, 1 centavo a kilo. In one
case a woman occupied this post, but most of
the mill operators are men.
Except for a few very poor families, every-
one in Cheran now patronizes the mills. Each
mill serves from about 330 to 360 customers
a day.
Wheat threshing.-One wood-burning steam-
driven threshing machine has operated in
Cheran for several years. The machine is
stationary (although it could be moved, it is
too cumbersome to do so), and the customers
bring their wheat to the machine. Two tenders,
who feed the wheat into the machine, and a
water carrier are required besides the operator.
Firewood is purchased. Exclusive of interest
on the investment and repairs, the operator
nets about 25 pesos a day above operating
In 1940 a smaller gasoline-driven thresher,
which could be moved from house to house, was
said to have made considerable inroads on the
trade. However, as the bulk of the Cheran
wheat is still threshed by hand, there seemed
to be ample business for both threshing
Painters and plasterers.-This is a rare occu-
pation followed by two or three men on a part-
time basis. Only a minority of the houses of
adobe or stone are plastered, and few of them
are painted. The pay is fairly good, but the
best worker probably does not put in more than
90 days' work a year. Brushes and stencils
are used in painting.
Masons.-As the house owner normally pro-
vides all materials, the mason sells only his
services. His equipment is a trowel, hammer,
a board frame for holding mud mortar, a shovel
for mixing mortar, an ax to cut poles for

scaffolding, and string to line up the walls.
Perhaps a dozen men do masonry, mostly as a
secondary occupation. Work is usually charged
for on the basis of square meters of wall.
Barbers.-Most men in Cheran now have
their hair cut by a barber. There are two
barbers in town regularly, and more come to
town during fiestas. The Cheran barbers also
visit nearby towns during fiestas. During the
middle of the week they have little trade.
Formerly men cut each other's hair for noth-
ing in the bull ring on Sundays, using only
scissors. The barbers have clippers as well
and also razors for shaving, although there is
not much demand for the latter. One barber
is not a native; the other learned the trade in
the United States.
Water carriers.-In most households the
women bring the water from the fountain or
aqueduct in ollas carried on their shoulders.
However, for any commercial use (nixtamal
mill, masonry, the threshing machine) water is
carried by men. In addition, there is one man
who makes his living carrying water for store-
keepers, whose wives may be too busy helping
in the store, and for a few families who are
somewhat Mestizoized and the husband has
decided the work is too hard for the women.
Interestingly enough, the men's method of
water carrying is entirely different from that
of the women. Men carry water in two 5-gal-
lon cans suspended from the two ends of a pole
which is supported on the shoulder. This rigid
dichotomy is observed even in families where
one of the men or boys brings the bulk of the
water. If the women need to bring additional
water, they always use ollas and make several
Consideration of food processing in this
section is confined primarily to household activi-
ties. Commercial processing of food for sale,
such as baking, butchering, and ice cream
making, will be considered later.
The storage of food is confined primarily to
maize, wheat, beans, and broadbeans (habas).
Except for small supplies for immediate use,
stores are kept in the house, usually in the loft.
Maize is stored on the cob. Wheat, beans, and
similar seeds are stored in gunny sacks or in


baskets. Such foods as sugar, coffee, salt, lard,
fruits, vegetables, herbs, meat, fish, and manu-
factured foods such as bread are purchased in
small quantities and are kept in various covered
pottery or basket containers in the kitchen.
Eating habits show considerable variability
as between families. They also change with
the season and the prevailing occupations.
Ordinarily three meals a day are eaten, at about
10 a. m., 2 p. m., and 7 p. m. or an hour later.
Very poor people may eat only twice. The major
foods are tortillas and other maize dishes, meat
(or fish or cheese as substitutes), and green
plants. In addition to these common foods,
which may be prepared in various ways, there
are various occasional or seasonal foods eaten
as part of the regular diet, as well as foods
eaten only or primarily on the occasion of a
Two types of morning meal exist. The most
common is a meal of tortillas and either meat
or greens. This is varied every 4 to 8 days
with some kind of atole. Some persons have
taken over the local Michoacan habit of a boiled
sweetpotato or a piece of bread and a glass of
milk eaten early in the morning, at 7 or 8
o'clock. Such people usually eat the midday
meal a little earlier in the day, between 12 and
1 o'clock. The midday meal is almost always
a beef stew with cabbage (Euripo) eaten with
tortillas. Those who cannot afford meat, eat
some vegetable instead, often prepared with
milk and sometimes with cheese also. The
evening meal is usually the same as the mid-
day meal. Prepared food may be kept over
from one day to another.
Some people may eat only two meals, at about
10 a. m. and 7 p. m. The morning meal may
consist of tortillas and beans or tortillas and
chile sauce, varied frequently with atole, al-
though no one would have atole daily. At
night beans may be eaten if available; if not,
boiled cabbage or Euripo is eaten, depending
upon economic circumstances. Meat, eggs, fish,
and game are rarely eaten by really poor people.
Poor people often eat atapikua (squash blos-
soms and immature squash) with tortillas and
ground dried fish or cheese if they have a mid-
day meal. Between meals children or adults,
if they feel hungry and the-foods are available,

eat cooked chayotes, chilacayotes, or boiled
squash (sometimes with brown sugar).
The following are the foods most commonly
eaten in Cheran:
All seasons: Tortillas, curipo, tamales (kurindas
type), beans, beef or pork in brown mole, fish, cabbage,
chiles, onions, coffee, chocolate, lemons, bananas,
January: Cherimoyas, zapote negro, oranges.
February: Oranges.
March: Chilacayote (a squash stored since October).
April: Cherries, avocados, oranges.
May: Mushrooms, nopales (young leaves of the
prickly pear), wheat breads, wheat, tortillas, avocados,
June: Mushrooms, pears, peaches, avocados, cheese,
July: Cheese, immature squash, squash blossoms,
pears, peaches, sugarcane.
August: Pears, peaches, green corn, sweet tamales
(odepos), apples, cheese, sweetpotatoes, sugarcane,
broadbeans (habas.)
September: Pears, apples, crab apples (tejocote),
cheese, sweetpotatoes, sugarcane, broadbeans, honey.
October: Chayotes, chilacayotes, crab apples, honey,
sugarcane, guavas, oranges, papayas, broadbeans,
November: Chayotes, chilacayotes, broadbeans,
guavas, oranges, pumpkins, cheese.
December: Cherimoyas, chayotes, some chilacayotes,
guavas, oranges.
Some of these foods may be available in other
months, but the periods in the list represent the
times of greatest use. The list does not contain
a number of little-used foods. Except for a
few herbs, the maguey, and wild crab apple,
no wild vegetable foods dre eaten in Cher6n.13

Curipo is a stewed meat, almost always of
beef, usually containing cabbage, a few gara-
banzos (chickpeas), and often a bit of carrot.
Salt and a considerable quantity of ground
dried chile are employed as seasoning. The
thin broth is served in the same dish. One or
two pieces of meat weighing about 2 ounces,
a little of the vegetables, and about a cup of
broth comprise the usual serving. Second
servings are not usually eaten either by guests
or in the privacy of the home. This food is
eaten on all fiesta occasions throughout the year
13 Some wild foods are reported by Sra. Rend6n for La Cafiada.
Bitter prickly pear, tuna agria (joconocostle), is used as greens
in duripo and in making chile sauce (sindurakua). La Cafiada
Taraseans say mulberry leaves ( ), hojas de mora, are eaten by
the Sierra Tarascans "because of their poverty."


and as a daily food by all who can afford it,
which in Cherin would probably constitute a
considerable majority of the population. It is
often eaten with tamales of the type known as
kurindas, or with boiled chayote. Meat, if not
made into curipo, usually is boiled.14
Mole is a less common meat dish, probably!
derived from the Mestizos. It consists of a
stew, preferably of turkey, but. if this is not
obtainable, of chicken, pork, or beef in descend-
ing order of frequency as well as preference.
Pieces of the boiled meat are served in a sauce
made in various ways, according to the avail-
ability of the ingredients and the knowledge
of the cook. The sauce may include the follow-
ing ingredients: Cloves, ginger, chocolate, cin-
namon, ground toasted bread or tortillas, pump-
kin seeds, garlic, onion, and chile of the type
known as pasiya or "chileancho." The chiles
are either fried in lard or dipped in hot water,
ground with the other ingredients, and cooked
in the meat broth. A thick, rich, and usually
rather greasy sauce or gravy is the result.
Mole is usually eaten on special occasions.
Fish are brought to Cherdn either fresh,!
broiled, or dried. Fresh fish come from Eron-
garicuaro on Lake Pdtzcuaro only a limited
part of the year, usually just after the rainy
season in the fall. It is expensive compared
with meat, but is much liked. During the
rainy season, broiled fish are brought from
Lake Chapala; in the dry season, from Eron-
The fish are washed carefully in hot water
before cooking. Fish is boiled in water with
onion and silantro (a pungent herb). Some
people eat the intestines, removing only the bile.
Seasoning with chile and tomato, ground to-
gether, is common; sometimes the broth is
thickened with maize dough and sometimes
onion is added. Fish may also be fried with
eggs in lard, making a sort of fish hash.
Small dry fish (Ear6les), resembling small
dried minnows, are on sale on market day
throughout the year and also at many of the
stores. They are toasted on the comal and
eaten with chile and tortillas, especially for
breakfast. They are also made into a broth
with chile sauce.
"4 The majority of the recipes were collected by Silvia Rend6n.

It is believed to be injurious to eat any kind
of fish when ill of the "bilis."
Game is eaten to some extent when available.
Deer meat is sold in pieces or in retail quanti-
ties by the hunters in much the same fashion
as beef. Squirrels, doves, and ducks are all
liked. Squirrels are sold at 10 centavos, doves
at 5 centavos, and ducks at 50 centavos to 1
peso. Ducks come from Zacapu. A few people
eat pigeons. Only adult pigeons are eaten.15
Eggs are eaten to a considerable extent,
fried, mixed with fish, or scrambled with cheese.
But poor families, even if they have chickens,
prefer to sell the eggs and buy beans.

Maize is made into tortillas, gordos, posole,\
or tamales, and is also used to thicken some
types of broths and sauces. It is also eaten
green, and certain foods are made from green
corn. No maize foods are salted. Maize types
include white, yellow, red, and black, the latter
two types not being common. White maize is
sold chiefly outside the village.
Methods of initial preparation vary. For
tortillas and gordos the maize is boiled with
lime. This softens and to some extent dis-
solves the outer shell of the grain. After thor-
ough washing in a special basket, it is ground
into nixtamal or dough. If economically possi-
ble, grinding is done at the power mills' in the
town, followed by further grinding at home.
Some people are too poor to pay for the mill,
and the women do all the grinding on the
Tortillas are made of the nixtamal or maize I
dough. A quantity is scooped off the metate
and shaped into a flat disk in the hands. This
is then skillfully slapped between the palms until
it becomes a thin sheet about one-eighth inch in
thickness and 6 or 7 inches in diameter. This
sheet is baked on a dry flat clay dish, the comal,
with moderate heat. Usually the tortilla is
turned two or three times in the process. Tor-
tillas are served at virtually every meal, re-
gardless of the rest of the menu, and are the
main article of diet.
Gordos are smaller and thicker cakes fried!
The people of IchAn in La Cafiada are well known for their
fondness for small wild birds such as kongotos, doves (huilotas).
wild pigeons, torcazes, and jarrines.


in deep pork fat. Wheat is used for gordos
more often than is maize.
Nixtamal prepared for tortillas or gordos is
the kind used to thicken sauces or soups.
For posole the maize is cooked with oak wood
ashes instead of with lime. When cooked, it is
white instead of yellow, as it is when lime is
used. The shell is completely removed in this
process. The grain is then washed thoroughly
and boiled with pork, chile, and chopped onion.
Posole is essentially a fiesta dish, served espe-
cially with certain birthday celebrations.
Tamales are made from maize prepared as
for posole but ground either at the power mill
or on the metate. There are several kinds of
Kurdnda is the most frequently made type of
tamale. The maize is prepared apart from
that intended for tortillas. The dough is mixed
with bicarbonate of soda, which is said to pre-
vent the tamale from constipating the eater.
The nixtamal is then spread on the metate
with the aid of the mano or grinding stone and
the cook takes a quantity in the palm of the
hand, molding it into a flattened ball. It is
then tightly wound with several thicknesses of
maize leaves (not husks) in such a fashion that
the finished kurdnda is triangular in shape.
The tamale is then boiled for some time in a
covered vessel. The dough is thick, compact,
and heavy, retaining something of the taste of
the bicarbonate of soda. Usually kurfindas
are the size of the palm of the hand, but for a
person who is "very refined" (muy fino), they
may be made smaller, a delicate way of paying
a compliment.
The kurfnda is an essential part of a great
many special meals, such as those served at
weddings, for entertainment of guests, and at
fiestas. It is usually eaten with Euripo but may
sometimes be eaten with atole. On such occa-
sions, when kurindas are served to men the
wrappings are always removed but to women
they are always served with the wrappings,
possibly because the women frequently take
them home. Kurdndas may also be eaten cold
the next day, but usually they are heated on the
comal. They are sometimes sold on the streets
at 4 to 5 centavos and are always available on
market days. The vendors are always women.

With 6uripo, the kurfnda is,one of the most
typical of Tarascan dishes.16
There are various forms of the kurfnda,
which are eaten on special occasions. The
details follow.
Atdpakwa kurinda.-Atdpakwa is a sauce
made of any kind of chile, cooked, toasted, or
raw. This is ground with green tomatoes,
garlic, and onion, and seasoned with salt.
Fresh or dried cheese, finely broken up, may
be added. The regular kurdnda is simply
dipped in the sauce as it is eaten. This dish
may be served at any time, but it is most fre-
quently used when men come home to lunch
from the fields or on other occasions in the
middle of the day when the family do not
ordinarily have a midday meal.
Agwdkata kurunda.-Beans of any sort are
cooked and ground. They are placed in layers
alternating with layers of nixtamal until a thick
cake is formed. This is wrapped in maize
leaves and steamed. AgwAkata kurdndas are
made primarily at the time of the bean harvest
(Cherin grows few beans) and are eaten at
any of the main meals. They may also be
given to children between meals.
Ndkatamal.-This is a tamale made with
maize dough filled with meat and chile sauce.
Beef is commonly used, although pork may also
be employed. The meat is boiled in water and
cut in small pieces without bones. It is then
mixed with a chile sauce made of the dry chile
known as pasiya, which is cooked in water and
Ground with tomatoes, garlic, and onions.
These tamales are not wrapped in maize leaves
but in dry maize husks soaked in water. A
small quantity of dough is spread over the leaf
and on this is placed a small quantity of meat
and sauce. The leaf is then doubled over and
the tamale cooked in boiling water. The
nakatamal must be small in size to be properly
made. The name and the type suggest it is of
Valley of Mexico origin. It is ordinarily made
only for the fiestas of the dead on the 1st and
2d of November, although it was served to me
once on an ordinary occasion. It forms a part
of the offerings made to the dead and is also
eaten in the graveyard by the mourners and
16 In Paricutin kurdnda means "corn husks." Kurundurini means
"to wrap tamales in maize leaves."


guests. A few are made for sale on the 1st
and 2d of November.
Tamalito.-This is made by mixing dough
with lard and salt, forming a small ball, which
is wrapped in maize leaves and cooked in boil-
ing water. It is usually eaten the following
morning for breakfast, commonly with atole
6arikur;nda.-This tamale is made of black
maize, boiled with wood ashes, washed, and
milled. The dough is allowed to stand one
night, becoming somewhat bitter. Beans are
cooked and ground on the metate. A layer of
bean paste is laid over a layer of maize dough,
covering the metate. This is cut in squares,
about three fingers wide, which are then rolled
up, wrapped in maize leaves, and cooked in boil-
ing water. The 6arikurdnda is about the size
of the kurfinda. It is made about March, at the
period in which the sowing of maize begins.
The colored maize is usually set apart out of
each harvest for this purpose. A little white
maize is often added "to improve the taste."
Atoles (kamdta) of various kinds are made.
The maize dough, prepared as for tortillas, is
dissolved in water and cooked with various
flavorings. The broth is sometimes fairly thick
but ordinarily is drunk from a glass, bowl, or
cup. There are also atoles made of other
grains. Many are made at special seasons of
the year or for special occasions. Atoles are
usually eaten for the morning meal.
Nurite kamcta.-This is the most common
form of atole. It is made as is described above
but is flavored with an herb called nurite. It is
usually eaten for breakfast not less than once a
week. Nurite is a wild herb greatly used for
flavoring and also for medicinal purposes. It
imparts a slightly bitter flavor to atole, some-
what like yerba buena. No sugar, salt, or other
flavoring is employed. This atole is commonly
eaten with tortillas and a little cheese, or
squash, or gordos of either dry or green maize.
Kamdta urdpiti.-This is said to mean "white
atole." It is made of dough from either white
or yellow maize cooked in water with a little
thickening substance (not identified) and either
without any seasoning whatever or with laurel
(nurfikata). A small bite is taken from a cake
of brown sugar, followed by a draft of atole,
and then a drink of aguardiente. The atole

is drunk throughout the day,' even by children
(including the aguardiente). It is made in
March, April, and May.
Kdgwas kamdta.-Fresh or dried nurite is
ground on the metate with three or four chiles
ofthetype known as cascabel (kawas guajilyo).
This is mixed with maize dough before it is
dissolved in water and cooked. A little brown
sugar and salt are added during the cooking.
This atole is eaten in September with green corn
on the cob. It is also eaten in December and
January for either breakfast or supper; if the
day is very cold, it may be taken during the
day, for it is very "heating." For this reason
it is also given to mothers for several days
after parturition.
Turipiti kamdta.-This is made with maize
dough and brown sugar. A quantity of corn
husks is toasted until almost black; this is
ground and added to the atole while cooking.
The resulting atole is almost black and appears
to have ashes in it. The taste is agreeable,
however. Turipiti is usually eaten with nAka-
tamales, but it is also eaten at any other time
of the year, being one of the more popular
atoles in Cherin. It is also sold daily at the
puestos in Uruapan, where it is known as atole
de cascara de cacao, "atole of chocolate bean
husks," although it has not the slightest choco-
late in it.
Kamdta urdpiri.-This is said to mean atole
of maguey (or agave). The unfermented juice
of the maguey is used instead of water. The
juice is cooked until foam ceases to form on
top and it is a little thick. Instead of maize
dough, white maize is toasted and ground into
flour, then added to the juice. It is made in the
period before the rainy season, April, May
Srimba kamdta or t6ri kamdta (grimba,
"cane," or teri, "sweet").-The sweet juice of
mature green cornstalks is extracted by grind-
ing the stalks on the metate. The juice is
boiled until it no longer forms foam on top, and
is a little thick. Green corn is cut from the
cob, milled, and added to the liquid and cooked
with water added. This atole is eaten only in
the period green corn is available.
lu.itini kamdta.-This is a variant of nurite
kamata, to which salt and three or four red


chiles are added. Everything is passed through
a colander before cooking.
Puditi kam6ta.-This is made as is the one
just described, but anis is used as flavoring and
ground green corn is used instead of the ordin-
ary maize dough. Nothing else is eaten with
Tamarindo kamdta.-Maize dough and sugar
are put through a colander and thoroughly
boiled with 5 centavos worth of tamarind or
blackberries. A small quantity of leaves of
black or red maize is boiled; the liquid is added,
giving the atole a blackish color. It is eaten
with bread in the dry season.
Cardkata cardpiti.-According to another
informant, this is made the same as tamarindo
kamata, but with ground tamarisk or ground
blackberry added. It is said this is the only
occasion blackberries are used. March, April,
and May, the warm season, is the time for
eating this, as it is said to be a "cold" atole.
When the atole has cooled and thickened, small
portions are sometimes put on the colored maize
leaves and allowed to thicken or harden like
fruit paste. If not eaten immediately, it may
be wrapped in the leaves.
Iiekua kamata (milk atole).-Ordinary
maize dough atole is made with milk. This is
one of the more common atoles. It is eaten with
T6quera i6usta.-Uncooked maize t6quera
(half way between green and mature maize)
is ground on the metate, mixed with brown
sugar and bicarbonate of soda (to prevent con-
stipation), and fried in fat. This is a type
of gordo.
Uacakata.-This is red or black maize which
has been boiled on the cob and then dried for at
least several months. This is one of the forms
of maize preservation; the maize may be kept
as long as 2 years. When desired, it is soaked
for a day and night and then boiled. It is used
ground for atole or is boiled with brown sugar.


Arroz kamdta, rice atole.-Well-cooked rice,
milk, sugar, a bit of cinnamon, and a little
17 It is reported that in Zamora and Purepero, both old Mestizo
towns, the favorite atole is made of mesquite. The beans are
ground on the metate and cooked.

wheat flour or maize dough for thickening are
all passed through a colander and boiled.
Cdpata kurzinda.-This is a tamale made
from amaranth, bledos or alegria (pairi),
which is cultivated both in gardens and in the
fields. The seed is ground with brown sugar,
with water added to make a dough. It is then
wrapped in maize husks and cooked.
At harvest time the heads are toasted on the
comal and eaten. A kind of oval wheat flour
tortilla is made just after wheat harvest, espe-
cially in May and June.
Semitas, or round wheat breads.-These
are made primarily in the town, partly for sale
in Uruapan or Paracho on market days. The
wheat is usually ground on the metate, but there
is some variation in the coarseness of the flour.
Semitas are made with yeast, shaped, and set
on boards to rise. They are baked in the dome-
shaped Spanish oven. If the baker does not
own an oven, she pays one bread for each board-
ful she bakes.
Tri kamdta.-Wheat is dampened and ground
to flour, with water added to make a dough.
The dough is dissolved in water and cooked
with an herb called epaz6te (chile cascabel)
and salt. It is strained before boiling. It is
eaten alone without bread or tortillas.
Gordos.-Ground wheat is mixed with water
and made into flat cakes. They are fried in
deep pork fat, and are pretty greasy.
Cabbage is the most common vegetable. It
is always eaten cooked, usually with meat.
Scarcely a house in Cheran does not have a
small plot of cabbage. People who do not
have their own, buy cabbage from house own-
ers who do. Cabbage is not sold in the market.
Chayotes constitute an important food during
the season. Children munch on them all day.
Cooked chayotes are sold on the streets at
2 to 5 centavos, depending on size.
Chayote roots, which are dug up every few
years, are boiled -and eaten. They resemble a
very good baked potato in flavor.


Peanuts are often on sale on the streets.
They and cooked squash are the only.refresh-
ments accessible to the very poor. Generally
about a handful may be purchased for 1 centavo.
Chilacayote is a member of the squash family
with watery white flesh. It probably is closest
to what we call pie melons in the United States.
It is much liked. The young, immature fruits
are boiled with a little milk and, if it can be
afforded, a little cheese.
As mentioned previously, mature chilacayotes
are eaten all year but mainly in the spring.
If placed in the sun daily for some time during
dry weather, they will keep for some months
in storage. They are sometimes coated with
ashes mixed in water before storage. To serve,
they are cut in pieces and boiled. Usually,
cooked pieces may be bought on the street for
a centavo.
Atapdkua is made of squash blossoms and
sliced immature squash, cooked with chile and
a little flour or maize dough for thickening.
Nopal (prickly pear) is used as a vegetable.
The tender "leaves are skinned, cut in small
squares, boiled, and then usually fried very
lightly in lard.
Squash greens (the tender tips of the run-
ners on the vines), which are commonly eaten
in many parts of Mexico, are rarely eaten in
Cheran. An informant had "heard" that those
people who did eat them boiled the greens, then
cooked them lightly with lard.
Green beans are not eaten. Informants did
not even know a name for them. Dried beans
are boiled, usually with a very little salt. They
are often not very well done because of the
altitude. They are watery and tasteless to an
outsider, although relished by the residents.
They are scarce, as there are few suitable soils
near Cheran and most beans are imported from
the Lake Pdtzcuaro region.
Fruits are eaten rather sparingly in season
in accordance with the economic status of the
family. Locally grown fruits are eaten rather
more than imported fruits. Children and
young people appear to eat rather more fruit
than do adults. Nearly every Cheran lot will
have at least a pear, peach, apple, or cherry
tree. Tunas, the fruit of the prickly pear, are
also eaten as fruit.

Milk is drunk to a limited extent in season by
those few who have cattle. If purchased, it is
used mostly for cooking.18
Te de naranja is sometimes drunk. It is
made by steeping the leaves of a particular
member of the citrus family, either fresh or
dried. The leaves must be imported in Cheran.
In some other villages this is a regular break-
fast drink, but in Cherin it is only an occasional
Coffee is rarely drunk by the Tarascans.
Most stores in Cherin do not carry it at all.
Aqua miel (urapi, urApiti, "white"), the
unfermented juice of the maguey or Agave
americana, is liked by some but is not very
popular. It is usually available in quantities
only in May. It is often drunk with sections of
peeled orange, pieces of chile, and sliced onions
sprinkled with ground red chile and salt. Fer-
mented pulque is not at all popular, and what
little is produced is mostly sent to Uruapan.
Aguardiente (Eardnda) is the most common
drink. This is simply unflavored sugarcane
SAmargo, a popular Cheran drink, is made by
putting ground cinnamon bark, sugar, lemon
juice, and lemon rind in a bottle of aguardiente
for 2 or 3 days. It is taken before breakfast
as a remedy in certain diseases (reumas, bills,
Honey is produced to some extent. It is
used mostly in making atole blanco or white
atole and also as a treat for the children.
C~pata is made by grinding black amaranth
into dough and mixing with brown sugar.
The blackish paste is spread on banana leaves.
It is sold without cooking.
Mole of squash seeds is a luxury dish made
only by the most wealthy and by the carguero
of Natividad (Christmas). The sauce is made
of ground squash seeds, chile ancho, tomatoes,
spices, and bread for thickening. Beef or pork
is the meat served in the sauce.
Beer is sold in some stores, but it is not a
common drink.
'"In Chilchota no cheese or butter is made. Local milk is drunk
or made into joj6ke, milk thickened by heating. Cheese, butter,
and other milk products are imported.


Carbonated drinks with artificial coloring
and flavoring are sold, particularly at two
stands in the plaza where the buses stop.
Lemon, orange, cherry, pineapple, and banana
are the common flavors. The drinks are
brought from Paracho or Uruapan and sell for
5 centavos a quarter-liter bottle. Consumption
is small; the stores may have six or eight
bottles for 6 months.
A refreshment of water, fruit flavorings, and
sugar is also sold in the plaza. Ice is usually
available only on Sundays. Only men of the
town buy these refreshments when they are in
funds and want to try something exotic. Most
of the trade is with passersby in the buses,
fortunately for the health of Cherin. Water
ice is sold from door to door by one or two
vendors. It is made locally whenever the
dealer can secure ice from Uruapan. Home-
made ices are sometimes made when the water
in the troughs or streams freezes in the winter.

A mere list of foods and recipes has little
meaning unless quantities are ascertained.
Potentially the Cheran inhabitant has an ade-
quate diet, but most of the population probably
suffer from some dietary deficiency, either be-
cause of poverty or because of improper dis-
tribution and preparation of foods. Vitamin
deficiencies probably are subacute to acute in
many individuals. Qualitative and quantita-
tive data of great accuracy were difficult to
secure, but enough were obtained to be of some
value as guides to dietary problems. Below
are given some diets collected:
One of the poorest families in town, con-
sisting of 3 adults and 2 children, eats 21/
liters of maize daily, which costs 10 centavos.
Once a week the family spends 5 to 10 centavos
in chiles and every 3 or 4 days 3 to 5 centavos
in cheese. On rather rare occasions, if the
family is relatively prosperous for the moment,
one-third to one-half liter of beans is purchased
at a cost of 5 to 8 centavos. Eggs, meat, and
some other items are almost never eaten. It is
probable that some greens are eaten from time
to time which were not noted by the reporter.
Total food cost could average as little as 811/2
centavos per week.
A poor family, but not in such desperate

straits as the one mentioned above, would prob-
ably spend, in addition, 1 or 2 centavos daily
for sugar, consumed in cinnamon tea, or 3 to 6
ounces of brown sugar for use in atole blanco.
Atole would occasionally be made of milk, 3 to 5
centavos worth being bought. Such a family
would drink milk only in case of illness, when a
sick person might get a pint or a little more
each day.
A "middle class" family, consisting of 8 per-
sons (2 adults, 6 children aged 4 to 16), eats
about 31/ liters of maize daily, about 31/2
pounds of meat (a peso's worth) a week, and
10 centavos worth of cheese daily. In addition,
about 25 centavos a day would be spent for
other foods. (The data on the three diets given
above were all collected by Sra. Silvia Rend6n.)
What appeared to be two reliable quantitative
records, covering 2-week periods, were obtained,
the first for a wealthy family and the second
for an average family. They are as follows:

Diet records of two families for 2-week period
1. Wealthy family, Don Hilaro Xhemba (10 persons in
household) :
Maize ................ ......... 111 liters
M eat .............................. 13 pounds
Cheese ............. ................. 2 pounds
Fruit. ................................ 1$ 2.54
Milk .................................. 1.54
Chiles (about 1/ dozen) ................. .03
Bread (15 pieces, whole wheat, about 41
inches diameter, 11/ inches thick) ...... .75
Beans (brown or red; little less than 3
liters) ............................... .41
Fish (probably about 1/ pouhd dried fish).. .21
Total expenditure ...................... $12.50
2. Average family, Melquiades Romero (2 adults and
5 children) :
Maize.............................. 75 liters
M eat .......................... .. 12 pounds
Fruit............................ 2$0.96
1This amount seems high. It would be the cost of 50 to 75
oranges, small to medium size, but undoubtedly it was not all
spent for oranges; in fact, it was much more probably spent for
bananas, pears, and perhaps apples or peaches.
2 Perhaps spent for 20 to 30 small to medium oranges, but
probably mostly for bananas, peaches, pears, and apples.

In both cases recorded above, vegetables un-
doubtedly came out of the family garden and
are not listed. Probably, from the distribution
of purchases, this would mean cabbage daily,
perhaps half a leaf per person, boiled with the


meat. At this time of year there may have
been a few meals with immature squash or wild
herbs from the woods, stewed with perhaps a
little milk or cheese and lard.
Evelyn Payne Hatcher kindly consented to
attempt an analysis of the diet of Cheran.
The results are full of guesswork, but they
are at least suggestive. The results show
that if yellow maize was used almost exclu-
sively, the diet of a wealthy family would con-
tain no outright deficiencies and in many re-
spects provide more than the usual recom-
mended minimum amounts of various vitamins
and proteins and calories. A very poor family,
on the other hand, would show a striking de-
ficiency in vitamin B1 and an inadequate caloric
intake. Both diets would give a marked de-
ficiency of vitamin A if white corn were used
instead of yellow corn. Despite the inadequacy
of the data, there seems little reason to doubt
that in some cases, particularly among poor
families, deficiencies in the diet are sufficiently
large to have a pronounced effect upon behavior
and cultural participation (Beals and Hatcher,


Some interesting comparisons are afforded by
data from other towns. The most complete
information was secured from Chilchota in La
Chilchota is a Mestizoized Indian town, i. e.,
the bulk of the population is of Indian descent
but a number of Mestizos have moved in, the
native language is scarcely spoken any longer,
and the people regard themselves as non-Indian.
Customs are closely similar to those in the near-
by Indian towns, however. Following are some
menus collected by Silvia Rend6n (for Cheran
menus, see Beals and Hatcher, 1943):

Chilchota menus

Luncheons (taken about 10 or 11 a. m.; no breakfast in
this case):
Average household:
Broiled beef
Boiled beans
Black atole
Chile sauce

Chile sauce
Coffee (black)
Broiled beef
Chile sauce
Poor household:
Chile sauce
Broiled beef
Chile sauce
Very poor household:
Greens of wheat plants (boiled)
Wealthy household:
Pork cooked with chile
Fried beans
Fried pork
Boiled beans
Pork cooked in chile sauce (mole?)
Fried beans
Black coffee
Dinners (2 p. m. or later):
Average household:
Meat broth with cabbage (cooked)
Meat (beef) from which broth was made
Boiled beans

Meat broth with cabbage
Boiled beans
Rice, cooked in water
Pork broth (with rice
prickly pears)
Rice boiled in water

and bitter tunas or

Fried rice with tomatoes
Pork in chile sauce
Poor household:
Meat from the broth
Beans boiled with chile and silantro
Wealthy household:
Meat broth
Meat (different from that from which broth
was made) cooked with chile


Suppers (about 7 o'clock in the evening):
Average household:
Boiled beans
Chile sauce
Boiled beans
Chile sauce
Boiled beans
Whole-wheat bread
Black coffee
Boiled beans
Very poor household:
Posole (hominy, probably with a little boiled
Wealthy household:
Boiled beans
Chile sauce
Whole-wheat bread
Black coffee
Boiled beans
Chile sauce
Broiled meat

Fairly common suppers are tamales (with
or without meat) and atole or coffee or a piece
of bread (a whole-wheat bread slightly sea-
soned) and a cup of tea made from the herb
nurite or a type of orange leaf.
In all cases quantities are probably small,
except of tortillas. Rarely would more than
one piece of bread be eaten, perhaps 2 to 3
ounces at most; perhaps half a cup to a cup of
beans; meat, if broiled or boiled, two pieces
about 11/2 inches in greatest dimension-if in
sauce, perhaps a couple of tablespoonfuls with
the sauce.19
With substitution of different foods, these
would represent Cherin menus on the whole,
although there would not be so much meat with
breakfast-luncheon, but rather atole, while
the meat broth and meat would more commonly
be served together.
At the Indian town of Sopoco in La Cafiada,
the following midday meals were observed:

1' See Appendix 1 for more data on Chilchota.

Boiled broadbeans
Eggs cooked on the comal
Fried herbs with chile sauce
Boiled broadbeans
Boiled beans
Further comparative notes (collected by
Silvia Rend6n) -Possibly because Capacuaro is
a smaller village with extensive woods close by,
more wild animals are used for food. These
include doves, huilotas, bird eggs (kuaganda),
rabbits, flying squirrels, squirrels (kuinikes),
deer, gophers (khumds), wood rats (heyAki),
peccary, jackrabbits (apacis), foxes, armadillos,
bee larvae, larvae of a ground dwelling bee
(jicoteras), worms from unidentified plants
(talpanal), fresh water crawfish (6apus), wild
crab apple worms (kauag), and tlacuache
(takuace). It is to be suspected that in Cherdn,
where persons closely associated with the woods
are not often in the town, our list of wild
animal products eaten is much shorter than it
should be, although it probably represents the
common diet.
Two meals a day are eaten, at 11 o'clock in
the morning and in the evening at varying
times. In one house the morning meal was
tortillas and beans; in another, coffee and bread;
in a third, coffee and tortillas sweetened with
brown sugar; in a fourth, atole nurite and
tortillas; in a fifth, chile sauce, boiled greens,
and tortillas. The second meal most commonly
consists of squash or chayotes, meat broth with
cabbage, meat and chile, and tortillas.
Special dishes not already reported include
the following:
Tamalitos de Epata, small tamales of black
amaranth seeds (capata; the plant is puari),
made to sell in Uruapan at three for 5 centavos.
The seeds are ground and cooked in maize leaves
like tamales.
IEuskata, gordos filled with beans, for sale in
Uruapan at 5 centavos each.
Yurdriidskatas, gordos made of maize dough
mixed with brown sugar. In cooking, a num-
ber of pebbles are put in the comal and the
gordos are placed on top of these so they cook
more slowly.
Toasted tortillas (haripukata), eaten fre-
quently at meals.


Maize stalks, chewed as a sweet to a greater
extent than in Cheran.
Salt-rising bread made by one baker once a
week. It sells at 10 centavos a piece.
The daily adult consumption of corn was
estimated at three-eighths of a liter.
In Angahuan, a large, isolated, and conserva-
tive western sierra town, two meals daily are
also the rule. The usual hours are 10 a.m.
and 6 p. m. Children and sick people may also
eat tortillas or cold kur6ndas at other hours.
Tortillas are made by only a few women, the
kurdnda taking its place. The kur6nda here
is not wrapped in the maize leaf (k'an) but in
the husk of the ear (aarikata).
The beef broth (6uripo) is made for prefer-
ence from slightly spoiled meat or dried meat.
(This is also true at Paricutin.) As there are
no butchers in AngAhuan, butchering is done
at home. Some of the meat is sold; the rest is
cut in strips, rubbed with salt, and dried on
the house roofs.
The agwakata tamale is made with beans
like that of Cherin. It is eaten only for the
fiestas of Candelaria (February 2), Carnival,
Santa Cruz (May 3), Corpus, and at weddings.
Mdakuta is a posole made of boiled black
maize (ir6ns), boiled beans, silantro, and chile.
A little dough of ground black corn is added as
thickening. This is served to guests at New
Year's and at the fiestas in December and July.
At New Year's the posole is accompanied by
huge kurdndas weighing about 2 kilos.
Little milk is consumed. However, the town
produces enough cheese for export.
Agua miel is consumed in season. Pulque
is little liked. A common drink is "tepache"
(6aripe), which is slightly alcoholic.20 It is
made of barley, boiled in water and left in the
water for a week. Carbonate and sweetening
are then added.
Papaya juice is drunk and the seeds are
toasted and eaten.
Men working in the fields or woods often
carry maize on the cob which they shell and
toast by a fire. This is called "esquite"
(guanito). They also carry "esquite" from
home already prepared and mixed with brown
0 In Oaxaca, "tepache" is pulque reinforced with brown sugar
and is more than "slightly" alcoholic.

In times of famine, acorns are cooked like
maize for nixtamal (boiled with lye or wood
ashes), ground, and made into gordos.
A special "bread" of maize is used as an offer-
ing at the house altar. This is made of maize
toquera (halfway between green and mature
corn) cooked like nixtamal, ground, and shaped.
It is cooked first on the comal and then hardened
by placing it on embers. This bread is never
eaten but is hung from strings in front of the
altar. The shapes include quadrupeds, both
with and without horns, crescent moons, and,
most interesting of all, hearts represented in
pre-Hispanic style.
In Paricutin a few divergences may be noted.
Most people eat atole flavored with nurite,
without sugar, salt, or chile every morning.
The wild crab apple is not eaten at all. The
diet of many poor people consists almost wholly
of atole and tortillas with chile sauce; this is
spoken of as "eating dry," "se come a secas."
In San Juan Parangaricutiro, the Mestizoized
cabecera for Angahuan and Paricutin, the
favorite atole is atole de grano, made of tender
green maize, seasoned with green chile and an
herb called anisillo. The atole is colored green
with ground squash leaves. This atole is made
especially during Holy Week. (Because of the
lower elevations, the region of San Juan has
green maize much of the year.) Wheat bran
is used to make a type of gordos. Pulque,
mixed with chile sauce, is drunk during the
rainy season. Agua miel without flavoring is
drunk also.

Eating habits seem to vary little from town
to town. In Cheran food is served on tables
only on special occasions by the more sophisti-
cated, especially when an outsider is present.
Usually, the persons being served sit on low
stools or benches, holding the main dish in their
hands. Tortillas, tamales, salt, and other foods
or condiments are placed in baskets or dishes
on the floor.
Generally the women eat last, but this is pri-
marily due to the necessity of constantly warm-
ing or cooking tortillas rather than to any
feeling of propriety. If there be more than
one woman in the household, one or more may
begin to eat with the men after the rush of


serving and preparing tortillas is over. Ordi-
narily, the only utensils are spoons and these
are used only when coffee is served. Food is
taken in .the fingers or, more commonly, in a
piece of tortilla.
In fiestas, separation of sexes is more pro-
nounced. The men are seated in two rows on
beams or planks. Each is served a bowl of
curipo. Tortillas, tamales, salt, and water are
placed at convenient intervals between the rows.
Male children are served later in the same way.
All serving outside the cooking place is done by
men. Women and female children eat apart
with less formality, often in the cooking place.
The only possible trace of ceremonial habits
relating to eating is the habit of always leaving
a little water when drinking. This is poured
on the ground after drinking. No reasons were
advanced for this procedure.
In Mestizoized Chilchota, according to Silvia
Rend6n, men are always served first. At wed-
dings, however, unmarried girls are served

first, then the men, and then the married
women. When in the fields or woods, Chilchota
men make the fire, heat the food, and serve the
women. However, they always turn the tor-
tillas on the fire with long sticks; turning the
tortillas with the fingers would be womanish.
Changes in food habits at Cher6n probably
have been marked in recent years. Old people
say that ancientlyy" the major diet was cabbage
and tamales. Lard was disliked so much that
people could not eat it. Although the change
in Cheran is attributed to the highway and the
entry of Mestizos, probably the large-scale
migration from Cheran to other places had
much to do with the change. Although it is
difficult to point out specific changes without
comparative data from conservative towns, the
major differences seem to be the displacement
of tamales by tortillas and the eating of fiesta
foods on ordinary occasions. Soft drinks,
cookies, and other manufactured foods are also
becoming more common.


The techniques of raw material production,
manufacting processes, and utilization of prod-
ucts have been discussed in the preceding pages.
Under the heading "Economics" I wish now to
consider problems of production, consumption,
and exchange of goods and services apart from
the technologies involved. Such a separation
is artificial, although perhaps no more so than
is the segregation of any two aspects of a cul-
ture, but separate consideration is suggested
both by the complexity of the subject and by
the tendency in many ethnographic studies to
consider discussion of technology to be a suffi-
cient treatment of economics. Special discus-
sion of economic problems also seems desirable
in view of the present great interest in altering
the basic economics and living standards of
large areas of the world and the long-continued
Mexican efforts to incorporate native groups
more fully into the national economy.
The study of Tarascan economy is facilitated
by the fact that many of the exchanges of goods
and services are made on a money basis. More-
over, the convenience of money as a measure of
value has so impressed the Tarascans that ex-

changes on a barter basis are often calculated
in terms of the money values of the goods or
services involved.
The fact that Tarascan economy is a money
economy signifies more than ease in the study
of exchange; it also indicates at once that
Tarascan economy is far from primitive as that
term is usually understood. Actually Tara-
scan economics, like the rest of Tarascan cul-
ture, is strongly influenced by European cul-
ture. It does not necessarily follow, however,
that Tarascan economics is not distinctive.
The long period of assimilation and reintegra-
tion that characterized all of Tarascan culture
occurred also in the economic field, and the
result is a hybrid. Nevertheless, Tarascan
culture is more European in origin than is that
of most Mexican Indian groups. Moreover,
especially in recent years, the economy of the
outside world has impinged increasingly upon
the Tarascans so that in 1940 there were indi-
viduals whose livelihood had been seriously
affected by the outbreak of war and who, fur-
thermore, were quite aware of their relation-
ship to world markets.


Recognition of the interrelations of various
economic activities in different regions is not
a new idea to the Tarascans. The economy of
the region tends toward individual and local
specialization with a consequent high develop-
mentof trade. While undoubtedly the majority
of the Tarascans are members of self-sufficient
family groups so far as the bare necessities of
existence are concerned, very large numbers
are partly or wholly dependent upon employ-
ment, manufactures, or trade. Consequently,
the internal economy of a Tarascan village not
only is complex by primitive standards but also
fits into tribal and extratribal patterns of even
greater complexity. Quite apart from rela-
tions with the national economy of Mexico, and,
through it, with international economy, large
numbers of Tarascans have been traders and
middlemen on a large scale. Not only have
they carried local products from Tarascan vil-
lage to Tarascan village, or outside the Tara-
scan area; they have bought goods in non-
Tarascan areas to sell in other non-Tarascan
areas. The study of Cheran economy, then,
must be considered an incomplete picture of
Tarascan economy just as the study of the
economics of a single small town would inade-
quately describe the economics of the United
The following tabulation gives the units of
measure used in CherAn.

Dry measure
1 litro = 1 liter, or 0.908 quart
1 media = 5 litros
1 fanega = 20 medidas, or 100 litros, or 1 hectalitro
1 libra = 1 pound
1 kilo = 2.2 libras
1 arroba = 11.5 kilos
1 carga = 161 kilos or 14 arrobas
1 burro load = 1/ carga (approx.), 7 or 8 arrobas
1 mule load = 1 carga (approx.), 14 to 18 arrobas
1 cuartillo = 1 pint or 1/ liter
1 litro = 1 quart (approx.) or 1 liter
1 decalitro = 10 litros
Square measure
1 hectarea (hectare) = a piece of land about 10,000 sq.
paces or 10,000 sq. m.
SThe beam balance is widely used for determining weight.

Cubic measure (used in masonry)
1 barra = 1 yd. 1 yd. X 16 in.
1 metro = 1 m. x 1 m. X 50 cm.

Production in Cheran depends more directly
upon the land than it does in most other Taras-
can villages. Although the land ultimately is
the source of all Tarascan raw materials, some
industries require relatively few of such ma-
terials. In some cases-for example, the straw
hat industry-all the raw materials are imported
from outside the Tarascan area. Even more
numerous are instances where the raw mater-
ials are secured from some other Tarascan
While Cheran economy is primarily self-
sufficient in character, it is less so than are
most Indian economies of Mexico. Cheran
does supply most of its own basic food and
housing needs, but it does not supply its own
clothing. Moreover, many foods every CherAn
resident desires are not produced locally.
Numerous Cheran families also depend on
wages more than upon their own direct exploi-
tation of the land or upon industry. Finally,
Cher6n produces many goods for export, al-
though to a far less degree than neighboring

Tarascan land is of three main types: farm,[
forest, and residential. To these might be
added public roads, water courses, and mineral
deposits. The latter are relatively unimpor-
tant. Public roads and trails of course serve
communications and do not enter directly into
production. Water courses are also mainly in
the public domain. Virtually their only use is
to supply drinking water for man and beast and
for washing purposes. Public lands also sup-
ply the small requirements of sand, clay, and
building stone.
All permanent farm lands are privately
owned. The only exceptions are occasional
temporary fields cleared from the forest on
lands too steep for cultivation for more than a
few years. On the farm lands the major prod-i
ucts are white or yellow maize and wheat.:
Beans, squash, fruits, oats, and barley are
produced only in small quantities.


The value of farm land is startlingly low, al-
though accurate figures on either the amount
of farm land in the municipio or the amount
owned by any individual were impossible to
secure. The tax rolls of the town are an inade-
quate guide. A very large number of lands
are not listed and in many cases the area given
is much smaller than actual size. A number
of farmers admitted this fact. The tax rolls
show only 303 farmers, although most men in
town own some land. The total parcels listed
number 759 with a total area of 1,9431/ hec-
tares (a hectare is 2.47 acres) with a value of
$259,620. Community-owned lands are listed
as 1,667 hectares valued at $100,000. This
would total slightly less than 9,000 acres, or
about 14 square miles. This is probably less
than half the total area of Cherin.
The average holding according to the tax
rolls is 2.5 pieces of land, totaling 6.41 hectares
valued at $856.86. This average is misleading,
however, possibly through an error on the part
of the tax collector's office staff, or perhaps
because a few large landowners hold high-
priced lands. From $80 to $100 per hectare
is the most common valuation. An average of
one page of the tax roll listing 58 farmers gave
2.62 plots per person, averaging 5.1 hectares
valued at $377.07 or $74 a hectare. The largest
holding on this page was 32 hectares, valued
at $2,560; the smallest was one-half a hectare,
valued at $50. Bearing in mind that these
figures represent taxable values, actual values
probably average around $150 a hectare.
Data from individuals probably are even
more unreliable, yet show surprising uniform-
ity. The average value'is $77.08 per hectare,
Estimates from six landowners are as follows:
Area (hectares) Value
2 .................. ... ........ $140

16 ............ .. ........ 1,280
% ............... ............ 40
14 . .......... 1,080
8 .. ... .. .. ... .. .. .... .. .. .. 0 40
441 ............ ... .......... $3,530
The surprising closeness of owner evaluations
to the average assessed values suggests that
farmers are well aware of the latter. Infor-
mation from more individuals is desirable but
is difficult to obtain. Even good friends nor-

mally either refuse information or obviously
lie about the size and value of their holdings.
The only further evidence available on this
point is an actual sale observed in which a
price of $40 was paid for about one-half hectare
of wheat land. This piece was already planted
to wheat and would yield about 2 cargas. On
the other hand, $400 was being asked for a
hectare of the best maize land.
Residential lands almost always include a
garden plot as well as a building site. Only in
the center of town is this not true. Prices of
residential land, however, vary sharply with
location and, to a lesser extent, with the depth
of the lot and the quality of soil. In the center
of town shallow lots may be valued at as much
as $25 a meter frontage, while on the outskirts
the price may be as low as $10 a meter. The
garden plot produces blue maize, vegetables,
fruit, and sometimes wheat. Probably a num-
ber of persons who were said to own land in
Cherin actually own only a large residential
plot, but this point was not investigated.
Forest lands are owned by the community.
They serve as the source of firewood, lumber,
and other forest products such as shakes and
charcoal, and provide grazing for livestock; as
sources of game or wild vegetable products
their value is negligible.
The use of forest lands formerly was open to
all who paid a small fee to aid the community
to pay the Federal taxes on the land. Persons
using the forest only for firewood paid less
than did charcoal burners, lumbermen, or
shakemakers. In recent years a permit from
the Federal Department of Forestry has been
required for any but household use, and efforts
were being made to limit rights to members of
a cooperative organization.

The sex division of labor in Cheran bars
women from most productive pursuits. Wom-
en's activities conform closely to the ideals laid
down recently by a notorious central European
-children, kitchen, and church. Women per-
form all the household duties, such as cooking,
sweeping, and washing, care for the children,
make most of the clothes, carry water (but not
firewood unless they have no close male rela-
tives), and take food .to their men at work.


They may gather herbs, make embroidered
women's garments or paper flowers for sale,
do the marketing for the household, and also
most of the selling. If a woman's husband
hires out as a laborer during harvest time, she
gleans behind him in the field. There is no
strong feeling against a woman who in emer-
gency helps at her husband's work; but women
actually have very little spare time.
Most productive activity in the ordinary
sense, then, is performed by men. Men do all
farm work, look after animals for the most
part, do all forestry, and make most of the
manufactured articles that enter into commerce.
Distant trade is also carried on by men, al-
though they may be accompanied by their wives,
and women may go to Paracho or even Uruapan
to sell herbs, fruit, vegetables, bread, tamales,
or other prepared foods.
The bulk of the population of Cheran falls
into two overlapping classes, farmers and
laborers. Only a small minority utilize all
their labor on their own land; even smaller
is the number of farmers who employ no labor.
Farmers, furthermore, may be divided into
landowners and tenant farmers.
Farmers may also be storekeepers, traders,
forest workers, or artisans in their spare time.
In addition, they may hire out as laborers when
they have free time. Indeed, most laborers
have land or at least a garden plot. The labor
supply of Cheran, in fact, is inadequate, and
laborers are hired from neighboring villages,
especially Nalluatzen. The standard wages are
45 centavos a day, but harvest hands receive
50 centavos a day plus the right to have their
wives and children glean behind them, appar-
ently a not insignificant factor, as the proposal
of several large landowners to raise the harvest
wage to $1 a day and eliminate the gleaning
privilege was rejected by the workmen. Varia-
tions in wages are discussed in connection with
specific activities.
Bearing in mind that most men have some
land, the list of occupations in Cherin is exten-
sive, as shown in the following tabulation:
Hired labor
Shoemaking (few)

Hat making (few)
Plank making
Shake making
Cutting railroad ties
Charcoal burning
Blanket weaving (few)
Broom-handle making (rare)
Gathering.raiz de paja (few)
Wild-honey collecting (few)
Bee keeping (few-one woman)
Baking bread (one making pan dulce)
Ice cream making (one)
Brickmaking and tilemaking (rare)
Carpentry (few)
Wood turning (rare)
Blacksmithing (rare)
Masonry (few)
Brush making (few)
Painting and plastering (rare)
Fireworks making (one)
Twine making (few)
Belt weaving (few)
Paper-flower making (rare)
Herb gathering (rare)
Cloth weaving (one)
Baking bread
Mat making (rare)
Selling at markets
Storekeeping (helpers)
Local food selling
Selling at markets
Grain threshing
Operating nixtamal mills
Barbering (few)
School teaching (few)
Billiard-hall operation (two)
Marriage managing (few)
Water carrying for pay (rare)
All political offices'
All formal church offices'
All public works'
Rezadores (men who pray)


Ritual dancing1
Domestic service (rare)
School teaching (rare)
Minor church services1
Ritual dancing (pastorela only1)
1 Occupations without pay; some involving outlay of money to
participate. Women's household duties are not listed. Elsewhere
the distribution of women's time is discussed (p. 197).
Information from day laborers on the whole
was unsatisfactory. Not only are they sensi-
tive about their position, but there is some con-
descension toward them on the part of land-
owners despite the lack of explicitly drawn class
lines. When an older man jestingly suggested
that one of our local assistants should get in
practice to carry a harvest basket, the young
man replied that he didn't intend to carry a
harvest basket, or plow either. "That is what
you have peons for," he said.
Information about day laborers indicated a
return of from 40 to 50 centavos a day, depend-
ing on season and labor. Some workers also
do work by the job. Men employed to thresh
wheat will sometimes get about 11/ centavos a
liter. The most accurate-sounding informant,
a man from Nahuatzen, estimated he could
thresh 80 liters a day, a return of about $1.20
a day. This seems high, but one informant
produced estimates which would have him earn-
ing $25 a day.21
Unemployment for laborers usually comes
about the same time as the slack season for
farmers, January and July. Often workers
will take a vacation in this period. The more
energetic will seek work at this time-bring in
building stones, work in the woods, try for odd
jobs about town, bring in firewood for them-
selves or for sale, or fatten a pig for sale. One
of the storekeepers evidently will pay $2.50 a
dozen for building stones delivered at his store
for later resale. Pine firewood can be sold
usually at four sticks for 1 centavo, oak at
three sticks for 1 centavo.
nIn AngAhuan, Rend6n found similar situations. Building fences
pays 50 centavos a day without meals. Other field work, however,
is never paid in money. Harvest workers receive three medidas of
maize, and breakfast and dinner. Ox-team drivers receive two
medidas of maize and ireals.

Low as wages are, Rend6n collected an
account which indicates that wages were only
12 centavos a day within the lifetime of elderly
men. The informant stated that he preferred
to work at Nahuatzen because meals were in-
cluded in the wage, which is not the case in
Cheran. This requires verification, as Nahuat-
zen normally has a larger labor supply than
In addition to paid labor or labor for one's
own account, men are required to perform
certain public services. These include main-
tenance of the aqueduct and improvement of
roads and trails. Young men may also be re-
quired to do certain work in connection with
fiestas, particularly the fiesta of the patron
saint and the Day of the Dead. There is also
obligatory assistance of relatives in connection
with ceremonials and house moving. These
requirements are dealt with later.
No data were secured on the relation between
labor demand and labor supply. As indicated
by the presence of labor from other towns at
some seasons, it is believed that at peak periods
there is an undersupply of labor in the town.
Much of the year, however, there probably is a
labor surplus in the sense that many farmers
often have time free which they could use in
some other employment were it readily available.

Efforts to define capital for Cheran meet
with the same difficulties that are to be met
with in our own society. Money used for pur-
chasing food ordinarily is not considered capi-
tal; yet insofar as it makes the individual
capable of producing additional goods or ser-
vices through which his wealth is increased,
such money, or stores of food accumulated for
this purpose, might be considered capital.
Money accumulated to buy land for the produc-
tion of food for sale or export would usually be
considered capital; is the land purchased to be
so considered also? In the case of Cheran, I
think it is, for, although most farmers would
not so regard it, a considerable number of
Cherfn men have bought land for the express
purpose of increasing wealth, not through their
own efforts, but through those of a tenant


Ownership of livestock similarly poses ques-
tions. The wealthy man who keeps a consider-
able number of bulls whose main use seems to
be to enhance his social prestige by having the
bulls selected for riding at a fiesta may also sell
them for beef if he needs money for productive
enterprises. Sheep are capital in much the
same sense that land is capital. A yoke of
oxen or a burro may be used to aid production
and are also rented. A horse, on the other
hand, is close to a "conspicuous expenditure."
Probably the minimal capital required in
Cherdn is for the production of certain services.
A water carrier needs only two 25-liter oil cans,
a bit of rope, and a piece of wood to make a
yoke. A tabla maker (one producing heavy
hewn planks or beams) needs only an ax and
some oak wedges he cuts out himself, and 10
pesos to join the cooperative (formerly he
would have needed only enough to pay the tax
for use of communal lands). A digging stick
and a knife would suffice to gather raiz de paja,
while herbs need only a bit of cloth to tie them
in. At the other extreme are the owners of
threshing machines, nixtamal mills, or trucks,
the latter requiring a cash outlay of between 8
and 10 thousand pesos.
For the farmer, aside from land, very few
capital goods are necessary. Ox teams and
plows may be rented and paid for out of the
crop; even land may be secured on a sharecrop
basis. A special machete for weeding is, in
fact, the only indispensable tool. Such farm-
ing, however, will bring a relatively small
return, probably little, if any, more than could
be earned by a hired laborer.
At the other extreme, a landowner, farming
his own land, should own an ox team, yoke,
plow, machete, burros, and nets for transport-
ing the crop, adequate storage facilities, and
sufficient cash to hire labor at crucial periods
such as planting and harvesting. A man so
situated will reap the best possible return from
his labor.
The major investment of a farmer is in land,
storage facilities, and livestock. His ox yoke
and plow he may make himself, and the few
metal tools needed are not costly. In general,
the investment in tools and equipment is much
less than that required in manufacturing or
some service occupations. A sewing machine

is more costly than all the farmer's tools, espe-
cially the heavy type required to make hats.
Even the sandal maker's lasts, hammers, and
knives probably are more expensive than farm
No organized credit facilities exist in the
village, but money loans are sometimes made.
Storekeepers are perhaps the only group who
consistently make use of credit and who also
often make loans if they have capital. The
major use of credit by storekeepers is to buy
goods, especially cloth. Sometimes a down
payment is made on cloth, the balance being
paid when the cloth is sold. This facility seems
to be extended primarily by wholesalers in
Pur6pero. Most ordinary store transactions,
whether buying or selling, are for cash.
One storekeeper also makes cash loans, main-
ly to butchers and nixtamal operators, 'ho are
apt to need considerable sums for a short time.
The reported interest rate is 10 percent a month.
Other credit transactions are of two kinds.
Most significant is the lending of money for
which lands are given as security, known as the
empeio de terrenos. In this type of transac-
tion, the lender takes possession of the lands
and utilizes them until the debt is repaid. The
owner in the meantime must pay all taxes on
the land. In other cases the lender does not
take possession of the lands unless the debt is
not repaid at the end of a term agreed upon.
In either case, should the land have a standing
crop at the time the lender takes possession,
the crop is divided equally between the bor-
rower and lender. There are some cases, al-
though relatively few compared with the situa-
tion in many parts of Mexico, where lands have
been held and cultivated by the lender for many
years.22 The owners have been unable to pay
the debt but have continued year after year
paying the taxes, in hopes ultimately of redeem-
ing the land.
22 In some parts of Mexico this is an extremely common form of
exploitation. I have been told of regions where families have
acquired control of large areas by encouraging small landowners
to go into debt to them. The lenders have, in effect, established
haciendas; but have been overlooked in the general agrarian reforms
because the lands appear on the government records as belonging
to numerous small owners. Often, ironically enough, the land-
owners are hired laborers working their own property in a futile
effort to redeem their debts, but they never succeed in doing more
than maintaining a large estate tax-free for the wealthy hacendado.


In addition to the above-described types of
loans, there are also loans at interest for which
normally no security is offered. These loans
are usually made by persons within the village
and rarely exceed $100 in amount. Interest
is normally 10 percent per annum. In some
cases it is stipulated that the debt is to be can-
celed upon the death of the debtor. In other
instances the debt becomes a charge against
the estate of the debtor. If the possessions of
the debtor at death are insufficient to pay the
debt, it is not transmitted to his sons. How-
ever, according to Pedro Chavez, the sons prob-
ably would make every effort to pay such a debt
because of the strongly held belief that a person
dying with debts cannot rest in peace until the
debts are paid.
All transactions involving loans are in writ-
ing, although they are not registered at the

Some further insight into production prob-
lems may be gained by detailed studies of
specific activities. These data throw light
upon the relative profitability of such activities
and also provide information on income. Not
all activities are covered in the ensuing discus-
sion, nor are the data equally reliable in each
category. Such activities as witchcraft or
midwifery are not included; the labor factor in
beekeeping or fruit growing is impossible to
ascertain. An activity followed by only a few
individuals merits less attention than one fol-
lowed by many.
Not only is the treatment of topics uneven,
but the income data are subject to misinterpre-
tation. It must be emphasized that virtually
no one in Cherin, except a few "rich" farmers
or storekeepers, has only one occupation. Con-
sequently, any effort to establish annual income
on the basis of figures in this section would be
grossly misleading. Finally, it should be noted
that not all the activities discussed below are
productive. Because of the problem of income,.
I have considered a number of "service" occu-
pations in this section.

Maize.-Data on farm production were diffi-
cult to obtain. On no other subject is there so

much secrecy or misleading information given.
Three sources of information were used: (1)
Data from farmers about their own activities.
All this information is suspect, even after
eliminating obviously false answers. (2) Data
frdm Agustin Rangel, who was interested in
establishing himself as a farmer and probably
was a good and relatively unbiased observer.
(3) Observation of farm practices and partici-
pation in harvests on roughly measured fields.
Actual measurement of fields was undesirable
and would have caused trouble.
In table 1 are given the various data collected
on farm yields. The average of figures given
by farmers is about the top figure given by
Rangel for average land in a poor year. It is
slightly above the figure for the yield of aver-
age land in a poor year as secured by participa-
tion in the harvest. The cross checks suggest
the figures given by farmers are on the whole
plausible although probably low. The figures
given by any individual farmer, however, may
be quite incorrect. This should be borne in
mind throughout the discussion.
TABLE 1.-Estimates of maize yields. in Cherdn

Yield (per hectare) in-
Number of hectares Vl o c
cultivated Value of crop
Cargas Fanegas
2 ...................... 40 30 ........
10l....................... 180 135 ........
...... . . ..... 7 5 .......
.............. ....... 20 15 90-110
.................... .. 10 7 60- 70
W3 .................. ... 5 3 % 25
Y2....................... 010 M 65
43 (early-frost area)....... 3 2 15
4......................... 90 70 350-400
1..................... ........ 10 70 40
.. ... ...... 12 9 55
12 9 55
Average.............. ... 14% ....


Average yield per hectare
Type of land and year
Cargas Fanegas
Best land:

Average year.......... 40 30
Bad year.............. 15-25 11 -18%
Average land:
Average year....... .... 30 22
Bad year .............. 5-20 3 Y4-15
Poorland................. ..... 1
1 An exceptionally rich "joya," a fertile depression in the
mountains fertilized by drainage from surrounding slopes.
2This is a stupendous yield, if true, but the land is said to be
exceptionally located, with fertilization from adjoining slopes.
3 Data in this line are typical of information from owners. One
area given as 1/ hectare yields a crop to be expected of a full
hectare; on inspection, it proved to be nearly 3 hectares.


TABLE 1.-Estimates of maize yields in Cherdn-

Type of land Yield in fanegas Remarks
per hectare
Poor to average land........ 3 Maize badly damaged
by early frost.
Average land.............. 12 Maize slightly damaged
by frost.

In addition to securing data on yield, i.e.,
income, for maize, an effort was made to secure
data on production costs. General statements
as to the amount of time put in on farm work
proved worthless. Usually the time given
would scarcely provide for a single weeding.
The best figures were secured by breaking
down the different steps and getting exper-
ienced farmers to estimate the time necessary
for cultivating 1 hectare. A summary of such
data gives the following:
Labor of owner: Days
First plowing ............................. 10
Second plowing (at right angles).......... 10
Sowing................................... 3
First cultivation (with plow) ............... 4
Second cultivation (with plow) .............. 3
First weeding (with sickle or machete) ...... 3
Second weeding (often omitted) ............ 3
Harvest ................................... 1
Carrying maize to house (estimated average) 5

Total ............................... 42

Hired labor:
Sowing (2 peons) ......................... 3
Harvesting (3 peons) ...................... 1

Owner's labor (42 days valued at $0.45 a
day outside of planting and harvesting
time) ................................ $18.90
2 peons for 3 days ...................... 3.00
3 peons for 1 day. ...................... 1.50

Total ............................ $23.40
On the assumption that a man will own
sufficient land to require hired labor, the sum-
mary given above includes 9 man days of hired
labor at a cost of $4.50 or a total of 51 man days
of labor worth $23.40. To this must be added
$30 for hire of an ox team if one is not owned,
probably $1 in taxes, and $2.50 for the value of
the seed corn (one-half fanega), or a total of
$56.90. If this is about an average piece of land,
the yield will be 15 to 20 fanegas of shelled

maize, for which the farmer should receive from
$75 to $120, or a profit of $22.10 to $63.10.
From this, in theory, should be deducted interest
on the investment in land and equipment as well
as a depreciation allowance on the equipment.
If the land is worth $90 (above average), it
would seem fair to allow at least $11 for these
charges, which still leaves a profit of $11.10 to
As will be seen in later discussions, this
makes maize farming on average or better land
probably one of the most worth-while businesses
in Cherin. Obviously there are elements of
risk. Farmers on poor land, moreover, prob-
ably get no profits at all on this basis, for labor
and expenses would be reduced very little rela-
tive to reductions in yield. The second weed-
ing and part of the harvesting expenses might
be eliminated. But if the yield is as low as
11/2 fanegas (as has been reported) a man
would get virtually no return at all. If he had
his own ox team and did all his own work
(with the help of sons or his wife), he might
get $4 to $5 worth of maize for his effort after
deducting the costs of seed and taxes. From
the standpoint of our economy, there is obvious-
ly a very considerable net loss.
To view the agricultural situation in Cher6n
only from the standpoint of our economy, how-
ever, would be grossly misleading, for to do so
does not take into account numerous cultural
factors. The Cheran point of view does not
reckon agricultural activity in terms of interest,
profits, and wages, but in terms of maize in the
storage house. I have already mentioned that
harvest workers refused an increase in wages
from 50 centavos to $1 if the right to glean
were rescinded. Most observers agree that the
amount of maize obtained from gleaning in a
day is less than can be bought for 50 centavos.
At $1 the workman could therefore buy more
corn than his wife could obtain by gleaning.
The large farmers would get a more thorough
harvest and would not have to employ super-
visors. On a bookkeeping basis, everyone
would benefit. But the harvest hand would
not have a load of maize, small though it might
be, to carry home from a day's work; he would
have only an inedible silver peso in his pocket.
3 Charges for animals to carry the crop and for watchmen and
storage facilities are not included.


In the case of the farmer who slaves at pro-
ducing a scanty crop on submarginal land,
similar considerations are important. The
farmer does not count interest and wages; the
measure of his effort is maize in the storehouse
to feed his wife and children. It is useless to
point out that he could earn enough wages for
the same amount of labor to buy two or three
times as much maize as he can produce, for he
will not be convinced.
Even in the case of the average or somewhat
better than average case cited in detail, the
calculations made on the basis of our economic
viewpoints are relatively valueless. Profits, in-
terest, depreciation, and wages do not enter
into the farmer's calculation (with the excep-
tion of a few large farmers). Rather would
the typical farmer calculate that the maize
obtained in this case would, with a family of
not over five, feed the family for a year by
exercising due care. If he had two pieces,
each of a hectare or a little more in area, in two
locations to plant alternate years, he could
count with some security on feeding his family.
If, in addition, he had a bit of wheatland, he
would probably sell enough wheat to meet the
essential cash outlays for his family. Any in-
come from livestock, work in the forest, or as
a hired laborer would then go into essentially
luxury spending or savings to buy more land.
It is wheat that is a money crop, it should be
noted, and not maize. Only the wealthy sell
maize, and only the poor or improvident buy it.
In case maize is raised for sale on any scale,
however, the farmer encounters new market-
ing problems. The local market prefers yellow
maize, as does Mestizo Pur6pero. Uruapan,
on the other hand, prefers white maize, while
the Lake Pitzcuaro region desires pink, red, or
mixed color maize. As prices may vary in the
different major markets, the farmer's income
may be affected by the color of maize he has
From the statements given above it should
not be concluded that the idea of a return for
land ownership, i.e., a return upon the capital
investment, is lacking in Cherin. It exists,
but it is colored by the local attitudes. Thus,
farmers with more land than they can con-
veniently cultivate, storekeepers owning land,
and various others may rent land on a share-

cropping basis. The number of sharecroppers
in Cherin is unknown, but probably is con-
siderable. Small landowners often farm addi-
tional lands on this basis, and some fairly
prosperous families are sharecroppers.
The rental paid by sharecroppers is usually
one-half the crop. In the case of our average
hectare this would mean the owner received
71/2 to 10 fanegas of maize worth from $37.50
to $60.00. This might well be equal to more
than a 50 percent return on the investment in
land. As even the most exorbitant interest
rates on cash loans from banks would not ex-
ceed 15 percent, it would appear to be a very
good business to borrow money to buy land for
rental on a sharecropping basis. Yet such a
procedure, so far as could be discovered, is
seldom if ever followed. Moreover, persons
with money will lend on land as a security,
receiving only interest, instead of buying land
which would appear to offer a relatively larger
return. (But short-term loans are at a much
higher rate of interest.. See p. 63.)
A number of factors still have not been
treated in the foregoing discussion. It should
be observed that the hypothetical farmer could
still further decrease his cash outlay if he
owned his own ox team. Such-a team would
be worth from $100 to $120, depending on size.
Ownership of a team would save about $30 a
year in rental in cultivating a hectare. In
addition, there might be opportunities to rent
the team at $1 a day for perhaps 30 days to
work on maize lands and perhaps for another
30 days during the wheat season. As there
is less demand in the latter time, the rental
probably would be only 75 centavos a day.
The returns from rentals, however, would
possibly be $52.50 a year. If the saving of $30
for rentals on the farmer's own land were in-
cluded the investment in an ox team obviously
would be a very good one.
Ownership of livestock, however, involves the
problem of feed. Mostly the feed is secured
by cutting the.rastrojo or corn fodder. Wheat
straw is also fed. Part of the year animals
may be grazed on the common pastures.
Rarely, however, is enough feed produced, and
in a bad year there is always danger of losing
animals during the latter part of the dry sea-
son. Ownership of oxen also increases the


amount of labor. Not only must rastrojo be
cut, but the animals must be visited every 2 or
3 days while in pasture.
The question may be raised why horses or
mules have not replaced oxen to any extent.
Although horses or mules will do at least twice
the amount of work in a day, owing to their
greater speed and ability to work longer hours,
they do not thrive on the corn fodder, wheat
straw, and scanty pasturage. Grain feed is
also necessary, at least during the working sea-
son.' In general, horses and mules are more
delicate and require more attention, greater
skill, and better shelter. Finally, their initial
cost is greater and they cannot be slaughtered
for meat, as are oxen, when they have outlived
their usefulness as draft animals.
Wheat.-Although wheat is the primary cash
crop of Cheran, it is seldom grown on lands
which will produce good maize. Wheat is often
grown on inferior land, often on slopes, but
never on really bad lands. Farmers using
good land for wheat usually have a surplus of
maize lands.
The cultivation of wheat takes a little less
labor than does that of maize. Plowing is the
same or perhaps a little less (the second plow-
ing being shallower). Broadcasting of seed
and harrowing equate with maize planting,
but it is a one-man job and requires no oxen if
the farmer owns a burro. The primitive har-
vesting with a sickle would seem to call for
more labor, but estimates were fairly low. A
summary of estimates for cultivating a hectare
Labor: Days
First plowing .................... 10
Second plowing .................. 10
Sowing and harrowing............ 2 (or less)
Harvesting ....................... 4%1

Total labor .................. 26
Labor (26 days at $0.45, value) $11.92
Rent of oxen (20 days at $0.75,
value) ............... ........ 15.00
Taxes......................... 1.00
Seed .......................... 1.00

Total production costs...... $28.92
Interest on capital invest-
ment 11.00

Total cost of cultivation.... $39.92

The best wheatland produces about 2 cargas
of wheat per hectare; lands producing less than
11/2 cargas are seldom cultivated. The wheat
must then be threshed before sale, and this will
cost $2.50 a carga in the mill and about the
same if threshed by hand. The wheat will sell
at from $22 to $30 a carga, depending upon the
market ($26 in 1941).
The return in cash, then, is between $33
(11/2 cargas at $22) and $60 (2 cargas at $30).
The net profit in terms of our calculations would
vary between minus $10.67 and plus $15.08.
This figure does not count the labor of carrying
the wheat to the house and thence to the mill,
or winnowing; neither does it include the value
of the straw (used as feed). Again, however,
the Cheran farmer who received $33 for his
year's work on a hectare would count himself
relatively fortunate.
The return from wheat is less than the poten-
tial return from maize cultivation on average
land. In general, however, wheat is usually
grown on lands giving a poor maize yield.
Moreover, the demand for wheat appears to be
more stable, and in days when transport was
all on pack animals the greater value of wheat
per volume and weight made it much more
attractive as an export crop. The opening of
the highway may alter the situation, as it makes
bulk transportation of maize feasible. On the
other hand, the highway has opened up new
markets for wheat. Trucks from the large
flour mill at Morelia now come to buy wheat in
Cherin and even penetrate to mountain villages
such as Pichataro. Consequently, a much
wider market is available than the regional
mills that could be reached in a day or a little
more with burros. Of course, similar expan-
sion of markets is available to maize growers
and producers of other products. It is still too
early to predict the effects of improved com-
munications on the agriculture of Cherin, but
some additional considerations are discussed in
connection with trade.
Another way of disposing of wheat is to sell
it at a flour mill in a Mestizo town or convert
the wheat into flour and sell the flour. The
price paid at flour mills is about $4 a carga
above the Cherin price. Mills charge an 18
percent discount if the farmer chooses to have
his wheat milled. This covers waste, bad


wheat, and the milling charge. A carga pro-
duces about 14 arrobas, or about 250 pounds
of flour, of which the mill takes 21/2 arrobas, or
621/2 pounds. The farmer receives 1871/2
pounds of flour. Either of these procedures
involves the labor of transporting wheat to the
mill and, in case the farmer has no burros, the
rent of pack animals or trucking charges.
Mills are at Jacona (regarded as the best),
Pur6pero, Tanitaro, and Carapan.
Yet another way of disposing of wheat is to
grind it at home or in a nixtamal mill and bake
bread for sale in the market towns and at
fiestas. .Only relatively small quantities are
used in this way.
One agricultural activity for which few data
were obtained is fruit growing. No informa-
tion was secured on yields of trees or on labor.
The main labor cost is harvesting, usually done
by the family at a time when there is little
other agricultural activity. Fruit may be car-
ried to markets, or it may be sold to traders.
Another view of farming activity may be
gained by examining the income of individual
farmers. These data are probably somewhat
unreliable, for, as previously indicated, there is
a tendency to minimize wealth and income.
Table 2 summarizes the available information.
Case 1 is a school teacher .with a small
family who rents his land. Probably his share
in good years supplies most of his family re-
quirements of maize. Case 2 is a storekeeper
who also rents his land. In years when his
land lies fallow, he must have to buy a little

maize. Case 3 owns a store run by his chil-
dren, but he regards himself as a farmer by
preference. Even without his store, he would
be well off by Cheran standards, although not
a "rich man." In 1940 he produced nearly
enough maize for his family and sold over $300
worth of wheat. In 1941 he probably was
able to sell not less than 35 fanegas of maize
above his family's food needs (less if he raised
pigs or fattened beef for butchering). Case
4 is a widow. Her land is cultivated by a
nephew, but under what circumstances is not
known. If the nephew lives with her, the
amount of maize is a little inadequate; on the
other hand, if she lives alone, the quantity is
more than enough for one person.

It is virtually impossible to secure useful
data on labor costs or profits in relation to
animals. Under agriculture I have mentioned
some of the facts about oxen. No data were
collected on chicken raising; probably no one
in Cheran knows how much grain he feeds
chickens or how many eggs a year he gets.
Prices vary from 2 to 6 centavos per egg. The
situation about pigs is little better.
Virtually everyone keeps pigs; no one has
any idea of the total amount of grain fed
except during the fattening period. Shoats
have little value and are frequently given away.
Data on labor are lacking, yet the labor cost
cannot be negligible when the animal is being
fattened and its pen is cleaned frequently. A

TABLE 2.-Data on farm income
[Data for 1940, claimed; for 1941, estimated.]
Land cultivated Yield Value of crop' Total income for year
Case Combined
No. Number Number income for
of of Value Crop 1940 1941 1940 1941 1940 1941 1940-41
parcels hectares
12 2 2 $140 Maize 20 fanegas ...... ............... $100-140 .......... $100-140 ... 5.240
1 .......... ........ do ................ 10-15 fanegas... .......... 50-100 .......... 60-100 $150-240
22 1 4 350 Maize 35 fanegas...... ................ 175-200 .......... 175-200 .......... 175-200
1 Town lot ........ Pears 10-100's ........ 8-100's.... ... ............. ...........................
1 8 Wheat 17% cargas..... ............... a358-571
1 1 M aize 7% fanegas.... ............... 40 ......... 448-561 ..........
3 1 1 1,280 do 7 z fanegas.... ................ 40
1 Town lot Peaches 25-100's........ 25-100's .......... 10 10 ......... 733-1,231
1 5% Maize ............... 55-110 fanegas.. .......... 275-660 .......... 285-670
1 1 (Wheat 1 carga........ ............... 25 .
4. 1 120 Maize 9 fanegas.................... 55 ...... 135
Y1 do ................ 9 fanegas...... .......... 55 ........ 55

1 Values of fodder or wheat straw not included.
2Land rented; crop values represent owner's share (one-half).

8 Cost of threshing deducted.
4 Value not included in $1,280.


pig takes from 1 to 21/2 fanegas of maize to
fatten, valued at from $5 to $7. According to
size, the animal may bring from $30 to $75, a
gross profit on the fattening process of from
$12.50 to $70.00. This would be 5 to 7 pesos
less if the pig was bought. If an adequate
market were developed, or if sales and trans-
port facilities at a distance were to be devel-
oped, pig raising might be a more important
activity, although an increase in the number of
pigs would decrease the amount of foraging
possible and would require more feeding.
Sheep raising is engaged in by only a few.
The reliability of the major informants is sus-
pect, but the evidence suggests that sheep rais-
ing is profitable. The major expense is the
initial cost of the flock and the wages of a
shepherd. Sheep are worth $2.50 to $5.00
apiece. Shepherds' wages vary with the size of
the flock, but probably rarely exceed $20 a
month plus a fanega of maize and one sheep
for food; most shepherds receive considerably
less, often only $5 a month without food. Often
several small owners merge their flocks and
hire a single shepherd.
Income from sheep is mainly from wool and
payments to have the flocks bedded on farm
land. Sheep average a pound of wool a year
(this seems low but the sheep are of poor
quality), which sells for $1 to $1.25. A fair-
size flock of sheep would bring 50 centavos a
night for fertilizer. A few sheep are sold for
meat outside the village; almost no lamb or
mutton is eaten in CherAn. No data were se-
cured on prices. Mortality on sheep is high,
but again no usable data were obtainable.
A flock of 200 sheep studied represents an
investment of $750 in theory although it prob-
ably was built up by natural increase from a
smaller flock. The shepherd receives $20 a
month, 1 fanega of maize worth at least $5, and
a sheep worth, on an average, $3.75, or a total
of $28.75 a month ($345 a year). Wool would
produce $200 to $250 a year. Bedding on farm
lands would produce probably 50 centavos a
night for this flock for 110 days (estimated)
or $55. Total income from these sources would
be $255 to $305 a year. The natural increase
may safely be assumed to be 75 head. Sold at
$2.50 apiece, they would bring in $187.50 a

year, or a total of $442.50 to $492.50 a year.
Deducting expenses of $345 leaves a return
on the investment of $107.50 to $147.50. As
indicated before, these figures are suspect.
The owner of this flock is not believed to be
very truthful on financial matters. For exam-
ple, he claimed to own 20 sheep; Augustin
Rangel said he had over 200. He is, though,
a hard-headed storekeeper and farmer who
would not keep sheep if they were not profit-
able. The most suspect item in the calculations
is the amount of wool per sheep.
The evaluation of the role of the burro is as
difficult as in the case of oxen. Burros reduce
the cost of numerous operations by saving the
rental of animals, they facilitate such tasks as
bringing in wood (which otherwise would be
carried in by the woodcutter rather than on
rented animals), and they may be rented.
Burros involve little investment-$30 to $40-
but they do require attention while in pasture
and the provision of feed when kept at home.
Although burros not in use are often lent, they
sometimes are rented. Information on rentals
is contradictory; at the harvest season, when
demand is highest, rentals are probably about
50 centavos a day plus feed for the animals.
The ensuing topics are dealt with in summary
form .to bring out the essential factors of
capital, labor costs, cost of materials, and
Shake making:
Ax, wedges, machete, splitting tool
/2 irepita (an irepita, or bundle, is 400)
a day at. .............. ........ ...$5.00
Profits (return on labor, less interest on
capital, etc.) .......................... $2.50
Comment: Shake making is a well-paying occupa-
tion, but profits are less than the data above suggest.
Shakes are made either only to order or are sold in
Uruapan.or some other Mestizo center. In the latter
case the man may work regularly, but must spend 1 or
2 days a week taking his product to market. Neither
does the estimated result for a day's labor include the
time spent searching for a suitable tree. Usually only
a 5-day week or less is worked and the season is con-
fined to the rainy period. As a result, shake makers
must shift to other work, such as plank making, tie
cutting, farming, etc. The term "profits" is loosely used
throughout, as wages are often included.


Plank making:
Oak mallet
Oak wedges
Two-handled saw
Haulage (ox team, horse, or even burros)
Forest use tax (now 10 pesos for membership
in cooperative)
Production (with good workmen):
3 dozen planks per week
Gross profits:
$0.85 to 1.25 per day per person
Comment: Sawing planks requires two men, hence
work is done by teams. The gross profits probably are
very nearly all net, as deterioration of equipment is
slight. Maintaining an average income of the larger
size indicated would require 6 long work days a week
for the most skilled workers.
Firewood cutting:
Some men at times cut firewood for sale. A burro
load brings $0.25 to $0.30.
Tie cutting:
Data on this subject seem unreliable and are
Charcoal burning:
Beyond the fact that charcoal burners work a 5-day
week, no economic data were secured. The little char-
coal used in Cherin is sold at 21/ to 3 centavos a kilo
Mallet, saw, chisels, hammer, ax, adz, plane;
value about $20-$30
Products, labor, value:
As each carpenter's job is unique, only a series
of cases can be given, as follows:
(a) Large door takes 4 days (10 to 12 hours daily),
lumber cost $4, selling price $17, gross profit $13,
daily return (not allowing for interest on capital,
etc.) $4.25.
(b) Average door takes 4 days (6 to 7 hours daily)
lumber cost $4, selling price $12, gross profit $8,
daily return $2.
(c) Average door takes 6 days (but this carpenter
has rheumatism and cannot work steadily), selling
price $5 a door if lumber is furnished, daily return
less than $1.
(d) House building or house moving, $1.50 daily (if
done under contract, as usual).
Comment: As only carpenters with other members
in the family to get wood, do chores, look after animals,
etc. can work more than 6 or 7 hours a day, probably
$2 a day is top income. Moreover, as work is not steady
and as all seem eager to take house building or house
moving jobs at $1.50, it may be assumed that average
wages the year around are less than $1.50.

Wood turning:
Chocolate beaters
Cost of materials:
No data; the small quantity of madrofia
wood used is probably a minor factor.
About 25 to 30 beaters are made in a day's
work. Sale price at 50 centavos per
dozen. ................... ... $1-$1.25
Comment: Considering the costs of materials and the
time involved in selling the product, returns for labor
probably are under $1 a day. Only one man in Cherin
follows this trade.

Brickmaking and tilemaking:
Labor (per 1,000 tile or brick):
Getting and mixing clay.............. 2
Cutting and hauling wood............. 1
Shaping... ............... ........... 5
Loading kiln ......................... 1

Total ........................ 9
Other costs (in kind):
Rent of building and right to dig clay on
public lands (paid to municipio), 10 per-
cent of product value:
Tile, per 1,000 ................. $3.00
Brick, per 1,000. ............... 3.20
Sales prices:
Tile, per 1,000. ................. $30
Brick, per 1,000. .. ................ 32
Gross profit, tile, per 1,000............ 27
Daily profit per worker............... 3
Comment: While brick bring a slightly higher price,
there is a greater loss in firing. Consequently, profits
are about the same as for tile. The demand for brick
or tile is not sufficient to employ two men full time.
The wage return is hence misleading, indicating what
might be possible if demand provided steady labor.
The fact that both tilemakers took jobs on highway
construction crews whenever possible at $1 a day sug-
gests that income over a long period of time is much
less than is indicated. On the other hand, the tile-
makers probably average a higher annual income than
do unskilled landless farm laborers in Cherin.
Trowel ("cuchara")
Short shovel
%-pound iron mallet ("marro," maso)
2-pound sledge with pointed ends ("picadera")


Less than 1 meter to nearly 2 meters a day
From 80 centavos a meter to $1.25; about
$1 a meter seemed most common
Average return:
From 80 centavos to $1.50 seems common
,Comment: Essentially the mason's wage is clear
profit. Replacement of tools is undoubtedly a minor
factor. Attractive as the wage is, a mason is idle
much of the time. It is doubtful if masons earn enough
to live on without also farming or working as laborers.
Some masons are also butchers, plasterers, or tejamanil

2-pound iron mallet
Calipers (value unknown)
Nixtamil grinding stones (pair) .... 3 days
Door bases (pair) ................. 1 week
Sales price (gross profit):
Nixtamal grinding stones (pair) ...... $9
Door bases and sills (each)............ 10

Comment: The figures suggest a $3 a day gross
income, but stonecutters work only to order and do not
work regularly.

Tule mats:
Tules at Erongaricuaro, per bundle .... $0.25
Rent of burro, 3 days ................. 1.00
Total cost of 10 bundles of tules (1 burro
load) ............................ ... 3.50

Labor: Days
Getting tules ........................... 3
W leaving 13 mats ....................... 6%
Selling mats ................... ..... .2 -3
Average total time ................... .. 12

Sales price at 60 centavos each .............. $7.80
Gross profit .............................. 4.30
Daily profit per worker................ .35 plus

Comment: Except for one woman, mat making is a
side line and only one a day is woven. The figures
given above represent the single case where a woman
spends all her time at mat weaving. Actually, this
woman has a slightly higher income, as her mother buys
the tules. On the other hand, two people are sup-
ported by the work, for the weaver has to rely on the
mother to perform most of the household duties.

Cost of materials:
Braid, 3 to 4 bundles at $0.30 to $0.40
................... ......... $0.90-$1.60
Thread, per hat. ................ .15
Sizing materials for white hats..... Unknown
Total..................... 1.05-1.75 (?)
Labor, per hat ........ 3-9 hours (approximately)
Selling price, per hat.................. $1.25-4.00
Gross profit, per hat.................. $0.20-2.10
Return for labor, per hour.. .$0.062/-0.23 plus (?)
Return for labor, per day.............. $0.60-2.10
Comment: The apparently wide range of returns
for labor is misleading. Few men could work 9 hours
a day every day, owing to the need of getting firewood,
repairing the house, caring for farm lands, etc. The
more expensive hats, giving a much larger return,
require much more skill and are in very slight demand.
Ordinarily they are made only on order.
In addition, hatmaking requires a large capital in-
vestment. A sewing machine of the type required costs
$40 to $50 second-hand, or rents at $10 a month. Hat
blocks last indefinitely, but do involve initial outlay.
Metal eyelets also must be provided for the ventilating
holes. If depreciation, interest on investment, and
minor expenses not calculated were taken into account,
the income of the average hatmaker would shrink still
When it is considered that two skillful hatmakers
claim only 1 dozen hats apiece a week, obviously the
returns must not greatly exceed those for ordinary field
labor. Only men who consistently produce and sell
hats above the $1.25 price gain real economic advantage
from their trade as compared with other activities.
On the other hand, if the trade is a supplement to
farming and is followed at times when similarly
situated farmers are at leisure, then they realize a very
positive economic gain.

Embroidery, crochet, and drawn work:
Materials, thread from stores, cloth
(estim ated) ....................
Labor (part time) ................
Selling price .....................
Gross profit ......................
Return for labor, per week........
Return for labor, per day..........

1-3 weeks
$0.40-$ 0.50

Comment: For part-time work, the daily return
seems, and probably is, high. In most cases the cost
of materials is probably higher than the estimate.

Blanket weaving:
Equipment :
Cards, life 3 years, ................... $8.00
Spinning wheel, life indefinite........ 12.00
Loom, life indefinite. .................. ?
1 Spinning wheel and loom might be made by almost any man
with moderate skill in woodworking. Weavers usually make their
own looms.


Cost for 6-pound blanket:
Wool, 9 pounds (varying with year and
season). ....................... $11.25
Labor: Days
Purchase of wool ....................... 1
Cleaning and washing, actual labor
(covering 2 or 3 days' time).......... 1
Carding .............................. 2
Spinning.............................. 2
W leaving ............................... 2

Total ............................ 8

Asking price ....................... $25.00
Average sales price................. 20.00
Gross profit ........................ 8.75
Return for labor per day............ 1.09 plus
Return per day for total days spent on
part-time basis .................. .58 plus

Comment: Although involving only 8 days' actual
labor, the work would be spread over about 15 days.
Weavers usually would have to take 1 or 2 whole days
off to get wood and some days or parts of days when
the weather might be unpleasant. In addition, repairs
to equipment and houses must be made, perhaps an
animal must be looked after, and so on.
Belt weaving:
Loom, home-made
Materials, thread and yarn.......... ?
Labor, part time .................. 2 days
Asking price ....................... $1.25
Actual selling price.................. 1.00
Gross profit, estimated ............... .80-.90
Daily labor return (part time, probably
5-6 hours) ....................... .40-.45

Clothing manufacture:
Capital investment:
Sewing machine .............. $40.00-150.00
Materials (for work on order) ......... None
Returns per day (from various workers'
statements) ...................... $0.75-$1.30

Comment: Most workers, especially men, are part-
time operators; many work only on order, when daily
income for elaborate garments may be much higher.
Income figures are hence misleading, as they are based
on steady work on low-priced garments.
Clothing made for exchange at weddings usually is
only single-stitched; regular clothing is double-stitched.
Prices for sewing men's cotton trousers vary from 10 to
15 centavos for single stitching and 15 or 25 centavos
for double stitching. Men's shirts vary in cost from
25 to 40 centavos (or more for fancy rayon shirts).
Women's aprons cost 12 centavos.

Some persons make and sell finished garments.
Men's trousers or blouses require about 21/2 meters of
material, at an average cost of about 30 centavos a
meter. One woman specializes in children's garments.
She claims to make 3 to 4 dozen children's garments a
week, selling them at 80 centavos to $2.50 apiece (in-
cluding materials). Her profits vary. A child's rayon
dress requiring $1.50 worth of material she sold for
$1.75, while for a cotton dress requiring $0.40 worth of
material she charged $0.80.
All fitted or tailored garments, which are growing in
popularity, are imported. A widely heard comment was
that anyone in Cherin who could make and fit gar-
ments, especially men's shirts, would make great profits.
Cost of wax (per kilo) ..............
Sales of candles from 1 kilo of wax $2.25-$2.50
Possible profit (excluding labor and
equipment) ....................... $0.50-$1.00
Rope making (horsehair):
Horsehair $0.50 per kilo................ $0.37/2
Labor .............................. 1 day
Sale price ............................. $1.50
Gross profit per day. ................... $1.12%
Comment: Only one man was found who made ropes.
No data were secured on agave fiber ropes made by the
same man, nor on the time taken in marketing and
securing raw materials. As all the equipment is home-
made and very little capital is needed, the gross profit
probably is close to net profit except for the factors
Sewing machine ................. $55.00
L asts .............................. ?
K nives............. ............ ?
1 cheap pair of shoes per day is produced by a
shoemaker and 2 unpaid apprentices
Value of product (per pair) .......... $3.00-7.00
Estimated gross income:
Per day ..................... 1.50
Per pair of shoes................ 1.50-3.50
Comment: No clear picture of the economics of this
industry was secured. The selection and purchase of
hides involves knowledge of tanning, size, and quality
of the hide. Guarache makers apparently earn as
little as 20 centavos a day, but there are no full-time
professionals in town. All local manufacturers make
guaraches to order and in claiming they make only one
pair a day, they probably mean they do not attempt to
make more than one pair a day.
Charge per cowhide................ $5.00-$10.00
Charge per sheepskin............... .50
Average daily return............... 1.25


Comment: The average daily return is an estimate,
based on the assumption the tanner is busy all the
time. The only full-time tanner buys hides, tans them
on his own account, and sells them outside the village
when he is not occupied with commissions. Con-
sequently, his income is probably fairly steady.
Weekly income about $5
Comment: Only one woman lacquer worker is found
in Cherin. Her entire output is sold locally. The
figure given is her estimate of her weekly income.
Some of the lacquer materials are fairly expensive and
the wooden trays used as a base must be purchased.
Probably net income is much less than $5 weekly. The
main lacquer industry is in Uruapan and is mostly in
the hands of Mestizos.

Bakers (commercial) :
Cost of materials (per week):
Flour, 1 arroba (25 pounds) .... $3.50-$3.62
Lard, 1 kilo.................... 1.50
Sugar, 3 kilos................... 1.08

Total ........... .......... $6.08-$6.20

No precise data; baking per week,
usually ......................... 3

Gross returns per week,
estimated .................. $10.00-$12.00
(Estimated after deducting any
rental costs for use of oven) .. $3.80-$5.92

Comment: Sustained sales at the reported levels
would produce slightly better than average wages.
Despite the lack of definite data on hours of labor, a
baker certainly works fewer hours and less strenuously
than a laborer. Much time is probably consumed in
selling; this may be done by a wife in the case of pro-
fessional male bakers. Selling time is not included in
the estimates. It should be remembered that a number
of women bake occasionally; some bake regularly for
the Sunday market in Paracho.

Bakers (home) :
Aside from the professional baker of pan dulce
recently established in the village and from whom no
satisfactory information could be secured, there are a
number of women who bake bread. Salt rising bread
(pan de sal) is sold at two for 5 and one for 5 centavos,
depending on size. If pan dulce is made, it sells at 1
certavo or at three for 5 centavos, depending on size.
In most cases the baker owns her oven, but in some
cases an oven is rented. The rental is usually one
bread for each "board" (on which the bread is placed
to rise).

Threshing machine:
Woodburning steam-driven threshing machine.
Cost unknown, but probably several thou-

sand pesos.
Charges for wheat threshing (a carga)...
Capacity daily ...................... 12
Income daily ..........................

Operating expenses (daily):
Wood ......................... ..
H ired labor ..................... .
W ater carrier ................... .

Total............ .............




Operating season (June 20 to Oct. 25,
period worked in 1940 estimated) : Days
June................... .............. 8
July ................................ 25
A ugust................................ 25
September ............................ 20
October............................ .. 15

T otal ............................. 93
Total business (1,116 cargas, estimated, at
$2.50 a carga) ....................... $2,790
Net profit annually before deducting re-
pairs, wages for owner, interest and
depreciation, approximately ............ $2,365
Comment: Probably the threshing machine has the
largest peso volume of business of any enterprise in
Cheran, although one of the nixtamal mills probably is
a close second. The threshing machine also represents
the greatest capital investment except for some indivi-
dual investments in real estate. High repair costs
probably reduce the true net profit considerably, while
depreciation in this case cannot be ignored. Add to
this the time and skill required of the owner, and it is
probable that this is not the most profitable enterprise
in town even though it be the largest. Certainly, other
families of farmers or combination farmers and store-
keepers show more outward signs of prosperity.
Nixtamal mills:

Cost of equipment .............
Costs daily:
Gasoline and oil
for gas engines.........
Charcoal for producer gas
equipped engines .......
Labor, 1 man.............
Gross income at 1 centavo per
kilo of maize ground (daily)
Net income (daily) ............





Comment: Mills work only half time; i.e., by agree-
ment only half the mills operate any one day, so net
income should be halved. Even so, this gives a sizable
income, but probably the life of the equipment is short.
Cost of repairs and the replacement of grinding stones


not included.
d, when not
suitable for
e shipped in
make crates
r sales were

($9 every few weeks) is also an item
Some engines are equipped to saw wooi
driving mills; pine logs are cut in lengths
splitting into box lumber. The blocks ar
trucks to Uruapan, where they are split to
for shipping fruit. No data on costs or
secured on this minor business.

W eekdays ..................
Shaves .........................

Number of "jobs" daily:
Except Saturday ..............
Saturday............. .......

Income (a week). ..................

Comment: Average income is probably
a day. One of the two full-time barber
smallest income) supplements this by c
One barber works only on Sundays and n
during the week.

For 2-day fiesta ................
For wedding ..................

Number of engagements (individual
(a) 6 fiestas, 15 weddings, in 9
(b) 5 fiestas, 5 weddings, period
unknown .....................
(c) 10 fiestas in 1 year.........
Comment: The musicians obviously do
living from music. All have other source
some are farmers, storekeepers, barbers, el
Painters, plasterers:
Daily wage .................. .

Comment: Painters and plasterers have only occa-
sional demands for their skills. Only a few stone or
adobe houses are plastered, and fewer still are painted.
Most jobs are by contract.
Billiard parlors:
Equipment ....................... $1,500-$1,700
Rent (monthly) .......... ...... 10-20
Charge per game ................ .05

Comment: No estimate of the amount of business
was received. It is evident, though, that the enterprise
is profitable, to judge by dress and other characteristics
of the owners.

Prices paid for beeves on hoof ........ $80-$150
Prices reported paid at wholesale for
beef weighing:

15 arrobas (375 pounds)......... $90
14 arrobas (350 pounds) ......... 65
16 arrobas (400 pounds)......... 92
Retail price (per kilo) ................ .70
Gross profit on beef (per kilo) ............ .40-.45
Price of pigs .................... 30.00 and up
Gross profit, per week................. 7.00-8.00
Gross profit, per pig. ................. 3.50-8.00

Comment: Returns to butchers are slight on the
basis of meat sales. Generally the profit consists of:
$0.15 (a) Meat for the family at no cost, and (b) sale of
.20 the hide, usually for $10.00. Most butchers handle beef
..10-.15 only, but one who specializes on pork, butchering one
or two a week, claimed a profit of 7 or 8 pesos. An
item unaccounted for in the figures for beef is a tax of
4-8 $5.00 on each animal killed. It is also widely believed
10-15 that some butchers deal in stolen cattle at a consider-
able profit. Few butchers lack other sources of income,
$6.00-$7.50 however, which argues against great profits. Butcher-
under $1.00 ing also varies in profitableness at various seasons;
s (with the when cheese is abundant the demand for meat falls off,
ard playing. and the butcher may have to dry part of his meat and
nakes shakes sell it at a lower price.
Field watchers:
In maize ..................... 1 row in 30
..... $10 Average income for 6 weeks to 2 months (cash
2 .value of maize).................. $60-$65
Comment: Field watchers (veladores) must be men
cases): of good reputation. Usually they watch 20 to 25
months 90 pieces of land. Although wages seem high-$1 a day
or more-the work is seasonal and involves staying day
...... 60 and night in the fields.
....... 100
Water carrying:
not make a Charge for two 25-liter cans............... $0.06
s of income;
tc. Comment: Only one man engages in this work
regularly. He works fairly steadily, but no data were
secured on his income. Presumably it is as good or
S$1.75-2.50 better than he could earn as a laborer.

12 hives produced:
15 liters of honey at $0.60..... $ 9.00
3-4 kilos of wax at $2.25-$2.50 6.70-10.00

1 kilo makes 10-centavo candles
w orth ......................
3-4 kilos make 10-centavo candles
w orth ......................
Potential income from 12 hives if
owner makes candles............

3.00- 3.25



Comment: In all cases bees are kept as a profitable,
but not extremely important, sideline to other activitps.
Fireworks making:
Figures from the one fireworks maker in Cherin
proved inconsistent upon analysis. The following facts
seem reasonable.


Materials and prices: Per kilo
N itrate.............................. $1.70
Chlorate.............. .......... .. 5.00
Sulfur................. ....... ... ... 80
Fiber string ........................ 1.00
Shakes, cane, etc.................. Nominal
(Shakes are $5 a bundle of 400, but the
number used is small; 3 or 4 per dozen
cohetes, for example.)
Comment: Cohetes are made to order and sell at
$3.00 to $4.00 per dozen. Castillos or set pieces are
done on contract. Gross income from this source was
at least $400 in 1940. Between times cohetes were
made fairly steadily. Probably the fireworks maker's
income is above average.
The problem of distribution affects primarily
those goods which are exported from Cherin
and those things which are imported. Only a
small fraction of the materials produced locally
are sold locally; in the main each family pro-
duces the local products it consumes and sells
its surplus for export.
The export goods of Cheran consist almost
wholly of forest products and farm products.
The first are usually sold on contract or are
transported by the producer to market. Rail-
road ties, for example, are always cut on con-
tract. Charcoal is mostly sold to dealers from
Zacapu and is delivered to the nearest spot
where it can be picked up by trucks. However,
there is some small local sale, mostly for opera-
tion of producer gas generators for nixtamal
mills, and a little is carried on burros to such a
town as Uruapan. Similarly, planks and beams
are mainly sold, either to dealers who pick
them up in trucks for .export or locally on con-
tract to someone building a house. In towns
close to Uruapan, Zamora, or other centers,
much of the sale of such products as charcoal,
planks, and beams is direct, the maker carrying
the goods to town on market day.
The major exception to the marketing
methods for forest products described above is
tejamanil, or shakes. For the local market,
the shake maker usually works on order. For
the export market he usually takes his product
on burros to some nearby Mestizo town. These
expeditions may be combined with other trad-
ing operations. Thus, shakes may be taken to
Turetan via Nahuatzen, Tingambato, and Zira-
cuaretiro, a full-day trip with burros from 5

a. m. to 8 or 9 p. m. As Turetan is considered
the source of the best bananas in the region, a
return load of bananas frequently is purchased.
Tejamanil may also be taken to Uruapan,
Zamora, or Zacapu.
Marketing of farm produce follows several
patterns. Bulk crops, such as maize and wheat,
are today sold mainly to dealers who come to
town with trucks to carry off their purchases.
Maize and wheat are sold as far away as
Morelia. While large farmers may sell quan-
tities directly to such dealers, the storekeepers
also play a considerable part by their purchases
of small quantities of corn or wheat. Most of
the purchases in this case are of one or two
almuds at a time when the family happens to
need a few centavos. Nevertheless, some wheat
is carried to the mills by the owner on burro
back, and corn may be taken to one of the
larger markets. Individual small-scale buyers
also occasionally visit the town, mainly to pur-
chase eggs, chickens, or even small pigs. To-
day they arrive by bus, as a rule, and put in the
day going from house to house, generally taking
their purchases to Uruapan for sale.
Some local vegetables and fruit are also taken
for sale to Paracho or, more rarely, to Uruapan.
Bread, atole, or tamales may also be carried to
market by the women. The most important
fruit export, pears, is often carried consider-
able distances into Colima or into Guerrero.
Sometimes the owner will carry his own pears,
but more frequently a regular trader or viajero
will buy the fruit. Other exported fruits in-
clude tejecote, cherries, apples, and quinces.
Another aspect of distribution, naturally,
is concerned with the supplying of imported
goods to the inhabitants of CherAn. Prac-
tically all manufactured goods used in the
village are imported. This applies not only
to machine products but to household indus-
tries as well, for the specialists of Cherin
in no field supply all the local demand. Three
principal agencies of distribution exist: First
are the stores, specializing primarily in machine
products; second, are the local markets, al-
though for everything but foodstuffs the princi-
pal occasions are when fiestas occur; third,
are the arrieros or viajeros, the traveling
traders of Cheran who bring back products
from as far away as the Balsas Basin in Guer-


rero or even from the Pacific Ocean. Even
men who are not regular traders will go on
local market. Finally, it should be noted that
individuals often visit markets, especially those
in Paracho or during fiestas at nearby towns,
and make purchases of needed goods. Espe-
cially since the highway has brought bus service
to the town, for important purchases a man
may even go to Uruapan. It is not uncommon
for well-to-do men, for example, to have gar-
ments-made to order by the tailors in Uruapan.
It is impossible to compile from present data
a complete list of the products imported into
Cheran. The list extends from chile and beans
to horses and sewing machines. Many articles
are available only on special occasions. For
example, the almost universally used type of
water jar in Cheran is made only in Patamban,
and is offered for sale only on the occasion of
the fiesta of the patron saint in October. House-
holders must anticipate their yearly needs of
these fragile (but quite long-lived) articles at
this time; otherwise they are forced to attend
a fiesta in some other town and pick up a differ-
ent plain style of jar made in Uruapan or La
Nearly all goods sold in the stores are im-
ported (except occasional local products such
as clothing). A considerable list of these goods
is given in the discussion of price (p. 88).
Tarascan products imported include fish and
tules from the Lake area; hat braid of palm
straw, chairs, tables, beds, and various wooden
objects from Paracho; pottery from Santa Fe,
Quiroga, Patamban, La Cafiada, and the "hot
country," or tierra caliente (the last is non-
Tarascan); axes from Tingambato; knives,
machetes, plow points, and jewelry from Na-
huatzen; oils, garlic, spices, and vegetables from
Zacapu and the Lake region; rebozos and cloth
from Paracho, Nahuatzen, and elsewhere; pigs
from La Cafiada; beans from the Lake region;
chiles from various places; and a variety of
fruits. The latter include bananas, coconuts
(from non-Tarascan sources), sweet and sour
lemons, oranges, guavas, mameys, plums,
mangoes, watermelons, cantaloups, avocados,
zapotes of all sorts, and cherimoyas.
From non-Tarascan sources, but still outside
the more conventional commercial channels, are

to be mentioned pottery from Guanajuato (and
even from Oaxaca), dried meat from tierra
caliente, cattle, and horses. Machinery and
tools made in industrial establishments include
axes, saws, hoes, hatchets, plow points, engines
(for nixtamal mills), sewing machines, flat
irons, and, quite rarely, radios, phonographs,
typewriters, and trucks. The functioning of
the principal distributive agencies will now be
examined in some detail.
A fair number of men in Cheran who engage
in trade are known as arrieros or viajeros.
Whether there is any distinction between the
two is uncertain. The impression received-
and it is no more than an impression-is that
originally the arrieros traveled to distant places
outside of Tarascan territory, while the viajeros
traded among the local villages. At present
the two terms seem to be used as synonyms.
In the town voting register a number of men
are listed as arrieros. Nevertheless, so far as
could be learned, none of them dedicates all his
time to trade. At the same time, there were
numerous other men listed as farmers or labor-
ers, yet who make fairly regular trading trips.
The main distinction seems to be that a man
listed as an arriero ordinarily makes about
three long trips a year, while other men may
make only one. Some men who make fairly
regular short trips are not listed as traders.
For example, one man who carries palm leaves
regularly to the Paracho market is not included.
The main season for trading is from late
fall until June, that is, the dry season. The
principal routes followed for long trips are to
Guerrero, Coalcomdn, and Colima. A good
many shorter trips may be taken to local fiestas,
especially the great fiesta and market at San
Juan Parangaricutiro. In addition, some men
go to Guadalajara and Celaya for goods to car-
ry to Guerrero. Finally, a long trip usually
involves a number of short local trips around
Cherin, either to purchase goods for transport
to the tierra caliente or to dispose of merchan-
dise brought back.
The arrieros are all men, with a single ex-
ception (reported but not seen). Wives, how-
ever, frequently accompany their husbands.
Sickness is the greatest hazard. Women are


believed to be more resistant to the illnesses of
tierra caliente, and tales are told of women who
saved their husbands by nursing them or by
bringing them back to the healthful highlands.
For this reason, traders rarely go alone, al-
though large parties are rare. The major
disease appears to be malaria. Insects, espe-
cially one attacking the feet, are mentioned as
a great bother.
Robbers are also a source of danger; how-
ever, the most traveled route-that to Guerrero
-is said to be entirely safe. Some of the
greatest dangers on the route to Coalcomin or
Colima seem to have been in Tarascan territory.
The village of Capacuaro had a particularly
evil reputation at one time.
Goods are ordinarily transported by burros.
A poor man may have to carry goods on his
back. The arrieros never ride except when
seriously ill. An exception is that journeys to
Celaya are made on the train, while nearby
trips may sometimes be made by bus since
construction of the highway.
The first step in a trading expedition is the
assembling of goods for the trip. These may
consist of pears from Cherin; apples from
Pichataro; wooden products tornillolo") from
Paracho; sweetpotatoes from San Francisco;
fine pottery (not cooking ware) from La
Cafiada, Guadalajara, or Quiroga; oils and
spices from Pitzcuaro; dolls, pottery, and other
goods from Celaya. Most of the goods carried
by Cheran traders, however, are local in origin,
i.e., within the Tarascan area. In such cases,
trade goods either are assembled by one or
more short preliminary purchasing trips or
are bought en route. Guadalajara pottery re-
quires a 7- or 8-day trip each way with burros.
Celaya goods, as stated, involve a trip by train.
On the return trip various products are
brought. From Guerrero come dried fish, dried
beef, gourds, gourd containers, coconuts, and
cheese, the last being most important. Few
data were obtained on the products brought
from Coalcoman, as few Cheran traders make
this trip, but cheese and dried beef are prob-
ably the most important items. However, the
one trader to give specific information bought
beeswax. Chiles are brought from Colima.
Generally the goods brought back are not
sold until Cherin is reached. Then they are

sold locally (usually a minor part) or taken to
the weekly Paracho market or to fiestas in
nearby towns. Often goods are kept some
weeks if there is a prospect of a scarcity devel-
oping, or an important fiesta is scheduled.
The majority of the long trips are to Guer-
rero, usually to Petatlan, where the fiesta of
Holy Week attracts the greatest number of
Cheran traders. The length of the trip taken
depends to some extent on the rapidity with
which goods are sold; once stocks are ex-
hausted, traders turn back. One trader re-
ported having reached Acapulco on one of his
Some typical trips follow:
M. F. goes on Sunday to Paracho, where he
awaits his trading partner from another town.
Monday the two go to San Francisco and buy
sweetpotatoes. Thursday they arrive in Tepic
(Colima) and sell the sweetpotatoes. Friday
they go to Guajuya (Jalisco) and buy chiles.
Monday they return to Tepic and Saturday
M. F. reaches Cheran. The trip involves 12
days' traveling and 2 days' resting, buying,
and selling.
The schedule in detail is as follows:
Sunday ....................... Paracho
Monday .................. San Francisco
Tuesday ........................ Periban
Wednesday ................. Buena Vista
Thursday ........................ Tepic
Friday ........................ Guajuya
Monday ........................ Tepic
Tuesday ................... Buena Vista
Wednesday ..................... Periban
Thursday ................. San Francisco
Friday ....................... Paracho
Saturday ...................... Cherin
Some traders go to Colima proper by way of
Zaragoza, but details were not obtained. It is
17 days' travel each way.
M. F. also goes to Coalcoman, carrying pot-
tery from La Cafiada which he buys in Cherin
or Paracho. The route is the same as far as
Tepic. Thence he stops at Obreg6n, Las
Parotas, and Coalcomin. The round trip takes
3 weeks, of which 18 days are spent in traveling.
On his trips to Petatlin, Guerrero, M. F.
buys wooden toys from Paracho and pottery
from Santo Tomas. Starting on a Thursday,
he goes to Pichataro. On Friday (market day)
he is in Patzcuaro and buys garlic, oils, and


spices (marjoram, pincente, etc.) The trip to
Petatlan takes a total of 18 days (see itinerary
below); San Ger6nimo is 5 days farther. A
round trip usually takes about 6 weeks.
J. G. also leaves on a Thursday. Leaving his
burro at Patzcuaro, he goes to Quiroga to buy
pottery (probably on the bus, as he does not
take his burros). Returning to Pitzcuaro, on
one trip he bought 500 strings of garlic, 15
liters of oils at $1.50 a liter '(salad oil, olive oil,
aceites de razar, malza mantequilla, canaldo,
mastral, and verbena), and spices (pimiente,
rosemary, mandruje, flor de azalco, and manza-
nilla boraja), and 21/2 dozen wooden spoons of
assorted sizes.
At Paso de la Vaca, J. G. began to sell a
little, but only enough to buy food (he had run
out of money). His itinerary is similar to that
of M. F., but he made one more stop. On his
return he loaded one burro with dried meat
and rode the other because he was sick. For
the same reason he spent 8 days at one place.
The two itineraries follow:
Arrive M. F. J. G.
Pichataro............. Thursday...... Thursday
Pitzcuaro ............. .Friday ........ Friday
Santa Clara........... Saturday...... Saturday
Ario de Rosales........ Sunday........ Sunday
Alinonzita ............. Monday ...... ..............
Corral de Piedras .................. .Monday
Cayaco................ Tuesday .... .. Tuesday
Guadaloupe ........... Wednesday .... Wednesday
Rio de las Balsas...... Thursday...... Thursday
Paso de las Vacas..... .Friday ........ Friday
(began to sell)
Lim6n................ Saturday ......
(began to sell)
Zopilote. ..............................Saturday
Tepehuaje........... Sunday........ Sunday
Colmenaros ............ Monday....... Monday
La Uni6n ............. Tuesday ....... Tuesday
La Onia (close to
Pacific from here on) .Wednesday .... Wednesday
Pantla.................Thursday ..... Thursday
Puerto Sijuatanejo..... Friday........ Friday
Cuicuayul .............................. Saturday
San Geronimito........ Saturday...... Sunday

San Ger6nimo is 5 days' traveling beyond
Petatlan; Acapulco is 6 days' traveling from
San Ger6nimo.
Another example is C. S. C. who makes only
one trip a year, a visit to Holy Week in
Petatlan, Guerrero. He carries woodwork from

Paracho and brings back coconuts and dried
meat. He normally travels only a half day.
(However, his half day would mean a dawn
start and continuing normally until midafter-
noon.) His stops are as follows: Pichataro,
Sirawin, Ario, Las Palmas, La Playa, Cayaco,
Guadaloupe, Las Balsas, Corcoles, La Lim6n,
Tepehuaje, Colmeneros, La Uni6n, Pantla,
Puerto Sijuatanejo, San Geronimito, and
Arrieros probably have superior techniques
for handling burros. Criolina is carried for
treating saddle sores, and burros are shod
"when the burro catches cold in his feet."
Dysentery ("posici6n") is the most frequent
cause of loss of burros on trips.
Arrieros also observe special ceremonies. A
candle and prayer are offered to San Antonio
before going on a trip, and thanks are rendered
on 'return. The arrieros also maintain a
mayordomia for San Antonio, which is de-
scribed elsewhere.
In general, knowledge of the economics of
the arrieros' activities is unsatisfactory. It
would be extremely difficult to gain an accurate
idea of the amount of goods exchanged by this
method or to discover the monetary, or other
rewards obtained by the arriero.
The importance of the arriero class un-
doubtedly will wane rapidly with the extension
of highways and truck trails. Already the
importance of the arriero in the Coalcomdn
region has greatly diminished as a result of
truck trails opened up in recent years. When
a direct connection is made between the high-
land and the developing truck trail system in
the Balsas Basin, the arriero probably will
rapidly disappear.
As has been indicated at various points in
the preceding pages, the burro is the most com-
mon means of transportation still, supplemented
occasionally by horses or mules. Poor traders
may even make long journeys carrying their
goods on their backs. Nevertheless, a revolu-
tion in transportation is under way in Cheran.
One alteration in the transportation picture
is the truckwhich picks up bulk goods in Cheran
for markets that formerly were closed to these
items. As much as 4,000 kilos of wheat has


left in a single load. As "yet, though, the most
important influence of the highway is the fre-
quent bus service. The regular buses, con-
necting with buses for Guadalajara, and going
directly to or from Morelia, and Mexico City,
pass through to and from Uruapan about once
an hour during the day. In addition, smaller
buses from Uruapan to Pur6pero and Nahuatzen
pass by several times a day. As a consequence,
individual vendors often go to market by bus.
Women take foodstuffs or herbs to Uruapan for
the Sunday market regularly. Others may
visit the market at Paracho merely as a
recreation. Not a few in the village have made
a trip or two to Mexico City.
Modern transport has even reached into
Cher6n itself. Three of the more well-to-do
men in the town have purchased a 1-ton
truck, which carries freight to Uruapan or
Morelia at 11/ centavos a kilo. On Sundays it
also operates as a "wildcat" (i.e., unlicensed)
bus to Paracho. The fare is 25 centavos plus
a charge for bulky bundles; for example, 20
centavos for three bundles of palm leaves.
Although trucks are not supposed to carry
passengers, a satisfactory working arrange-
ment has been made with the traffic police.

Chernn is unique among large Tarascan towns
in that virtually all storekeepers are natives.
A few of the storekeepers are large farmers
whose families run a store on the side, but most
of them made their start as storekeepers al-
though they may now also be farmers. As one
of the successful storekeepers explained, less
capital is required to start a store than is needed
to buy adequate farm lands. According to this
same informant, if a man has fifty pesos, he
can get a hundred pesos worth of goods, and if
he has a place to operate, he is established in
business. Moreover, the work is not as hard
as farming. In addition, as people in Cherin
have the same idea of living standards, busi-
ness volume in most stores is small, so small
that it is said not to have attracted the Mestizos.
It is asserted that only those accustomed to
Tarascan living standards and ways can suc-
ceed in making a living as a storekeeper in
The more able storekeepers not only sell

goods, but may make buying trips in person to
Pur6pero for cloth or to Uruapan for groceries.
Some storekeepers make clothing in their spare
time or have sewing machines for rent. In
addition, storekeepers may add to their income
by buying corn, wheat, or eggs in small quan-
tities. It is no uncommon thing in some stores
to see a small girl arrive with some wheat tied
up in one end of her rebozo and perhaps one
egg, and bargaining with the storekeeper for
some small purchase. It is noteworthy, though,
that the transaction is not on a barter basis.
First the sale of wheat or eggs to the store-
keeper is completed and the money paid over.
The seller then indicates what she desires to
Time did not permit the making of a detailed
study of the functioning of Cheran stores. It
would be of considerable interest to do so, and
if the cooperation of the wholesalers in Uruapan
and Purepero could be secured, probably a
fairly accurate idea of the movement of goods
into the Cherin market would be possible. In
the discussion of price some idea of the range
of goods carried is given (p. 88).
Although not forming an important item in
Cheran trade, it should be observed that women,
children, and occasionally elderly men, sell some
goods on the streets, usually at a street corner.
Perhaps half a dozen corners always have one
to three vendors selling such things as cooked
squash or sweetpotatoes, fruit, peanuts, and
other things which are purchased primarily as
golosinas, or between-meal snacks. Similar
vendors appear in some numbers at harvest
time, often out in the country, at which time
their stock also includes Mharanda (sugarcane
alcohol and water).
An important mechanism of exchange among
the Tarascans is the market. In a great many
towns markets are held only on the occasion of
a religious fiesta or, if present at other times,
are small and relatively unimportant. Taras-
24 An hour in the store of M. S. is typical. A small girl brought
1 liter of shelled maize, two ears of maize, and one egg for which
she received 11 centavos. Several other persons came in, bringing
single liters of wheat or corn. One person brought 20 liters of
beans (this is unusual as Cherin raises less beans than it con-
sumes). In addition to a number of sales of less than 5 centavos,
the following sales at 5 centavos were made (there were none
larger) : one cake of soap, criolina, castor oil, lime.


can economy is also linked with the national
economy through the markets. The Sunday
market at Uruapan, for example, is an impor-
tant occasion for the disposal of Tarascan goods
and for the purchase of supplies. The Uruapan
market, however, is primarily a Mestizo market,
and the Indian part in it is minor and far from
Quite otherwise is the market at Patzcuaro.
Although it is perhaps even more of a Mestizo
town than Uruapan, the markets at PAtzcuaro
on Friday and Sundays are predominantly
Indian markets. The Pitzcuaro markets are
probably the most important agencies of ex-
change to be found in Tarascan territory. They
would well merit intensive study.
The Sunday market in Paracho is the only
large, regular market in the Sierra Tarascan
area. While numerous Mestizos participate,
the bulk of the vendors and almost all the
buyers are Tarascans. Although subject to
fluctuation in size from week to week, the
Paracho market compares favorably at any
time with the occasional large markets held in
other towns on the occasion of a fiesta.
Cherin does boast of two weekly markets in
addition to the infrequent affairs on the occa-
sion of important fiestas. These markets, how-
ever, are merely insignificant reflexes of the
Paracho market. Traveling salesmen or via-
jeros whose route to Paracho leads through
Cheran often set up shop in the Cheran plaza
on Saturday afternoon. In the evening or
early the next morning they move on to Para-
cho. If they have not sold out their goods in
Paracho, they may stop Monday morning in
Cherin for a few hours. The number of ven-
dors and the amount of goods sold, then, are
relatively insignificant. Fresh vegetables are
the main items, and housewives who do not
expect to go to Paracho the following day may
stock up for the week.
The Saturday market at Cheran usually gets
under way about 1 o'clock in the afternoon.
Vendors continue to arrive, however, until as
late as 4 o'clock, and the main activity of the
market is between 5 o'clock and dusk. The
market occupies the street on the south side of
the plaza in front of the municipal building.
The vendors form two facing lines on opposite
sides of the street. Only on unusually busy

days do the lines extend the full length of the
plaza. The Monday morning market is much

TABLE 3.-Products sold in the Cherdn market, 1940

Number Product sold on-
of vendors __
Product selling
product Nov. 9 October 6
on Sept. 7 (fiesta)

Agua fresca (sweet water) ...........
Anillos (rings)....................
Ajo (garlic) .......................
Aretes (earrings).................
Atole ..........................
Ayates (carrying nets)..............
Bateas (wooden bowls).............
Cacahuates (peanuts) ..............
Cahetes (jellies) ...................
Calabazo cocido (cooked squash).....
Camotes cocidos (cooked sweetpota-
toes) ..........................
Camotes (sweetpotatoes) ............
Canastas (flat baskets) .............
Came seco (dried meat)............
Cebollas (onions) ................
Changungas .....................
Chayotes cocidos (cooked chayote)...
Cherim oya ........................
Chiles ............................
Chiquihuites (baskets) .............
Cocos (coconuts)..................
Col (cabbage) .....................
Cucharas (spoons) .................
Cundas (harvest baskets) ...........
Dulces (sweets) .................
Dedales (thimbles) .........
Dardenistas .... .................
Fajas (sashes) .....................
Frijoles (beans).. ................
Guayabas (guavas)................
Habas cocidos (cooked broadbeans)...
Helotes cocidos (cooked green corn)..
Higos (figs) .......................
Jicam as ..........................
Jitomates (tomatoes) ..............
Juguetes (playthings)...............
Leia (firewood) ............. .......
Lenteja (lentils) ................. ..
Limas (sweet lemons)...............
Loza de Oaxaca (pottery from Oaxaca)
Loza (pottery)....................
M anos .. .... ...................
Manzanas (apples)................
Pecates (ropes) ..................
M ecates (ropes) . . . . .
Morales (bags) ...................
Mufecas (dolls)....................
Naranjas (oranges)................
Nieve (ice cream) ..................
Pan, blanco y moreno (bread, white
and dark) .......................
Pan dulce (sweet bread) ............
Pan de horno (cookies) .............
Pastura (fodder) ..................
Peras (pears) ................... .
Pescado (fish, several kinds) .......
Petates (mats) ............ ...
Platanos (bananas) ................
Pitsekuas3 ............... ......
Papas (potatoes) ...................
Queso (cheese)...... .........
Rebozos (shawls) ...............
Religion (crosses, medals, etc.)......
Ropa hech6 (clothing) ..............
Sanhorias (carrots) ...............
Serapes (blankets) .................
Sombreros (hats) ..................
Tascales (baskets for tortillas).......
Tela (cloth) .......................
Tomates (husk tomatoes) .........
Tunas (prickly pears) .............
Velas (candles) .................. .
Vidrio (glass) ................... ..
Yerbas (herbs) ................. .
Zapatos (shoes)...................

...... ....



.. .. .. .. ..

.. .

. .. .. .. ..







. .. .

. . .

. . .

.. .. .

.. .















1 Black and red chile from Querendaro; green chile, large and
small; red chile, large and small; chile pasilla ancha; chile guajillo;
chile mirasol; chile verde tirapsi.
2 Chara (kuedepo--small, dried, from Patzcuaro; turuEi-large,
fresh, from Pitzcuaro).
8 Small, black fruit like green tomato in taste.


On the occasion of a fiesta, the market occu-

pies the entire plaza and overflows onto side

streets. The variety and quantity of goods on

such occasions exceed that at the regular

Paracho market. Table 3 shows this clearly

in the market held for October 6, 1940, the
fiesta of the patron saint. Only two weekly

markets were checked in any detail, as the

fluctuations in the market simply reflect those

occurring at Paracho the following day. Table

3 gives a list of the articles on sale in Cheran

on three different dates, and for September 7

the number of vendors of each article is given.

TABLE 4.-Place of origin of products and vendors in
the market at Cherdn, Saturday, Sept. 7, 1940

Origin of vendor' Article Origin of article
Chapala...... Fish..................... Chapala.
Chern ....... .Pottery .................... Huancito.
Do ......... Apples..................... Pichataro.
Do ......... Pears...................... CherAn.
Do .......... Pottery.................... Huancito.
Cheran (4) ...... Wood ...................... Cherain.
Chern......... Apples ..................... Do.
Do.. ......... Apples ..................... Pichataro.
Do ......... Pears..................... Chern.
Do ......... Cheese.................... Tierra caliente.
Pitzcuaro....... OG.een chile ............... Ptcuaro.
Ptzcuaro ... Onions ........... Patzcuaro.
Cheran........ Chile................. .. Uricho.
Uricho (2)....... Yellow chile ................ Do.
pt aro.. Onions, chile ................ Do.
Ptzcuaro.... omatoes................. tzuaro.
Uricho ....... Yellow chile. ............. Uricho.
JTomatoes.............. Urich.
Patzcuaro....... Onions, cabbage............. Patzcuaro.
Do ......... Onions, cabbage, tomatoes.... Do.
Uricho.......... Chile, onions, tomatoes....... San Francisco.
Zacapu.......... Onions, tomatoes........... Zacapu.
Patzcuaro ...... Potatoes, beans, tomatoes... PAtzeuaro.
Pandicuaro...... Sweetpotatoes (purple)....... Zipiajo.
Villa Jime..ez.. Beans............ Villa Jimenez.
Zunapario....... Chile..................... Zunapario.
Cheran......... Bread, peaches............. Cheran.
Caranco ........ Chile. ..................... San Gabriel, Jalisco.
San Francisco.... Chile, tomatoes............. San Francisco.
Zacapu......... Onions, tomatoes ........... Zacapu.
Do ........ Tomatoes .................. Do.
Cheran.......... Tomatoes .................. Cheran (?).
Pandicuraro.... Sweetpotatoes .............. Pandicuaro.
Cheran........ Chile. ..................... Cheran (?).
Etucuaro ....... Lentils................... Etucuaro.
El Tigre....... .. Chile ..................... El Tigre.
Zacapu .......... Tomatoes .................. Zacapu.
Lasalga ......... Sweetpotatoes ............... Purepero.
Pandicuaro (2)... do ..................... Zacapu.
Chucandiro...... do ..................... Zacapu (San Simon).
San Pedro Caro.. Dried fish .................. Hacienda de la Luz.
Carapan......... Lemon..... .............. Carapan.
Chapala ......... Cooked dried fish........... Chapala.

INumbers in parentheses indicate number
than one.

of vendors if more

Tables 4 and 5 show the places of origin of

products and vendors in the market at Cheran

and at Paracho in September, 1940, and table 6

gives the products and number of vendors at
the Paracho market on various dates in 1940.

About 70 to 80 percent of the vendors in the

Paracho market on September 1 (table 5) were

Agua fresca (sweet
water) .............
Aguacates (avocados)..
Anillos (rings)........
Aretes (earrings)......
Bagas (burden ropes)..
Bordada (strip of em-
broidery) ..........
Caldo (broth).........
Camotes cocidos
(cooked sweetpota-
toes)........ .......

Cebollos (onions)......
Cerezas (cherries).....
Cestas (baskets)......
Chabacanos (apricots).
Chalecos bordados
(embroidered vests)..
Changungas ........
Chiles (peppers)......

Col (cabbage).......
Colifor (cauliflower). .
Dulces (candy).......

Duraznos (peaches)....

Fibra de palmas (palm

Frijoles (beans)........

Guitarras (guitars)....
Habas (pulse or broad-
beans) ............
Helotes (cooked green
Higos (figs)...........
Huaraches (woven
sandals) ..........
Jicamas (root)........
Lechuga (lettuce)L.....
Limas (sweet lemons)..
Limonas (lemons).....

Losa (pottery)........

lManta ..............
Mandils (aprons)......

Manzanas (apples)....

Manzanas-chatas (crab
Mostacillos (?) (beads)
Muebles (furniture)....

Naranjas (oranges)....

Nuezes (nuts).........
Pan (bread) .........
Pan dulce...........
Papas (patatas) (pota-

SNo data.

TABLE 5.-Places of origin of products and vendors in
the market at Paracho, Sept. 1, 1940

Cafada ......
Paracho ......
La Azarca.....
Cafada ......
Kinseo .......
Tierra caliente.
Paracho (?)....
Cheran (?) .....
Patzcuaro (?).
c.r .o. .......
Kinseo ......
Tierra caliente..
(1 woman,
maybe all,
carried it up)
Patzcuaro .....
San Ger6nimo..
Tirindiro ......

Cafada .......

(1) ............
Paraeho (?)....
Paracho (?)....
Chilchota (?)...
Tierra caliente.
do ........
Quiroga .......
Paracho (?)....
Paracho .......
do ........
Kinseo ........
Paracho .....

do ....
do .. ..
La Azarca.....
Purfpero ......
Uruapan .....
PAtzcuaro ....

do ..... .
Pichataro .....
Kinseo .......
Uruapan ......
Barsi ........
Patzcuaro .....
Carapan ......
Tirindiro ....
Caiada ......
RCafada ......
Chilchota ......
Guanajuato ...
Huansito ......
Nuri6 .........
Nahuatzen ....
Chern ........
do ........
Uruapan ......
Limon (?).....

















TABLE 5.-Places of origin of products and vendors in
the market at Paracho, Sept. 1, 1940-Continued

TABLE 6.-Products and number of vendors in the
market at Paracho, 1940

Paraguas de paja (straw
raincoats) ..........

Peras (pears).........
Pescado seco (dried
fish)i. .............
Platanos (bananas)....
Queso (cheese) .......
Serapes. .............
Sigras (large, lemonlike
citrus fruit).........
Silantro seeds.......
Sombreros (flat-top,
white hats)........

Tomates (husk toma-

Toronja (grapefruit)...
Tunas (prickly pears)..
Uakinikin (a long nut).
Uikumu (yellow fruit?)
Tela (cloth) ..........
Violin............. .
Yerbas (herbs).......
Yerba buena (mint
Zapatos (shoes, orange;
also white).........

!Pichataro ......
Cheran.. ...
do ........

Tierra caliente.

do .. .....
(Cafada ......
Paracho ......
Patzcuaro ....
Paracho (?)....
Nahuatzen (?)
CherAn (?).....
Morelia (?)....
Cheran (?)....
Chilchota .....
SLos Reyes ....
do ........
Cherdn ........
Paracho (?)....


do .......
Chern .......

Paracho .......
Uruapan .....
Paracho ......
do .. .....
Chilchota .....
Cafiada ......
Chilchota .....
Pftzcuaro ....
do .......
do ....
Purpero .....
Chilehota ......
Cimotlan ......
do ........

No data.

interviewed. The number of vendors and
articles sold, by classes, are as follows:
Articles: vend
Fruits .... ...........................
V vegetables ............................
Prepared food (including bread) ........
W hearing apparel.......... ........... .
Baskets and pottery....................
Furniture ................... ...........
Ornaments and musical instruments....
Palm fiber for hats....................

Total ........................... 1

Most vendors not interviewed were enga
in the sale of fruits or vegetables, mo
Another example of an unimportant ma
is given by Rend6n for San Juan Parang
cutiro. The main articles sold were sr
quantities of tomatoes, chile, jicamas, oni
cabbage, silantro, garlic, limes, oranges, gua
cherimoyas, peanuts, and sugarcane. Two
sons sold candies from Zamora, two booths
sweetpotatoes, one each sold pottery and sh

1 Fiesta of Santa Ursala.

Number of vendors on-

Sept. Sept. Oct. Nov. Nov. Dec.
1 29 201 3 24 29

lling Agua fresca (sweet water)...........
,duct Aguas gaseosas (pop).............
Aje (pigment) .................
Ajo (garlic)..............
3 Aguacates (avocados).............
Anillos (rings) ...................
Aretes; collares (earrings; necklaces).
18 Atole (maize gruel)...............
Ayates (nets) ....................
Bagas (burden ropes) ..............
Batea para lavar ropa (washtray)...
Bateas (wooden bowls) ...........
5 Bordada (strip of embroidery)......
Borrega (mutton) ................
'4 Cacahuates (peanuts).............
2 Cal (lim e) ........................
Caldo (broth)............ ...
1 Calabacitos (small squash).........
Calabazo cocido (cooked squash)...
'2 Calses (cakes) .....................
Camas (beds).....................
1 Camotes (sweetpotatoes)............
Camotes cocidos (cooked sweetpota-
toes) .......................
Cafia (sugarcane) ................
10 Canastas (flat baskets).............
Came de puerco cocido (cooked pork)
Carne seco (dried beef)...........
2 Cebollos (onions)................
Cerezas (cherries) .................
4 Cerezas secas (dried cherries)......
1 Cestas (baskets)...... ?...........
Chabacanos (apricots).............
2 Chalecos bordados (embroidered
2 vests) .......................
1 Changungas (a fruit)..............
Chayotes................. .....
2 Chayotes cocido (cooked chayotes)...
Cherimoyas (a fruit)...............
Chicahuites (harvest baskets).......
1 Chicharos (peas) ..................
Chicharos cocidos (cooked peas)....
Chiles (peppers) ..................
Chiles, large wide, red .............
Chiles, large long, red..............
the Chiles, small, red ................
Chiles, verdes (green)..............
Chile, negros (black) ..............
Cintas (belts) .....................
er of Ciruelas (plums) ..................
Cocos (coconuts)..................
dors Col (cabbage). ...................
52 Coliflor (cauliflower)...............
Corbatas (neckties)................
26 Cucharas (spoons).................
Cracklings .......................
12 Custard ........................
1 Dibujos y arte, flores..............
21 Doughnuts .......................
15 Dulces (candy) ...................
Dulces de membrillos (fruit paste)...
2 Duraznos (peaches) ..............
Escobas de palma (brushes of palm).
3 Escobas de paja verde (brushes of
7 green straw).............
Espinaca (spinach) .............
- Fajas (sashes) ....................
Fibra de palma (palm leaves for hats).
38 Floreras (flowerpots).............
Flores (flowers) .................
Flores de papel (paper flowers) .....
,ged Frijoles (beans) ..................
Gorditos (fried maize cakes).......
stly Granadas (pomegranates).........
G uavas.........................
Guitarras (guitars) ...............
Habas (broadbeans).............
rket Habas verdes (green broadbeans)....
Helotes (green corn on cob).......
ari- Higos (figs) ...................
H-oja de betabel (chard)..........
nall Hoja de limones (lemon leaves)....
Hoja de naranja (orange leaves)....
ons, Huaraches (woven sandals)........
011s, Ixtle (maguey halters)............
vas, Jalatina (jelly)....... .........
Jicamas (a turniplike root).........
per- Jitomates (tomatoes) .............
Jucgos de naipes (card games)......
Al ,1 Juguetes (playthings, e.g. dolls)....

.. .
. .. 2

__ I I 1 I_


. .1 . ....

' 8s .



TABLE 6.-Products and number of vendors in the
market at Paracho, 1940-Continued

Number of ve
Sept. Sept. Oct.
1 29 201
Jugetes de losa (pottery figurines)........ 3 8
Lana (wool) ...................... ..... ..........
Lechuga (lettuce) ................. ..... 1 ...
Limas y limones (lemons and limes). 8 17
Loquats ........................ ... .. ...
Los (pottery)................... 1
Macate (maguey fiber string).... .......... 1
M andils (aprons) .................. 4 ... ...
Mantas (blankets) ................ .. ...
Manzanas (apples)................ 22 37 5
M aize (corn) ..................... 6 .....6 1
Macetas (flowerpots) ............ ............
Madroflo berries .................. .... ..........
Mamey (a fruit) .................. ..... .....
Mascaras (masks) ................. ..... 2 1
Maza (maize dough).................. .
M azorca (maize cars).............. ......... ...
M edias (stockings)................... ..... .....
Miscelanea (cheap jewelry and no-
tions) ....................... .... ..... 1 19
Molineros (chocolate beaters)....... ..............
IVorales (bags) ................ ..... ..... .....
M ostacillcs (beads)................ 1 ........
lMuebles (furniture) ............... ..... ....
Naranjas (oranges). ................ 5 11 1
Nieve (ice cream) ................... 1
N uezes (nuts) .................... 3 .. ....
Orange plum..................... .. ... .....
Palma tejida (hat braid)2 .... ......... ...
Pan (bread).....................
Pan de huevo (cake) ............... .... ..... .....
Pan con miel (bread with honey).... ..... ..... 10
Pan dulce (cookies) .............. ... .... .....
Papas (potatoes)................ 1 8
Paraguas de paja (straw raincoats).. 3..........
Peluqueros (barbers) ..........................
Peras (pears) ................... 18 14
Pescado (fish) .................. ..... 12 5
Petates (mats)...... ......... ........ .
Platanos (bananas. ............. 4 1
Plumas (pens) ................... ..... ..... .....
Pulque..... ...................... ..... ..
Queso (cheese).................. 1 17 9
Rebozos (sha s). ................ 4 11 15
Redes (nets).................... ..... ...
Serapes (blankets) ................. 2 4 2
Servietas (napkins) ................ ....... .....
Sigras (a fruit) .................... 1 ..... .....
Silantro semilla (seed for flavoring).. 2 5 1
Sillas (chairs) ..................... .. .
Sombreros (hats) .................. 1 2 1
Sopladores (fire fans) ................... 1 .
Sweaters. ...................... .... .... .
Tamales .............. ... 19 .
Tejecotes (wild crab apples)........
Tela (cloth and clothing) ........... 2 ..... ...
Tela de lana (wool yardage) ........ ..... ..... 7
Tesquisquite................... ... ..... 1 ....
Tomates (small husk tomatoes)..... 10 36 26
Toronja (grapefruit) ............... .... .....
T ortillas ......................... ..... ..... ... ..
T ortilla baskets ................... ..... ...
Tunas (prickly pears) .............. 4 ..... 3
Uakinikin (nut) ................... 1 ... .....
Violina (violin) ................... 1 .....
Velas (candles) ................. .. ..... 3
Yerba buena (mint leaves).......... i i .....
Yerbas (herbs) ................... 1 .........
Yellowfruit ..................... .. ....
Yams ............................... ... 1
Zanhorias (carrots)................ ..... 1 2
Zapatos (shoes)................... 1 3 8

vendors on-

Nov. Nov.
3 24
13 1


1. .

. .. .
... ... 1

..... I
. . .

1 2
... .

S..... .
2 13

2 4
19 3
3 .... ..
3 8




.4 4.
1 "2 2

23 ..... 10

... 3 1
4 1

........ .
..... 1 ....

. . .. 1
3 9 7

1 Fiesta of Santa Ursala.
An obvious error. Braid vendors were present every Sunday,
but had no stands.

and three sold dry goods. A line of women
sold atole and kurn(das, the yellow Tarascan

The Mestizo town of Chilchota has a market
on Sunday which is not notably different from
a medium-size Tarascan market. Indeed, as
this is the market town for La Cafiada, prob-

ably a majority of the attendants are Tarascans.
Rend6n, who collected the data, observes that
there is a fairly clear sex division in market
activities. Prepared foods are always sold by
women. Sugarcane, medicinal herbs, pulque,
and ocote (pitch pine) are almost always sold
by men. Such things as lime, sweetmeats, and
pottery are usually sold by women, although
men may sell them. Vegetables are usually
sold by women, while fruits may be sold by
either sex. In general, selling is done mostly
by the women. Buying, on the other hand,
seems equally divided between men and women.
Merchandise sold on two different market days
(dates not given, but probably in February
1940) is shown in table 7. The organization of
the market is shown in figure 11.

TABLE 7.-Goods sold at two markets at Chilchota

Number of vendors in-
Goods sold
Market A Market B
Sugarcane ............................... 15 12
Cooked agave (mescal) ..................... 8 0
Green tomatoes ......... .................. 2 5
Ripe tomatoes............................ 6 0
Green chile............................. .. 0 3
Dry chile............................ 7 7
Cabbage................................. 3 4
Cooked chayote ........................... 8 6
Cooked chayote root ...................... 10 8
Cooked squash. ........................ ... 3 8
Cooked sweetpotato ....................... 3 0
D ried m eat ............................... 1 0
Greens .................................. 0 2
Limes and oranges ......................... 3 2
Cherimoyas and other fruit ................. 6 8
Peanuts ..... ...................... ... 6 0
Lemon-leaf tea and nurite .................. 1 1
Sweets................................... 2 3
Pulque.................................. 0 6
Sweet tamales ............................. 12 10
Flour tamales ........................... 6 4
Regular tamales (kurfindas) ............... 12 6
M medicinal herbs .................. ....... 1 2
Soaproot ................................. 1 1
Salt and lime............................. 4 4
Pitch pine .............................. 2 0
Pottery ................... .............. 8 11
Total ................. .......... 130 123


The most important type of consumption in
CherAn is that occurring in the family. Ob-
viously, the consumption of raw material
and semifinished goods in manufactures is
significant, but the essential data regarding
this have already been presented in the
previous discussions. Likewise, there are
many aspects of consumption related to various
cultural activities dealt with in later discus-
sions. Special types of consumption occur in
connection with the life crises, especially mar-


riage, and to a lesser extent with birth and
death. A very significant consumption of
goods occurs in connection with religious activi-
ties, particularly in relation to the mayordomias
Less important, perhaps, is consumption in
connection with governmental activities. All
of these, nevertheless, are subordinate in im-
portance to consumption by family groups.

titles may be consumed in connection with any
festal occasion. Consumption of any other
items will depend upon the amount of money
The major food consumption of the family
has already been analyzed (Beals and Hatcher,
1943). In monetary terms it has been shown
that great differences exist. Food expenditures






FIGURE 11.-Market at Chilchota, showing the location of the vendors.

The major product consumed by the family
is maize. In the vast majority of cases most
of, if not all, the maize consumed is produced
by the family. The same is true of a number
of supplementary items in the diet such as
fruit, cabbage, and other vegetables. On the
other hand, beans, meat, cheese, and fish, im-
portant constituents of the diet, are usually
purchased. Maize consumption is about one-
half liter a day per person (averaging the
consumption of all ages). Much greater quan-

vary from 11.6 to 17.8 centavos a day per
person. In general, a very poor family with
its own maize supply will spend 5 to 10
centavos in chiles a week, 3 to 5 centavos in
cheese every 3 or 4 days, 1 or 2 centavos in
sugar or brown sugar daily, and perhaps occa-
sionally 5 to 8 centavos in beans. Unless the
family is quite poverty-stricken, about 2 cen-
tavos a day is spent in having the maize ground
in a nixtamal mill. Among families in slightly
better circumstances, about a peso a week is


spent on meat. Families not regarded as poor
might spend as little as 60 centavos a day on
food for a family of six (two adults and four
children). Checked in several ways, although
obviously the quantitative data are inadequate,
it appears that most prosperous (but not
wealthy) families with sufficient land to pro-
duce all their own maize may spend less than 1
pes. a day. It is estimated by some that this
amount also includes the cost of all clothing and
some maintenance of buildings but would not
include special expenses, such as replacing
animals, giving fiestas, holding funerals, etc.
Frankly, this seems hard to believe.25
An approach to consumption (in terms of
peso values), based on such quantitative data
as it was possible to collect, indicates a much
higher consumption rate for the normal Cherin
family. Taking, for convenience, a family of
five, the following seems a reasonably close
approximation of consumption and expenditure:
Home-produced goods consumed: Per day Per year
Maize, 2 liters daily......... $0.15 ..... $54.75
Vegetables and fruit........... .10...... 36.50
Firewood....................... .08...... 29.20

Total value .........................$120.45

Goods requiring cash expenditure:
Expenditures at store and
butcher shop ................ $1.00. ..... $365.00
Man's clothing (a rough estimate
of minimum requirements for
work clothing plus some "dress"
clothing) ............................. 27.00
Woman's clothing (one typical
woman's outfit of Tarascan
type clothing, plus a couple of
cotton dresses a year) ................. 60.00
Clothing for 3 small children............. 15.00

Total cash expenditure a year ....... 467.00

Total value of goods consumed a year $587.45
In addition to the above ordinary expendi-
2 In Mestizo Chilchota, Rend6n collected the following data:
For a family of two adults and four children, 6 to 22 years, food
expenditures were said to be 75 centavos to 1 peso daily, mostly
for meat, the remainder for beans, lard, pitch pine, chiles,
tomatoes, salt, lime, and other things. The maize consumed is
grown. Another family of four adults and one child of 5 years
spent about a peso a day. Another family of four adults and
three children, 8 to 14 years, spent a peso to a peso and a half
daily. In all cases the major expenditure was said to be for meat,
with beans coming second. All grew their own maize. Unlike those
in Cherfn, all these families consumed coffee once and sometimes
twice a day.

tures, there will also be less frequent ones. In
the life time of the average family, a house and
kitchen will have to be bought or built. By
usual Cherin standards, this will mean a capital
expenditure of $170 to $450. Animals must be
replaced from time to time, an item difficult
to estimate, but probably involving capital ex-
penditures of around $200 every 10 years as a
Periodic expenditures will also include a
blanket every few years at about $20, reroofing
of house and kitchen every 10 years or so at a
cost of about $40, an occasional mayordomia,
and the expenses of weddings, births, and
deaths. Finally, there are taxes on property
and contributions to the church. All these are
impossible to estimate accurately with the avail-
able data. A mayordomia, for example, may
vary from an outlay of perhaps $15 or $20 for
Mass, candles, and ornaments for the altar in
the house to a cash expenditure of about $500
for the mayordomia of Nochebuena plus exten-
sive use of maize and butchering of animals
etc. belonging to the mayordomo. Weddings
likewise may vary enormously according to
economic resources, but may run up as high as
$500 in cash outlay. In addition, there are the
innumerable occasions when one must partici-
pate in weddings, roofing or house-moving
fiestas, etc., each of which involves more or less
expensive gifts aside from possible contribu-
tions of labor.
The above factors suggest that a Cheran
family of five in about average circumstances
makes a total outlay on consumption goods of
not less than $500 a year if such capital ex-
penditures as housing are allowed for. This
does not include the value of home-produced
foods. Many families unquestionably have a
much smaller cash outlay than the amount
suggested, but, equally certainly, some families
spend more. Furthermore, these estimates
assume that the family has inherited all the
land it needs and is not making any expendi-
tures for land purchases.
The preceding considerations suggest that
insufficient attention has been paid to the
quantity of exports and the movement of money
in Cheran economy. Such data are difficult but
not impossible to secure, although a consider-
able margin of error must be expected.


The motivations of consumption appear
several. Primary is the need of food, shelter,
and clothing. For very poor families, this is
virtually the only type of consumption. Food
requirements are intimately linked with pro-
ductive efforts. The basic necessities by Cheran
standards are mostly produced by the family
unit, and the processes are apart from the
system of commerce and exchange. Any family
unit regarded as meeting Cheran standards of
living will also have other consumption motiva-
tions. Participation in the social and religious
life of the community is perhaps the second
most important consumption motive. Crisis
periods, especially marriage, and the possession
of a mayordomia are occasions for consumption
of goods, often on a very large scale. Such
consumption, however, comes not entirely in
the category of "conspicuous expenditure" but
rather as the fulfilling of a social duty. It is
true that the wedding ceremony is designed to
emphasize public display of the consumption
involved; nevertheless, failure to give as elabor-
ate a wedding as the means of a family justified
would suggest to the inhabitants of Cheran
either that the family was stingy or that the
family disapproved of the match. Yet another
interpretation might be that they did not regard
the girl as socially acceptable, either because of
the poverty of her family or because of her
reputation. In one case observed, the bride's
mother, a poor widow with few relatives, pre-
pared to finance part of the wedding herself
when she found the wealthy family of the groom
was planning a modest ceremony. In this case
the threatened action of the bride's mother
precipitated so much gossip and unfavorable
comment that the groom's family at the last
minute greatly increased its expenditures for
the wedding (and the bride's mother, incident-
ally, did not have to carry out her threats).
In general, wealthy people do not display
their wealth ostentatiously except through
undertaking the more expensive mayordomias
and giving the most elaborate weddings. Often
the houses of wealthy persons are less pre-
tentious than are those of the middle class.
A man of the latter class with a large family
may well operate a much more elaborate estab-
lishment than the wealthy man with a small
family. The wealthy are apt to be envied in

Cheran, it is clear. Memories of the more
violent revolutionary days are close enough
that people conceal their wealth rather than
display it. That this was not always the case
is evidenced by the considerable number of
ruined stone buildings, homes of the wealthy
before the revolution. Today wealthy men live
modestly. Their table differs primarily in
quantity rather than in quality from that of
the poor. Wealthy men dress like others, unless
they are going to Uruapan or Zamora. Their
wives wear better quality clothes, as a rule,
than do other women, and on special occasions
they display more and better jewelry. There
are few servants in Cheran, and their place is
taken by dependent relatives or orphans who
are members of the family.
The major methods of conspicuous expendi-
ture acceptable in Cher6n are quite stereotyped.
Perhaps most common is to be sponsor of a
moro'dancer or to be responsible for some phase
of a fiesta, posts assigned by the municipio
rather than sought after by the individual.
The ownership of cattle which can be used for
cattle riding in the town fiesta is another
socially approved method of ostentation.
Ownership of a horse is also permissible, but it
is considered that only a few wealthy men really
need horses-men with distant lands or herds
that must be visited frequently. The man who
buys a horse without really needing it is con-
sidered to be "showing off." In the main, the
methods of ostentatious consumption not only
are communally recognized and approved but
are restricted to specific social occasions. In
ordinary life there is little to distinguish one
Cheran man or family from another, if one
except the very poor.
The values of the major commodities and
services in Cheran are expressed in monetary
terms. Perhaps the only significant exceptions
are the services rendered by relatives and com-
padres in connection with house moving and
various fiestas, services rendered the commu-
nity, and the goods which are exchanged at
betrothals and weddings. In the latter case,
wholly fictitious values are placed on the goods
exchanged, but even here the equation is ulti-
mately made to money values. With these


exceptions, it may perhaps fairly be said that
prices are the expression of Cheran values with
respect to goods and services. Moreover, the
major price determination at Cherin is not by
local standards but in terms of fluctuations in
Mexican economy as a whole. It is not supply
and demand in Cherin which determines most
prices, but supply and demand (and Govern-
ment controls) in the surrounding regions.
The extent to which this is true is a measure
of the degree to which Tarascan economy is
linked with that of Mexico, a relationship that
is much closer than is ordinarily recognized by
Mexican students.
The prices of the most important commodi-
ties produced in Cheran, corn and wheat, are
determined by what will be paid by purchasers
from outside the town. In similar fashion, the
prices of most imported goods are determined
by the wholesale prices existing in centers such
as Uruapan, Pur6pero, and Pdtzcuaro. The
price of labor is likewise determined, although
to a somewhat lesser degree, by the price labor
can command in markets outside of Tarascan
It is interesting to observe, however, that
this influence does not extend far out of
Michoacin. The Government, in building the
highway with local labor, is reported to have
paid only a peso a day, somewhat less than the
legal minimum wage. As it was, the high
wages (by Michoacan standards) tended to dis-
rupt the local wage structure.
Within this major framework of price deter-
mination, of course, there are subsidiary excep-
tions. The price of pears, for example, will
fluctuate somewhat in relation to local supply
and demand, and the same is true of other
fruits which have not yet found wider markets.
Similar conditions obtain with respect to cheese
and fish. Land prices in general seem to bear
little relation to productivity and yield, al-
though here our analysis may be at fault.26
The preference for exercising gleaning rights
in the corn harvest in place of higher wages
also shows that in some areas of Cherin
economics, nonmonetary values operate.
In general, the coming of the highway is
bringing higher prices for local products.

'5 It is possible that a more adequate analysis of labor costs
might show our estimates of net yields from farming are too high.

Tables 8 and 9 give the prices of some goods
and products. Although little evidence is yet
visible at Cherin, at Chilchota in La Cafiada,
where the highway has been in use longer, it
was said that the price of chickens had risen
from 50 centavos to $1.50 with corresponding
rises in other products.

TABLE 8.-Prices of some important goods and products
in Cherdn

Goods or products
M aize (shelled) ..................
W heat .........................
B eans... .....................
Squash .................... .
Cabbage ....................
Pears .......... ...............
Peaches .......................
Honey ......................
W ax ..........................
Raiz de Paja ...................
Pig (fattened for butchering).....
Sheep ........................
Planks....... .........
Railroad ties (Oak, pine, or fir)....
Shakes (5 cuartas long)........
Handwoven wool cloth........

Number or quantity
Liter ..............
Medida .........
do ............
Per 100. ...........
do ............
Half liter...........
{2, small...........
.1 large.........
do ........ ....
1 (live)...........
do ............
Kilo....... ......
Bundle (400)........

SIn Zamora or tierra caliente.

$O .04-t0.07
5.00- 7.00
15- .26
.25- .50
.03- .08
2.25- 2.50
2.25- 2.50
2.50- 5.00
.02- .03
6.00- 7.00
5.00 and up


The major wealth of Cherin is forest and
agricultural land. As has been indicated pre-
viously, all lands capable of permanent cultiva-
tion are privately owned, the remainder belong-
ing to the community and being open to the use
of all community members. One informant
mentioned a possible exception to this state-
ment, saying that the one large land holding of
prerevolutionary Cherin has been taken by the
Government and offered for sale to Cheran
residents. The informant believed some lands
in this holding were still unsold, but no further
information was secured. In any case, the
incident does not alter the fundamental pattern
of Cheran land holding.
In terms of individual wealth, the basic
CherAn concepts are those of rural Mexico.
Wealth is primarily land and silver. Cattle
loom less important, partly because they are
not owned in large numbers, partly because the
revolutionary period taught the people of
Cherin that cattle are a less stable form of
wealth. The man who owns sufficient land,
however, has an essentially inalienable resource
by which any losses of less stable types of



property may be made up. Even silver is less

safe, for someone may find the buried hoard
and steal it. In addition, it is not productive.
He who harvests from 50 to 100 cargas of maize

is wealthy; while the man who harvests from
8 to 15 cargas may regard himself as a typical
Cheran citizen.

them, houses are essentially portable property
like furniture, tools, or cattle.

Little exists in the way of incorporeal prop-

erty in Cheran. Perhaps the most important
instances are the possession of knowledge of
dances or of the texts for the dialogue in such
performances as the pastorela. Theoretically

TABLE 9.-Prices in Cherdn stores in winter of 1940

Price of commodity in store -
Commody Amount spent or quantity Unit upon which
Commodity usually purchased price is based

Beans.................. ... .........
Sugar .. .. ................ .. ..........
Chocolate ... ..........................
Rice ............ .....................
Lard...... ........... .. ................
Cheese................. ..................
Coffee (milled) ..........................
Soap.. ............... ........ ............
Brown sugar............................
Cigarettes....... ........... ..............
Lime...t. .................................
Candles......... .. ......................
Paraffin lights............................
Chiles............................... .
Canned chiles................................
Vegetable oil...... .......................
Olive oil......... .........................
Creosote ........... ...................
Wax matches ..............................
Small dried fish ...........................
Soda pop ..................................
Orange drink .............................
"Spool" thread:
White .................. ...............
Colored .................................
Small fine, colored .....................
Ball thread .................. ...........
Cords (mecates)...........................
Rope................ ................
Children's ............................
Men's................................ .
Ns ils....................................
India ink ...................................
Aguardiente ............... ..............
Ponchos .....................................
Blue jeans.............. .............
Brooms ....................................
1-inch... ..........................
2-inch ...................................
Cloth (unbleached muslin):
No.40 ............................
No. 50............ .................
No. 60..............
No.80............. ................
No. 90...............................
No. 100.. .........................
Indian Head.............................
Anzulas ............. ...................
Ganital (for shirts).......................
-Tonos (for shirts)..........................
Flat silk ................. ...............

10; kilo ................
1-10 liters..............
Y-1 liter ..............
1; kilo..............
Cake ..................
5C-8. .................
20; Y kilo..............
1 -5 .................
10-40. ..... ..
1-4 .................
He-4 ..............
Cake-5 ................
1c; j kilo.............
2 -50 .................
Package ................
'1--4. ................
31-5. ................

S-.. .. .... ...........
820-50 ..................
... ................ ...
'2.-2.. ................

1 -.... ..................

.2.-.. ..................

Glass .................

do .........
do .........
Kilo ...........
do .........
Package ........

Boxt.......... .
do .........



... ...........
Kilo ...........
2 ounces........

............. Piece.......... ...... ..
....................... do .... ... ............ .. .

SDepending on type and quantity.
2 Price per weight not ascertained.
' Quantity not ascertained.

do .........
do ........
do .........
do .........
do ........
do .........


......6i- 65
......... ..


..... :-. ib"

........ .. ..


4Quantity not ascertained: probably 1
5 Depending on size.


.07-. 14









per centavo from opened

Houses and buildings are also a form of anyone might pick up this knowledge, but there

wealth. The traditional type of house is owned seems a tacit understanding that this should

apart from the land and is frequently bought not be done without the permission of the
and sold apart from the land. This is not true, owner. Such knowledge is valuable, as such
of course, of stone or adobe buildings. Except persons are paid by the mayordomos to teach

for the somewhat greater difficulty of moving the performers.

..................' '' '' "

............. ::: ........' '' '

.............' '
...................'' '' ''


Other types of incorporeal property possibly
are the knowledge of the herb gatherers, mid-
wives, and witches. However, there is no sense
of property in Cheran concerning this know-
ledge, and the idea of buying or selling it was
not encountered. Such knowledge seems not
to be differently regarded from the knowledge
of how to farm or to care for animals or make
A unique type of property right is the owner-
ship of certain images of saints and of mayor-
domias. Two cases were encountered. One is
the ownership of the mayordomia of the Three
Kings (Los Tres Reyes), January 6. Several
men were instrumental in starting this mayor-
domia, formerly celebrated only by the dance
of the Europeans (danza de los Europeos).
Not only did these men put on the first mayor-
domia, they put up funds, aided by contribu-
tions, to secure a fine set of images for the
mayordomia. In subsequent years they decided
who should receive the mayordomia each year.
As one of them said to me, "It looks like this
mayordomia is going to be a good business."
However, he spoke in figurative terms, for, so
far as could be learned, the "owners" of the
mayordomia expected to receive only spiritual
rewards and perhaps community approbation.
The second case is the ownership of a miracu-
lous saint. The owners found the saint, erected
a chapel, and receive contributions from wor-
shippers. The owners claim that all gifts go
to clothe the saint properly and care for the
chapel, a statement that is open to doubt
although there is no evidence to the contrary.
The distribution of wealth in CherAn appears
to be relatively equitable. Certainly there are
no really wealthy men in CherAn and there are
relatively few impoverished individuals. So
long as wealth is measured in land and most
families in Cherin have a reasonable amount
of land, this condition will continue. It is true
that people in CherAn talk a great deal about
los ricos (the rich men). In practice, almost
no one can readily identify the rich men.
Partly, of course, this is because rich men,
in order to avoid envy, are careful not
to flaunt their wealth. But it also is an
indication that really wealthy men are probably
scarce, if not absent. One of the regular assis-
tants, Pedro ChAvez, talked constantly about

the rich. Repeated efforts to pin him down
resulted in the identification of not a single
individual as a rico and the assertion that any-
one who harvested 50 to 100 cargas of maize is
a rich man. As this means a cash income from
this source of around $300 to $600 or $700 a
year, the standard is not high, although prob-
ably wheat, cattle, and other sources add to
such income. It is worth observing that al-
most no storekeepers are classed as wealthy-
they usually do not have much land.
The inheritance of property in Cheran is
normally from parent to children. Should an
individual die without formal disposition of his
property, the municipal officials would endeavor
(subject to whatever influences might be
brought to bear on them) to divide the property
equally among children without regard to sex.
Normally, however, the heirs would make the
division, and it would merely be submitted to
the municipio for approval. In this way in-
equalities often creep in through domination of
one heir by another and the desire to avoid
a fight.
It is quite common in Cheran for the property
to be disposed of by the owner before death by
making a will or, more commonly, by making
a statement of intention to a reliable and trusted
friend before witnesses. Such decisions will
be respected and enforced by the municipio.
Property owned by women will ordinarily go
to their children. However, should a couple be
childless, the spouse does not inherit. There
are numerous cases in Cheran of well-to-do
couples where the bulk of the property is owned
by the wife. Although the husband uses and
administers the property, he has no rights in
it unless it is formally made over to him by his
wife during her life time. Similarly, a widow
does not inherit except in special cases. This,
again, involves a will or making over of the
property during the life of the owner. Usually
such an act is taken by a man only when his
sons are rebellious and unfilial.
There are frequent cases where men do not
leave property equally to all children or where
they leave it to some other relative. In rare
cases, there may have been some assignment
of property to children before death. Then the
child, usually the youngest, who has cared for
the parent in old age, receives all the remaining

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