Title: Agricultural development in Clear Creek
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00098164/00001
 Material Information
Title: Agricultural development in Clear Creek adaptive strategies and economic roles in a Dominican settlement
Alternate Title: Clear Creek, Agricultural development in
Physical Description: xii, 210 leaves : diagrs. ; 28cm.
Language: English
Creator: Werge, Robert Wendell, 1944-
Publication Date: 1975
Copyright Date: 1975
Subject: Agriculture -- Economic aspects -- Dominican Republic -- Clear Creek   ( lcsh )
Anthropology thesis Ph. D   ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Anthropology -- UF   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Thesis: Thesis--University of Florida.
Bibliography: Bibliography: leaves 200-208.
Statement of Responsibility: by Robert Wendell Werge.
General Note: Typescript.
General Note: Vita.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00098164
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 000166530
oclc - 02830717
notis - AAT2913


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Table Page

1 Age distribution of the population in Clear Creek. 37

2 Household residence patterns in Clear Creek. 39

3 Household composition in Clear Creek: generations. 39
4 Household composition in Clear Creek: conjugal
pairs. 43

5 Food preparation in three households over a three
day period: Clear Creek. 50
6 Comparison of landholding of slash and burn farming
households with total population of Clear Creek. 68

7 Energy budget for slash and burn agriculture. 88
8 Relation between size of holding in llanos and
cattle ownership. 97

9 Energy budget for commercial agriculture. 133

1.0 Commercial farm income (based on Table 9). 136

11 Relation of household adaptive strategy to economic
roles in Clear Creek. 152


Figure Page

1 Characteristics of modes of production in Clear
Creek. 7

2 Location of Clear Creek in the Dominican Republic. 16

3 Landuse in Clear Creek. 17

4 Monthly rainfall, 1973, weather station in River,
Constanza. 22

5 Average high and low monthly temperatures, 1970-
1974. Constanza, Dominican Republic. 23

6 Map of a Clear Creek neighborhood (keyed to Figure 7).47

7 Geneology + household composition of a Clear Creek
neighborhood (keyed to Figure 6). 48

8 Folk taxonomy of soils. 73

9 List of crops and times of maturation in a typical
conuco. 81

10 Energy flow diagram for slash and burn agriculture. 86

11 Symbol key for energy flow diagram (adopted from
Odum 1971). 87

12 Energy flow diagram for commercial agriculture. 132


AID United States Agency for International Development

INCAP Instituto de Nutricion en Centro America y Panama

OEA Organizacien de Estados Americanos

ISA Instituto Superior de Agricultura


I first visited Clear Creek, where this study was under-

taken, in the summer of 1972 while working as part of an

interdisciplinary research team headed by Dr. Gustavo Antonini

of the University of Florida.1 In order to arrive at the

settlement from the crossroads town of River where we stayed,

a colleague and I rode several hours on muleback through wind-

swept and denuded hills. From a ridge above the settlement,

the lush green valley floor of Clear Creek appeared in sharp

contrast to the distant mountain forest which was heavily

scarred by the clearings of swidden farmers. In spite of the

distracting, cold rain which was then falling, I was struck by

the counterpoint of "primitive" and "modern" farming systems.

I remarked to my companion that this rural area Campoo) would

be an excellent location for an in-depth study.

My return to the settlement nearly a year later was made

possible by a grant from the Foreign Area Fellowship Program,

now a part of the Social Science Research Council. After some

negotiation, I was able to rent a small, abandoned house which,

with some renovation, became habitable once again.

The preliminary months of my residence were spent slowly

learning to cope with a new language, mud, and unexpectedly cold

1The names of places have been changed and Anglicized
without, hopefully, losing their true flavor. Likewise the
names of individuals have all been altered.

weather as well as becoming integrated into the life of the

settlement. But I soon discovered that life in the settlement,

for most people, occurred in the context of a cluster of house-

holds, to one of which I was expected to affix myself. The

process of acquiring membership in such a cluster was speeded

by the addition to my household of several children belonging

to my neighbor and an American woman who was considered my wife.

These additional members of the household allowed me to inter-

act equally with other households in the cluster.

The focus of my study gradually expanded as my life in

the settlement broadened but my main concern in retrospect

seems to have been symbolized by my own house garden, half of

which was planted in subsistence crops and half in the commer-

cial vegetables that some of my neighbors grew. Data on commer-

cial farming was easiest to collect since it was going on all

around my house. Measuring work input was done by observing

laborers; short questionnaires elicited production figures and

costs, though it was often difficult to obtain accurate res-

ponses for past years. This was due more to the fact that

farmers kept no records of cash or credit transactions; though

all of them knew, for example, if they were in debt to the

supplier and to the store owner, they were not certain of the


In January and February of 1974, I began to have extensive

contact with swidden farmers, some of whom I had known from

my first visit in 1972. The difficulty of getting to the remote

swidden clearings was partially mitigated with the help of

neighbors who loaned me their mules, but most fields could be


reached only by narrow footpaths. The difficulty of figuring

yields in the clearings was partially met by mapping out plant

densities and combinations, then weighing samples from each

type of plant in the combination. In collecting data on work

input and field size, I worked more intensively with a small

number of slash and burn farmers (about ten) and relied less on

short questionnaires. Since swidden farming was illegal, in-

formants with whom I had less acquaintance were suspicious that

I was in the employ of the government. This was especially true

after Gerald Ford became President as I had told many people I

worked for the Ford Foundation.

Preliminary data on dietary intake, household expendi-

tures, salaries, marketing patterns and other subjects reported

here were collected in informal conversations which gave me an

idea of what were some of the variables involved. For example,

it was in this way that the importance of the rifero (lottery

seller) came to my attention, an element which is usually over-

looked in socio-economic studies because gambling is viewed as

a "game" rather than "economic" behavior. From such conversa-

tions I would make out a mental list of questions which I could

ask in a variety of situations; I constantly used my notebook,

so that residents, flattered by the attention, often reminded

me that I should write down both the accurate and inaccurate

information they gave me, lest I forget. During my stay, I

conducted two household surveys, concerning population, labor,

agricultural practices, and land tenure.

Alternating between formal and informal situations allowed

me to constantly check and recheck information for accuracy and


reliability, which was particularly important in the case of

swidden activity. In addition, event analysis was carried out

in situations including diverse events such as bean harvests

and Christmas fiestas. Genealogies of each household and oral

histories were collected also.

Throughout my fieldwork and the period of study and writing

which came before and after, I have received the support and

guidance of a large number of persons whose help must be acknow-

ledged. Among these are Dr. G. Alexander Moore, who, as chair-

man of my committee and mentor, has given constant encourage-

ment. His visit to the Dominican Republic in the spring of

1974 gave me support and helped to clarify some of the issues

involved in my study. Dr. Solon T. Kimball, under whom I have

taken many courses, urged me to work on the integration of

anthropological concepts and agriculture, while Dr. Hugh Popenoe

has always been generous with his financial help and time for

the same. In his study on swidden agriculture, Dr. William

Carter provided a framework for examining slash and burn

farming. Dr. Larry White was especially helpful with his

editorial suggestions in this manuscript. Dr. Gustavo Antonini,

as I mentioned above, introduced me to both the pleasures and

possibilities of work in the Dominican Republic. Frank Moya

Pons of the Universidad Catblia, Madre y Maestra in Santiago

and Cesar Garcia provided me with key contacts in Dominican

intellectual and academic life which helped me to fit my study

into the larger context of Dominican studies.

In addition, there are a number of individuals who helped

me over many periods of discouragement and impatience and who


shared many of my happiest times. Though this list of their

names is markedly incomplete, it must include: Dona Ilma

Espaillard de Blanco, Mark and Chia Feldman, "Blas" Rosario,

Sally Lawson, Carlos Moreno, Richard Spaulding, Virginia Vega,

Charlotte Doria, Miche] Buisson, Alison McClure, Bonnie Sharp,

Helmut Widmami, and, an excellent typist, Judy Johnson.

Also I must acknowledge the long support of my mother,

Mrs. Elna Werge, and my brother, Dr. Thomas Werge who, through

my various wanderings, have always provided me with their love

and guidance.

But most of all, I shall always remain in debt to the

people of Clear Creek whose lives form the substance of this

dissertation and who gave me more than I can ever hope to

return. It was they who, through their humor and warmth,

helped me to ease my loneliness and carry out my study. One

old woman who came to refer to me as her most blond son (el

hijo mo, lo ms rubio) characterized their outlook with her

proverbial reply to the question, "How are you?" (Como esta

usedd?. "Living," she would say with a shrug of the shoulders,

adding after a pause, "but to live is a great thing." (Vivo,

pero vivir es una grand cosa).

It is to the people of Clear Creek that this dissertation

is dedicated.

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council of
the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Robert Wendell Werge

Chairman: G. Alexander Moore
Major Department: Anthropology

Clear Creek is a small settlement in the central mountain

range of the Dominican Republic which has, over the last de-

cade, widely adopted modern farming methods, including use of

irrigation and agrochemicals to produce commercial vegetable

crops for urban markets. Nevertheless, traditional methods of

swidden farming coupled with the traditional household organi-

zation and division of labor continue to be utilized by part of

the population. These two agricultural systems are contrasted

as adaptive strategies which convert different sets of natural

resources into articles of consumption. Contrasts between

these strategies include their use of energy, spatial distinc-

tions, mode of production, and historical development.

A major effect of agricultural development has been the

wide adoption of new non-agricultural economic roles which

form links in the flow of cahii and goods between the settle-

ment and the outside. These roles include the store owner,

lottery seller, government worker, and migrant. Another effect

of the development has been the growing consolidation of land

by large growers and by outside interests.

This study finds that agricultural development is linked

to the inability of small farmers to remain in commercial pro-

duction while, at the same time, access to swidden farming, an

efficient strategy in terms of caloric return, is becoming

increasingly more limited by environmental and political con-

straints. Thus, a long term result of agricultural development

in Clear Creek is the relegation of much of its population to

marginal cash employment.



What is the effect of rapid agricultural development upon

rural populations in the Dominican Republic? This is the cen-

tral question posed by this study. This thesis attempts to

answer that question by examining the experience of Clear Creek,

a small, rural settlement near the town of Constanza in the

mountains of the Cordillera Central. A number of agricultural

innovations, including new crops, agrochemicals, and marketing

methods, were introduced into Clear Creek in 1967. While some

households have continued to farm in the traditional slash and

burn manner, many others have begun to use new production tech-

niques over the past eight years. Still others have taken up

other specializations such as lottery sales or have migrated.

This study shows that such changes have resulted in the

benefits of development being spread unequally among the popu-

lation and that economic disparity within the population is

growing. It seems clear that the world wide food and energy

crises will make that inequality even more pronounced.

This study argues that it is not the new technology which

causes this growing disparity, but rather a series of con-

straints, environmental, economic, and political, which limits

the ability of more than half the households to acquire and

utilize properly the agricultural innovations. Further it will

be shown that these same constraints are making it increasingly

difficult for farmers to utilize the traditional subsistence

methods. Caught by the limitations imposed on both systems,

much of the rural population must seek to make a living by

means other than agricultural production. At the same time,

the agricultural resources of the settlement are becoming

increasingly concentrated in the hands of large farmers who

are able to maintain access to the new technology in spite of

rising costs and shortages.

This first chapter introduces the theoretical framework

of this study which is largely based upon the concept of

community proposed by Arensberg and Kimball in their seminal

work, Culture and Community (1965). This has already been

employed by Walker in a study of Constanza itself (1972).

As explained in the second chapter, Clear Creek is not a commu-

nity in the traditional sense, but is instead a rural settle-

ment tied to a number of urban centers. Nevertheless this

approach focuses upon the structure and process of human inter-

action as it occurs in natural groupings over time and space.

This natural history approach is a fruitful tool for under-

standing any form of social or economic change.

Within this general frame of reference, however, this

study is concerned with a specific form of change, namely that

of agricultural development. The concept of agricultural

development, along with two others in the title of this thesis,

adaptive strategy and economic role is central to this study.

Each of these concepts will now be discussed and related to

other concepts used in the ensuing chapters.

The concept of adaptive strategy has proved to be useful

for the analysis of both traditional and modern economies.2

Bennett's book Northern Plainsmen shows how cultural groups

have developed distinctive strategies for coping with a speci-

fic ecological setting. By adaptive strategy, he means the

organization of activities aiming at the conversion of the

natural environment into natural resources which are used for

subsistence and profit. In these terms a strategy is an

observable pattern of social, technological, and economic inter-

action adjusted to a particular physical environment by a par-

ticular culture or subculture.

Bennett claims that strategies arise out of both the

choices and limitations faced by men who are attempting to

cope with their environments and make choices between the

available options. He writes:

Often in environments with marginal resources,
the alternatives are few, decisions are diffi-
cult, and a general constraint is exercised over
human action. In these situations, one might
speak of ecological or economic determinism as
an explanation of particular social phenomena ..
But the process is not a simple one of automatic
controls over human behavior. Even in ecologi-
cally constrained situations . people are
confronted with choices and need to make deci-
sions. In addition, human wants and concep-
tions of action may or may not conform to
reality, and certainly man always conceives of
possibilities other than the inevitable or most
probable (1969: 14-15).

2The guiding discussion of this concept is found in
Bennett's Northern Plainsmen (1969) in chapter 1, "Adapta-
tion as a Frame of Rlcorence." Bennett amplifies on Thomas
Hardings' article "Adaptation and Stability" in Evolution and
Culture (1960). More materialistic treatments are found i-"
arvin Hlarris (1960) and Yehudi A. Cohen (1968).

Adaptive strategies, then, are taken to be the result of

history and culture as well as the direct interaction of man

and environment.

At present, Clear Creek is a settlement which exhibits

two major and quite distinct adaptive strategies. Slash and

burn agriculture, the method of farming which first attracted

settlers some 60 years ago, continues to be practiced in the

hills. Vegetable production, utilizing irrigation, agrochemi-

cals, and modern marketing channels, has been practiced in the

narrow valleys for the past eight years.

The differences between the two adaptive strategies have

several facets. Various dichotomies call attention to the

contrast between the two strategies in terms of cultural atti-

tudes, relationships to markets and forms of cultivation:

traditional vs. modern, subsistence vs. commercial, and exten-

sive vs. intensive. However, the findings of this study indi-

cate that the contrasts between the organization and flow of

energy in both of these adaptive strategies give a very clear

insight into why these two systems coexist for the time being

and why one of them is replacing the other as a predominant

economic factor.

The principle of energy (the capacity to do work) has

figured highly in theories of evolutionary change and in the

analysis of biosocial systems (Cottrell 1955, Odum 1971,

Rappaport 1971, Sahlins and Service 1960, White 1949). In

this thesis, the concern is to demonstrate how the source

and amount of energy utilized by farmers varies significantly

from one strategy to another. The measurement of the energy

involved also provides a means, besides that of cash income,

for gauging the efficiency of each strategy.

In both swidden and commercial farming, the control over

energy is a crucial factor in the farmer's ability to manipulate

the environment. Under slash and burn agriculture, for example,

the farmer attempts to control energy by recruiting labor out

of his own household. Because this same household consumes what

it produces, the flow of energy which this system represents is

relatively closed. In contrast, large scale commercial farming

represents an open energy flow, one in which great reliance is

placed on obtaining energy supplements from national and inter-

national markets.

The organization and flow of energy in an adaptive stra-

tegy results from the level and type of technology employed

along with the pattern of social and economic interaction geared

to production and distribution. Taking the cue from Chayanov

(1966) and Sahlins (1972), these patterns of interaction are

called modes of production. In both of the strategies discussed

here, these modes of production are quite distinct.

In slash and burn agriculture, the household is the mode,

being the unit of both consumption and production. At the

other extreme in capitalist farming, the mode of production is

a more complex system in which there is an occupational division

of labor between managers and workers, the latter being recruited

by the payment of cash wages. The small scale commercial opera-

tion falls between these extremes, recruiting part of its labor

force from the household and part from hired workers (Figure 1).

A technology does not require any particular mode of pro-

duction in and of itself. Bennett's discussion of a Hutterite

community as a modern farming enterprise aptly makes this point,

as would a similar analysis of a Chinese commune or an Israeli

kibbutz. Capitalist farming in Clear Creek, it should be empha--

sized, is not the inevitable result of simple technological

change. Rather, it results from the combination of technologi-

cal change occurring in a particular cultural system under a

series of recognizable environmental, political, and economic


Agricultural development, another phrase in the title of

this study, is usually used to mean the application of modern

technology to increase the production of crops. The term,

development, here should not be construed as implying that

modern technology or larger yields are innately beneficial to

the producers and consumers of agricultural production or to

the culture as a whole. It is used simply to designate change

from a low energy-using agricultural system to a high energy-

using one.

Modern agricultural technology is usually but not exclu-

sively based on fossil fuel subsidies. Composting is an exam-

ple of an innovation not using fossil fuels but already available

nutrients in a more efficient manner. However, in Clear Creek,

new techniques rely almost entirely upon fossil fuel inputs:

agrochemicals, motor transport, and a whole host of agricultural

goods which flow from modern industry. In this sense, the settle-

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ment is said to be developing agriculturally.

An integral aspect of agricultural development as it un-

folds in the settlement is the emergence of economic roles

which are distinct from those involved in either of the two

modes of agricultural production. Economic role is used here

to mean occupation or job: that is, a set of behaviors,

forming an identifiable unit, which are functionally specific

to a particular position in the economy. In slash and burn

agriculture, economic roles are frequently prescribed by other

statuses including age, gender, marital status, and parenthood.

For example, the male head of household is the principal

farmer whose helpers are his unmarried sons. In adopting a

more open energy system, however, such economic roles are

taken out of the household context. In this new situation,

the functions of such roles, for example that of middleman,

rifero (lottery seller), government official, and the special

case of migrants become important behavioral units whose recruit-

ment is not prescribed by social statuses. For example, lottery

sellers in the settlement include men, women, and even a child,

a 14 year old boy.

New economic roles supply linkages in the new flow of

energy and cash through the settlement. They exist as alter-

natives for individuals who give up, sometimes temporarily,

traditional subsistence farming, but who become neither commer-

cial farmers nor daylaborers. It will be seen, however, that

these roles supply only a limited income, less than $400 per

year, which is roughly equal to that earned by day laborers.3

3All monetary values expressed in this study are given in

Thus many individuals find themselves relegated to a low income

level from which it is difficult to escape.

However, if an individual or a household is able to diver-

sify economic roles, large economic benefits can result from

the ability to parlay losses in one endeavor against gains in

another. The adaptive strategy of commercial and capitalist

farmers involves an attempt to diversify their crops, economic

roles and investments so that when hard times fall resources

can be shifted from one activity to another. The farmer who

is the owner of a store, a truck driver, a backer for a lottery,

and a cattle owner is much better equipped than one who relies

solely upon growing two vegetable crops a year. This diversity

parallels that found in slash and burn farming where the farmer

attempts to diversify his crops and holdings to spread around

his risk.

The chapters which follow build a framework for the central

point of this thesis, namely, that the actual and potential

benefits of agricultural development in Clear Creek are being

spread unequally through the population. This results not

from the nature of the new technology itself but from the type

of cultural system into which it has been introduced. Among

the variables operating in that system are constraints imposed

on the population by the environment, economics, and politics.

terms of the Dominican peso, written by the $. Officially
$1.00 RD = $1.00 US, but in fact the values fluctuate. During
the period from August 1973 to February 1975, the $1.00 RD
was exchanged on the black market at a low of $.86 US to a
high of $.91 US.

The thesis is developed by describing and analyzing the

social and economic organization, adaptive strategies, economic

roles, and socio-ecological constraints present in the settle-

ment. Chapter two is concerned with the social and economic

organization of Clear Creek. It concentrates upon the inter-

action of environment and kinship in defining the system of

land tenure and household structure. Historical background is

drawn into the discussion to give a necessary time perspective

to the changes the settlement is undergoing in terms of land

use and the household.

The third and fourth chapters describe the two major

adaptive strategies whereby the Clear Creek population converts

its region's natural resources into usable produce and goods.

These strategies are slash and burn farming and irrigated

vegetable production, the latter also being referred to as

commercial farming. Within commercial farming, a division has

been made between large and small scale producers, as may be

noticed in Figure 1. Urban based outsiders who have recently

bought land for flower and vegetable production are referred to

as capitalists. Since they seldom visit the farms, their

holdings are run by managers. The line between small and large

scale producers is made at two hectares of irrigable land;

those holdings above two are referred to as large and those

holdings below two are referred to as small. At the same time,

it is shown that the differences between large and small growers

are more complex than simply a matter of scale of production

(Figure 1).

Chapter five discusses economic roles in the settlement

which exist outside of these modes of production. These roles

exist as important options for households as agricultural

development takes place. Essentially they act as alternatives

to daylabor for much of the population which does not have

sufficient land to enter small scale commercial farming. But

the low cash return from such economic roles disallows the

build-up of capital which, not incidentally, reinforces reliance

upon the lottery as a means of obtaining a large amount of money

at one time. When combined with commercial farming, however,

these same roles lead to the better control of energy and cash

flow by large scale farmers.

Chapter six shows how participation in commercial agri-

culture is limited by factors of environment, economics, and

politics and how these limitations are becoming increasingly

stringent. These constraints, along with the tendencies des-

cribed in the previous chapters, will be shown to favor large-

scale enterprise. It will become clear that without some form

of control such enterprises promise to take an increasing share

of the settlement's resources. The last chapter draws some

conclusions about the future of Clear Creek and other settle-

ments in the Dominican Republic which are being affected by

agricultural development.



This chapter is concerned with the socio-economic organi-

zation of Clear Creek and the manner in which this organization

is changing under the impact of agricultural development. The

household is the basic unit of socio-economic organization in

the canpo; it forms the mode of production in slash and burn

farming and is the critical unit for the settling of new terri-

tory and the division of old land.4 Thus, the household links

changes which occur in the pattern of land use with alterations

in the pattern of human interaction. Thus a major focus of this

chapter is on the changing structure of the household itself.

The household is a group of persons residing in a parti-

cular physical setting, a house and a yard, which is related

to the natural environment in a particular manner. The first

part of this chapter, then, is a general discussion of the

environment in which Clear Creek's households are found. This

is followed by a description of the land tenure system which

first brought settlers to exploit this environment. Land

tenure is a crucial link to understanding the adaptive strategy

of slash and burn farming. The following discussion shows

4The definition of household used here is that of Gonzalez
(1960): a group of persons sharing common residence and res-
ponsibility for economic cooperation and the socialization of

that a discrepancy existed between the legal system of land-

holding, terrenos comuneros, and the actual practices of land

tenure which provided an extremely flexible basis for the type

of farming which was customarily practiced by the settlers.

This flexibility has largely disappeared with an increase in

population and its concentration upon the valley floor where

each household has a mean holding of roughly one hectare but

where the mode is less than .5 hectare.

In the early days of the settlement, houses were widely

dispersed, but as pressure on the land has increased, house-

holds have developed a cluster form of settlement, like that

found elsewhere in the Republic. The manner in which these

clusters are created is examined in some detail to reveal the

nature of reciprocities and tensions within them. Tensions

arise from the need for each household to maintain itself as

a unit and the need to be connected to others in times of


Household clusters, however, are avoided in socio-economic

patterns of large farmers, those owning more than two hectares

of bottomland, who are engaged in irrigated vegetable produc-

tion. Escaping the reciprocities of the cluster, these farmers

build their homes on land which they have purchased themselves.

While subject to redistributive pressures, large farmers use

such pressure to their own benefit without being trapped into

a cluster system. Most significantly, since these farmers do

not rely upon their own households for labor, they begin to

adopt attitudes which limit the size of their households by

practicing birth control or by educating their children out of

the settlement into urban employment.

These patterns of change reflect upon fundamental differ-

ences in the adaptive strategy of slash and burn farming vs.

the adaptive strategy of irrigated vegetable production. These

differences are reflected through the household onto the pat-

tern of human interaction and onto the physical landscape. But

change is effected unevenly by households since constraints

of environment, economics, and politics increasingly limit

access to new resources and technology to only a proportion of

the population, and especially to the five households of the

large commercial farmers and the two large capitalist farms run,

not from a household, but from an office in Santo Domingo.

Clear Creek is an agricultural settlement high in the

central mountain range of the Dominican Republic (Figures 2, 3).

It is composed of nearly 700 persons who live in 126 households

formed over the past 60 years in what was once heavily forested

wilderness. The official borders of Clear Creek define it as a

parade of the section (seccfon) of River, part of the munici-

pality (municipio) of Constanza in the province (provincia) of

La Vega. The boundaries of the paraje contain roughly some

5,000 hectares, though the recent addition of Deep Gorge to

its borders has enlarged this considerably.5 This was only one

of a series of boundary changes which occur periodically, making

for considerable confusion among researchers and residents alike.

5The unit of land area commonly used in the Dominican
Republic is the tarea which equals .0625 hectare. Throughout
this dissertatioWn-,al calculations are in terms of hectares.

In 1952, for example, Clear Creek was affixed to Constanza, a

redistricting against which its inhabitants continue to complain.

Some 82% of the settlers who came to this area from the outside

were from Jaravacoa and they feel that the Constanza connection

deprives them of the political advantages which kinship ties

brought them in their natal community.

The settlement's isolation is one born of difficult terrain

and, until the 1950's, the distance from secondary roads. While

geography cut the settlement off from each commerce with other

regions, it also created divisions within the settlement (Figure

3). Four of the valleys of Clear Creek, Pretty Creek, Pines,

Goat, and Nuts, follow tributaries of the same river system and

each tributary is flanked by narrow strips of bottomland upon

which irrigation is possible. These valleys are linked to a

fifth, Black Stone, which lies outside Clear Creek's political

boundaries but which is tied to it by agricultural patterns,

historical development, and intermarriage.

In contrast, Deep Gorge is separated from these valleys

by a high and uninhabited watershed, crossed only by a steep,

dangerous mule path. Deep Gorge contains no irrigable bottom

land and its houses are often built along ridgelines, a pattern

not followed elsewhere. Little visiting takes place across

the watershed except for special events such as the annual cock-

fight held in Pretty Creek between the men of Deep Gorge and

those of the other valleys. Further, Deep Gorge is connected

closely by mule path to settlements which lie below it in the

province of Bonao. Much of its coffee and beans, the only cash

crops, is sent directly to Bonao, by-passing Clear Creek's



0 -4
a E2

< 00
W ooo


- + o o

z 2

O< L

z o 0



L i ""v H.


.I I V H
0 > 0 2 7

OZ 5

Landuse in Clear Creek.

marketing channels.

Political and geographical boundaries in Clear Creek,

thus, fail to coincide, a point made clearer when the external

relations of the settlement are examined. The settlement lies

six kilometers on a barely serviceable road from the main

Constanza highway. At this juncture, the traveler is an hour

by public car from Bonao and forty-five minutes from Constanza

which lies in the opposite direction. Not only is Bonao a

much larger city, it is also a gateway to other regions of the

nation, whereas Constanza, since the road to San Jose de Ocoa

has fallen into ruin, is a dead end.

From Clear Creek, persons go to or past Bonao five times

as often as they go to Constanza. This is especially true in

regard to the marketing of produce, visiting doctors, and

recent permanent migration. Commercial.farmers may buy their

supplies in Constanza, but they market produce in the large

central markets of Santo Domingo. Individuals can attend to

some government related matters in Constanza, but dealing with

6Owing to this ecological and social division, my work
concentrated upon the 126 households in the four valleys of
Pretty Creek, Nuts, Goat, and Pines. Unless otherwise men-
tioned, data presented includes only these localities.

7The three largest cities in the Dominican Republic in
1970 were: Santo Domingo 671,402, Santiago 155,151, and San
Francisco de Macoris 43,941. La Vega was seventh with 31,085
and Bonao had 20,159. In contrast, Constanza, the town, has
a population of about 4,000.
Of a total Dominican population of 4,011,589 some 40% is
considered to be urban. In the municipality of Constanza, only
12% of the population is considered to be urban. (Orlando,
1972: 26, 28, 52; Walker, 1972: 12)

institutions such as the courts or the agricultural bank often

means going directly to La Vega. Constanza operates as only

one pole of Clear Creek's external relations. Links of kinship,

economics, health services, and migration form functionally

distinct connections with a variety of urban centers.

Maintaining such ties is vitally necessary to contemporary

Clear Creek for, as a campo, it lacks the complement of insti-

tutions and roles vital for the creation of a community (Arens-

berg, 1965). The people of Clear Creek use the word campo to

describe the area in which they live and work, never community

(comunidad). Only a limited number of institutions are repre-

sented. There is a rarely used church, a school, nine small

stores, a pool table housed in a shed; but there is no clinic,

no bar, no government offices, no brothel, no police station,

and no government services in terms of water, electricity, or

sewage. Also the list of cultural representatives is only par-

tially complete; there is a sheriff (alcalde) but no police, a

native curer (curandero) but no nurse, teachers but no priest,

retailers but no wholesalers. Furthermore, the existing insti-

tutions and roles are dispersed, like the settlement pattern

itself, isolating the major symbolic centers of life: the

store, the church, the schools, and the house and yard.

Clear Creek exists, then, in dynamic and essential counter-

point to an urban center or centers. The interaction of campo,

hinterland, with pueblo, town, forms the traditional Dominican

community; like the ying and yang of Chinese philosophy, they

form a complete whole only when taken together. Walker's

study in Constanza focused upon events within the town while

this study complements it by focusing upon events in the country-

side (Walker, 1970, 1971, 1972).

Clear Creek's relationship with urban areas has become

increasingly predicated over the last decade upon the distinc-

tiveness of its agricultural produce. The cabbages and other

vegetables raised here thrive in the moist, cool climate while

the autumnal bean production often hits the city markets at a

time when no other region is harvesting. The climate of the

municipio is famous throughout the country for being cool and


The first settlers who came to Clear Creek from Jaravacoa

arrived at a place which was colder, more rainy, more fertile,

and less hospitable than the one they had left. Those who

remember the Clear Creek of that era agree that it was a most

ugly place, filled with dark and forbidding forests through

which mule paths were only narrowly scratched. Only as the

forest has been cleared has it become, for then, a livable


The altitude of the settlement, about 1050 meters, puts it

500 meters above Jaravacoa. An even more dramatic contrast can

be made with Bonao which, only 17 kilometers away, is at 157

meters. The change in altitude is very abrupt and is even more

so if one considers the mountain 1823 meters high which over-

looks the narrow valleys of Clear Creek. Heavy clouds blow

often along the scarred face of this steep slope, warning of

imminent rains. The clouds themselves are formed when pre-

vailing winds riding easily over the hot lowlands strike against

this portion of the central mountain range.

The altitude's effect upon rainfall and temperature gives

the Constanza region a climate unique in the Dominican Republic.

The annual average rainfall of some 1,071 mm. is more than any

other area except the Samana peninsula. This is unevenly dis-

tributed throughout the year as data collected in River in 1973

shows (Figure 4). While drier months are usually expected in

March through July, there is great fluctuation in rainfall from

year to year. In January 1973,for example, it rained 40.0 mm.,

whereas in the following year the monthly total stood at 136.4

mm. It is this variability which limits production in Clear

Creek rather than any water deficiency as such.

Temperature is less variable than rainfall and remains

throughout the year more in a temperate than tropical range

(Figure 5). Combined with the rains of December, January, and

February, this makes for an uncomfortable winter as numerous cases

of the common cold (el gripe) attest. During this cold season,

women are kept busy brewing home remedies from plants gathered

in their extensive herb gardens.

In other seasons, as elsewhere in the mountains, the cool-

ness of the climate is viewed as a distinct advantage. The

climate is described as being cool rather than cold when com-

paring this region with others. By contrast, the heat and dust

of the lowland cities, especially Bonao and Santo Domingo, are

pointed out as reasons against migrating from the area. Con-

firming.this view is the increasing number of wealthy residents

of the capital who have built summer homes in Black Stone and

j F H A m 3 3 A S 0 D S


Monthly rainfall, 1973, weather station in River, Constanza.

M6.0 30

80.6 27

75.2 24

69.8 21 -

48.2 9

12.8 6

37.4 3

32.0 0 D- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
-F oC J F M A M J i A 8 0


Average high and low monthly temperatures
1970-1974. Constanza, Dominican Republic.

River where they vacation on weekends and in the warmer months.

Change in climate presented the early settlers with a new

set of farming variables. Tobacco, then an important cash crop

in Jaravacoa, could not be grown successfully in Clear Creek nor

did planting seasons coincide with those in the old farming area.

Nevertheless, these factors were outweighted, at least for those

farmers who stayed, by the abundance and the fertility of the

land. Though exaggerating their first yields, the old settlers.

still warm quickly to the task of describing their early bean

harvests and the loads of root crops they took back to their

families in Jaravacoa. These harvests were certainly aided by

the thick ash left from burning the virgin woods, by the absence

of pests which came along later, and by the good valley bottom-


Though, as shall be seen later, there is an intricate and

complex system of soil classification employed by farmers in

Clear Creek, they agree there are two main types: that of the

hills (loma) and of the valley (llanos). Soil maps of the

region reveal the basic distinction between alluvial deposits

laid down by intermittent flooding in the valleys and soils of

volcanic, but principally metamorphic, origin in the hills

(OEA 1967). This latter group reveals a thin layer of humus

beneath which lies either a hard red clay or a rocky substruc-

ture. While the valleys support permanent cultivation, the

hills are abandoned to grass and scrub after being farmed and

are given over to cattle production. This tendency is particu-

larly accentuated in Clear Creek where the steepness of hill-

sides inhibits their being used in the kind of dryland farming

practiced elsewhere in the municipio (Wlalker 1972).

This combination of soil, temperature, and rain creates

a natural vegetation cover listed by Holridge as being a wet

mountain forest. But in Clear Creek there are two distinct

forest complexes. An extensive pine forest, once more vast

than it is now, contains a large number of Pinus varieties,

including the indigenous occidentalis. These forests were

heavily logged during the Trujillo era. The other complex has

as its most distinctive component the manacla palm (Euterpe

globosa) and a wild variety of ferns, lichens, mosses, and epi-

phytic flowering plants. Clear Creek lies astride the dividing

line, as it were, between these two vegetative zones.

The land use zones of Clear Creek, then, are valley bottom-

land, forested hills, and hills converted from forest into

pasture (Figure 3). Political lines being of little consequence,

the amount of land exploited which is either in pasture or forest

is much greater than that included in Clear Creek. The hills

beyond Goat and near Blue Mountain, for example, are regularly

farmed by slash and burn agriculturalists from Clear Creek as

are some regions of Deep Gorge.

The means by which these farmers and the original settlers

who came to Clear Creek got access to their lands is a complex

matter. Land tenure is, after all, as much a function of a

person's relations with his fellows, defined by law and custom,

as it is a person's relationship to a piece of land. The

system of tenure involved in slash and burn farming evolved

out of the historic condition of an expanding population living

along a forest frontier. In the initial phase of settlement,

colonists cleared what land they needed and acquired rights over

it by using it. In some cases colonists would purchase the

right of usufruct for some land over which someone else had

title. In all cases, the limitations on use of land were de-

fined more by household labor force and family need than by

formal property boundaries.

Clear Creek, 50 years ago, was a frontier; the sentiments

expressed concerning the forest, its dangers and darkness, are

common to folk who must subdue the woods in order to survive

(Turnbull 1962, Miller 1956: 1-15). Since colonial times,

the frontier was far from formal seats of government and was

scattered wherever vast strands of forest donated the land-

scape. Thus, the type of tenure that developed had only tangen-

tial relations to national law; in fact, national law must be

seen as an attempt to control and formalize a system which was

already well rooted in the conditions of rural life.

The form of tenure most characteristic of the history of

the Dominican Republic was that of terrenos comuneros, a system

operated through the acquisition by an individual of a govern-

ment grant which entitled him to the usufruct of a quantity of

land based upon the number of pesos paid (Clausner 1973: 121-

124). These individuals could then sell part of the usufruct to

others and these shares were called acciOnes or titulos de eso.

Children inherited these shares on the death of their parents.

The exact location of boundaries for either the original

grant or subsequent subdivisions was never clearly spelled out.

Part of the reason is that the government had no clear idea of

the local geography. But a more fundamental reason was that

the lack of exact boundaries was quite in tune with an agricul- -

tural system which placed little value on fixed fields. In

slash and burn farming, clearings are made and utilized only for

a few plantings, though these may be stretched out over a long

period of years during which the land lies in fallow. New

fields are constantly created and old ones are abandoned.

In practice, the use of the land was never limited by the

number of acciones a person held, but rather by available man-

power within an individual's own household and the location and

prior claims of other farmers. Production and use were geared

to the needs and capacities of a household subsistence (Rodri-

quez Demonzi 1871: X: 199, 485). Further, as long as new

forest was available, rights were given to newcomers as often

as they were sold. Often newcomers were kinsmen or from the

same locality as the first settlers; it has already been stated

that a large majority of the settlers in Clear Creek, for exam-

ple, came from the region of Jaravacoa. The newcomers were

simply expected to act according to customary practices of res-

pecting prior claims and entering into local reciprocities,

including labor exchange in the form of cooperative labor parties


In one sense these settlers may be thought of as squatters

for while they enjoyed usufruct of the land, ownership was vested

elsewhere, originally in the Crown and later in the national

government. Mintz sees such a pattern as creating a fringe type

of Caribbean peasantry and Horowitz shows that the system of J

acciSnes also existed elsewhere in the West Indies (Mintz 1974:

147-148; Horowitz 1967). But as with squatter's rights in

English law, formal title of ownership in fee simple could be

granted after proof of a long and undisputed occupancy was

furnished even if no previous title such as acciones was ever

held. This occupancy has usually been thought of in terms of

thirty years, as it is in Clear Creek today.

The customary system of land tenure in the settlement, with

all of its flexibility and expansiveness, rests upon the assump-

tion of abundant forest and new land. As such resources come

into short supply, however, holdings and claims come to be more

rigidly fixed and individuals try to define more clearly the

limits of their occupancy. In Clear Creek, this process has been

hastened not only by an increasing population but also by the

intervention of the national government into the life of the

settlement. Three main events must be cited to clarify this


The first event which entailed such intervention began with

the establishment of lumber mills in Clear Creek which lasted

from 1947 to 1954. The mills used labor hired outside the

settlement and were under the control of Trujillo's brother,

"Negro," who operated them from Bonao (Crassweller 1966). In

order to utilize virgin forests for the maximum efficiency of

the mills, acciSnes which were held by the local population

were declared invalid. Though the land in the valleys which had

long since been cleared of its original forest cover was left

alone, "Negro's" appointed official (el jefe de la loma)

greatly restricted the customary practice of clearing forest

for agricultural purposes. Thus, farmers found themselves more

confined than they had been before.

The second event was the declaration in the mid-1950's of

la zona in the settlement. La zona is a governmentally imposed

regulation which changes the nature of slash and burn farming

in areas like Clear Creek. Previous to this regulation, pigs,

which formed a critical part of the local subsistence diet,

were allowed to roam freely wherever they pleased. Clearings

in the hills and house gardens in the valley had to be enclosed

to prevent the pigs from rooting out the crops and much time

went into the construction of wooden palisades around these

fields. Because the pigs roamed at will, it was customary to

regard only the enclosed fields as being truly a person's


The establishment of la zona, however, meant that animals,

not fields, had to be enclosed. If pigs did damage to crops,

the owner of the animals would have to pay damages. As the

palisades came down, then, barbed wire which is singularly

ineffective against pigs was put up in its place. But instead

of merely fencing in the fields which were currently in use,

barbed wire enclosed all of the bottomland that a household

claimed as its own. Since barbed wire was costly, those who

were able to acquire it enclosed as much as they could, even

where this led to boundary disputes with neighbors. It seems

also to be true that at this time much selling of the land took

place by those individuals; who could r.ot afford to enclose

their ]a::.

The third event was the death of Trujillo in 1961. Up

until that time, "n;ero" h iad continued the policy of restricting

access to the hills arcuni Clear Creek. No one was allowed to

enclose land there, i'fr he had ciair::d the land as his own

domain even after the mills left,-. withinn a week of the assassi-

nation, however, the enclosure of hills around the settlement

had begun, principally that land which, having been cut over for

lumber, had gone into pasture. Areas in secondary growth were

also enclosed and some far.:::rs were able to cover ten to twenty

hectares in barbed wire. This again led to boundary disputes,

and bitterness between certain households still stems from

this period.

In Clear Creek today then the boundaries of holdings in

the hills have become much more clearly defined; barbed wire

has replaced the right to alter one's fields from year to year.

As a result, large growers invest their profits in cattle which

graze on larse exp':.oses of pa.st;re. The continual burni:ng over

of the pastures fore ew gra.s preve:.ts ti e eventusal recenerat'ion

of the forest, preventing future use of the lard for agricul-

tural purposes. The expense of Lar- t.r d ,I ire li'-it- the alter-

n't.iv'.e of cattle prr)'ducticn lar'e grcr;eers while keeping

l.re a-.,u".ts of l:-. per,. .t1y o !ut c'f .:ricultural use.

In the farther reaches of .C ep Go:,-e the s .:tcs of land

tenure continues to resc-.tle that of th' :err.: c.' :r. ror. /

If forest in these an:a.-3 i.: never been cleared, if it is not

enclo:edi and if ]n :..' i.:;. laidi a previous claim: then any

individual may clear the woods to make a slash and burn clearing.

But the national government still claims title to all of this

land, whether enclosed by barbed wire or not, and officially

all the settlers are regarded a:.s squatters. The local resi-

dents are quite quick to acknowledge this. They claim to sell

and inherit only the right to u:.e the land (la dorecha) and the

improvements they have made rather than actual ownership of the

sa.r. No one holds a clear title, though several persons have

had their land measured in anticipation of applying for a

title based upon occupancy. One neighbor of mine spent over

$250.00 in having his larid measured and going through some pre-

liminary stages, but he eventually gave up because he had so

far dealt only with officials in La Vega and was nowhere near

having his claim presented in the land tribunal which sits in

the capital. While there is a general consensus that the gov-

ernment would not bother the settlers, there is scant belief

that one could actually obtain a title and a little fear that

an application might only pique the government's interest i:.

this isolated valley.

The cumulative effect ofI thIe:e three events w:her combine i

with a constantly i:.cruasi:ng po-u':latio n a!:.i the aJv'artage:O of

soil an.d wa:er haa been to con:c:.trate te h population of Cen:ar

Creek in th.' valley ltt.c::la:ij (11:-r ). Th"e a-ic ocio-
econom.ic unit in which thi:.; pop: a' i .- live i theh hou.;chold

.hiich has its phv'sical :-.ai:'e t;ati~ i t' ho-se and yard

complex. Chan::es in: land tenure, n:amely the enclosure of

In nds previo'u.sly ope for th-e aking of cl.'ari ngs and the

rooting of pigs, has been felt in the household by encouraging

the clustering of households by related groups of kinsmen.

Thin pattern of clustcrinzg is one of the main changes in socio-

econo:nic organization in the ca.po resulting from increased

pressure on the land.

At the sa:.o time, the particular effects of agricultural

development on the household can be seen in the composition

of households as individual units. Here a direct link is shown

to the mode of production for in the system of slash and burn

farming, which was so geared to the flexibility of terrenos

comune.ros, the household supplied the needed energy requirement,

aside from that of sun and fire, and labor exchange provided

additional help when necessary. As long as land was abundant,

the limiting factor in production was labor and a large house-

hold, as large as possible, assured the exploitation of a large

and diverse area.

But in commercial farming only part of the labor force is

recruited from the household, and in capitalist farming hired

workers furnish the entire human energy input. Commercial

farmers are, therefore, begir.nirn. to adjust the size of their

households to fit the nre: :equirm,.:nts of the node of produc-

tion. For the::, a lar-ge household is a liability for, while

rer.airni:t- the unit of cons;.mpticn, it ceases to be the unit of

product. on.

To ground this discusi-ion more solidly in the ongoing life

of the settlement, it is necessary to describe the households

in which the population of Clear Creek, aside from the large

commercial farmers, live.

The symbolic center of rural life in the Dominican Republic,

as elsewhere in the Caribbean (Mintz 1974) has traditionally

been the house and yard, though the pulperfa or small store has

increasingly important social and economic functions. The
house and yard is referred to as the bohfo by Dominican farmers,

the word coming from the Arawak name for dwelling. The bohro

actually consists of two main buildings, the house and a sep-

arate kitchen, plus a well swept yard, several outlying sheds,

an outhouse, and the house garden where subsistence crops are

grown. Around this complex is usually a small coffee grove,

growing under the shade of taller trees, and bananas and plan-

tains which give the bohfo an air of self sufficiency.

The house and kitchen are constructed of wood in most
cases, either the thin slats of manacla (Euterpe globosa),

cut from new clearings in the forests, or more substantial

pine boards. The house contains two or three rooms, a sitting

room which is rarely used, and one or two bedrooms. In the

main bedroom is always a small altar with several worn pictures

of saints and the Virgin and a few candles which are lit for

a short time each night.

The kitchen walls are built with space between the slats

to allow croke from the cooking and evening fires to escape.

The kitchen is the true center of household life and activity;

here all visitors are received, though they might be detained

a few minutes in the sitting room if they are total strangers.

A large storage chest is found in the kitchen, in which corn

(mainly used for chicken feed), beans, and rice may be kept.

The center of activity is the fogon, a large rectangular

table with an earth filled surface on which the cooking is

done in recessed adobe fireholds.

The bohio was once found in more isolated circumstances

than it is today and this is related to increased pressure on

the land. As long as new forest land was abundant, settlers

and the sons of settlers built their houses at a distance from

one another so as to utilize a large and varied area. As the

land became more crowded, with the arrival of new households

as well as the natural increase of population, this tendency

to spread out was reduced. Concentration was further reduced

by the events of the Trujillo era and the steady enclosure of

land. Concentration in the valley was also abetted by the

natural advantages of nearby streams and a soil which per-

mitted the annual replanting of gardens which on the hillsides

would have to be abandoned after a single harvest.

This concentration, however, takes the form of clusters

which follow a typical Dominican spatial and social pattern

for relatively dense rural populations. Clusters consist of

three or four households of male siblings who have been given

part of their father's property. These clusters fill out the

natural environment of Clear Creek by occuping small niches

in the contours of the valley floor, such as the wide bank at

a curve of a stream or a rise of.high ground. To understand

exactly how these household groups have come into being, how-


ever, it is necessary to look at a crucial point in a resi-

dent's life cycle, namely that point at which he or she begins

to live in free union.

Some 98% of the unions between men and women in the

settlement are created without benefit of law or clergy.

These are referred to in this study as free unions. Though

25% of these are eventually legalized by church or civil mar-

riage, this occurs after a number of years of the couple's

living together. The process by which a man and woman enter

into free union follows the stages for a rite of passage as

outlined by van Gennep (1960). J

The first stage, separation, is accomplished by the

couple slipping away at night from their respective households.

This is done according to prior arrangement between the two,

though the initiative is always presumed to be that of the

male; it is said that he took her (Le llevo el a ella) rather

than that they both went away. The ideal situation is one in

which the male has already constructed a house on his father's

property but at some distance from his parents' house. Permis-

sion to build the house is in essence permission to enter into

such a union. Only 40% of the males, however, either have the

resources or the permission to build a house and the rest must

ask a relative or neighbor to give them protection and shelter.

Again this is a way in which tacit permission is given to the

union, for if a couple were unable to find someone to shelter

them, they would abandon their plan.

The second stage, liminalitv, occurs after both sets of

parents recognize that their children are gone and continues

until the time that they are allowed to visit their house-

holds of orientation as a couple. Having consummated the

relationship on the first night, the female has ceased to be /

a girl (muchacha) and has become a woman (mujer). Thus altered

in word and deed, she cannot return to her house as before,

especially if her parents continue to express their expected

reaction of anger and shock. The pair confine themselves,

then, to their new quarters, seeing few people, until they are

allowed to visit their former homes.

The third stage, reincorporation, occurs as a gradual

process of being recognized as a couple by the rest of the

settlement. This hinges upon both the male and female making

certain changes in their previous behavior. The male, for

example, is expected to stop hanging around at the pulper'a

at night and to become serious (serio) by devoting himself to

his work. The female, for her part, begins to cook meals

entirely on her own and to confine herself to her new kitchen,

attending to her few material possessions, and, as will be

explained more fully later, sending cooked food to the home

of her mate's parents and siblings.

The major element in the process of reincorporation,

however, is the piece of land which the father gives to the

son who has set up his household. In Clear Creek this is

land in the valley, often land upon which the son has worked

with the father, growing subsistence or, more recently, commer-

cial crops. Thus the parcel which he receives is land over


Age distribution of the population in Clear Creek.


Ml an o r 3%

S4-5 1.5

43-48 3%

37- 42 5

31-36 t 6%

25-30 -8%


13-18 I 13

7-12 20%

1-6 8e

lOtal Pecentage: 100%

which he has slowly been taking control.

But land in the hills claimed by the father is handled

differently; it is never given as a gift, but is held intact,

until it is divided on the parents' death. If this land is

in pasture, any livestock which the new household possesses

may be grazed along with that of the father. If, on the other

hand, the land contains primary or secondary forest in which

it is still possible to make clearings, the new household is

free to claim a necessary portion for a slash and burn clearing.

But since there is no need for fixed fields using this form of

agriculture, there is no need to give the land in any formal


Thus it is on the valley floor that clusters of house-

holds are created by male siblings living on land given them

by their father. Women marry out of their own household of

orientation and away from their father's holding. Defining

virilocality here as being the establishment of a household

on the male's parents' holding (uxorilocal) or an entirely

new holding (neolocal), some 62% follow the virilocal pattern

(Table 2).

Actual household size and composition reflect the needs

of the mode of production and the necessity of achieving a

balance between relative autonomy as a unit and interdependence

in the cluster. There are two basic principles which guide

the internal composition of households in Clear Creek and they

may be stated succinctly as follows:


Household residence patterns in Clear Creek*

Type Neolocal** Virilocal Uxorilocal

Percent 24% 62% 14%

N = 126

Follows the classification and definitions used by
Pehrson (1954).

** These are generally households of the older generation
of immigrants from Jaravacoa and elsewhere.


Household composition in Clear Creek


N = 126

Number of Generations 1 2 3

Percent 6.6% 67.2% 17.4%

1. A full complement of biological and social
roles should be present. There are a minimum of five:
an adult male to carry out the work of agricultural
production, an adult female to prepare food and main-
tain the household, an older son to help his father
and an older daughter to help her mother and take care
of younger children, plus a young boy/girl to run
errands. Westbrook shows how the absence of such a
balance is directly related to the economic viability
of farm units elsewhere in the Republic (1970).

2. While five is the minimum, a maximum is
established by the sentiment that a household can
never contain more than one conjugal pair. Mintz
points out that this is a common factor in Caribbean
household structure (1974: 234). While households
may contain more than one adult female, only under
special circumstances do they contain more than one
adult male. By adult male is meant a person who has
or has had a mate and children.
These principles are acted upon in such a way as to produce

a model household which contains one conjugal pair and two

generations. Nearly 90% of the households contain only one

conjugal pair and 76.2% contain the tw6 generations (Tables

3, 4). As can be seen from looking at the composition table,
households which lack children to meet their need for help in

the kitchen and in the fields recruit by taking in children

to be raised. Frequently, when the children of a couple have

grown and moved out, they send one or two of their own child-

ren to live in the houses of the parents. What is masked in

these figures is the large amount of casual lending and bor-

rowing of children which occurs within the cluster as one

household has need of help at a particular time. This will

I found it impossible to run my household without having
two or three children lent to me. Going to the store, weeding
the garden, getting water, etc. were all tasks they performed
in exchange for food, change, and other goodies. I had to have

be discussed shortly when we examine reciprocal relations within

the cluster.

The need and desire for children to supply labor and

future security is related as much by the average size of the

household as by the rate of female fertility. The average

household size is only 5.5 persons, the range being from one

household of one person (a man whose wife was in New York and

whose children lived with her mother further up the valley) to

one of 15 (a man, a woman, and their 13 children).

While there were no comparative figures upon which to

devise a birth rate for the population of Clear Creek, the

rate of female fertility is extremely high (N = 100). The

average female of childbearing age, that is 15 to 49 years

of age, has 9.8 live births during her lifetime. Of these,

1.7 die before the age of two. For every 1000 women in the

population of childbearing age, 280 give birth each year.

This figure, which is much higher than that officially re-

ported for the Dominican Republic, is partly the result of

the basic demography of the campo which places many of the

women.in this category in the lower age bracket, i.e., below

the age of 30, which is the period of greatest fertility

(Table 1). It is also higher than the official figure

because of the fact that many rural people do not report

more than one because children in Clear Creek, as elsewhere,
in the world, are notorious for being absent when they are
most needed. All this gave me much insight into the factors
affecting a desirable family size.

their children's births, due to costs and inconvenience.9

A large number of children, preferably males, tradi-

tionally has ensured the prosperity of a household where the

system of agricultural production was limited only by labor,

not land. More laborers, that is, sons, meant that larger

clearings could be made, more pigs could be attended, and

more beans could be planted. These are all features of the

slash.and burn system discussed in the following chapter.

What is important to note here, however, is that an increase

in the number of children meant an increase in production

-although there was a gap between the birth of the first child

and the appearance of the first helper in the field. Commer-

cial agriculture, however, by changing the mode of production

from sole reliance upon household labor encouraged limiting

the size of households, a factor which shall be considered


As the population of Clear Creek has become increasingly

dependent upon the valley bottom for its resources, such

fecundity causes great pressure on the land, and each house-

hold seeks first its own benefit. In such a situation the

cluster form of settlement has two very significant functions

in limiting competition of available space in the valley.

The first function is that some of the offspring are

discriminated against in the size of the parcel they may

9The national rate in 1970 was 184 live births per 1000
womenin this category (Tupper, 1973).


I I --


Household composition in Clear Creek: conjugal pairs.

I. One Conjugal Pair
a. 1 conjugal pair 4.9%
b. 1 conjugal pair + xo/da 68.0%
c. 1 conjugal pair + so/da de criaza 1.8
d. 1 conjugal pair + so/da + dada/daso 2.4%
e. 1 conjugal pair + others 1.7%
f. 1 conjugal pair + so/da + humo 5.0%
g. 1 conjugal pair + so/da + wimo .%
h. 1 conjugal pair + so/da + others

Total 89.5%

II. Two Conjugal Pairs
a. hu + wi + da + dahu + daso/dada 1.7%
b. hu + wi + so/da + hubr + hubrwi .%
c. hu + wi + so/da + wibr + wibrwi .
Total 2.3%

III. No Conjugal Pair
a. mo + so/da 5.7%
b. mo + so/da + dada/daso .8%
c. single males 1.7
Total 8.2%
N = 126

potentially receive. The creation of minifundia in the

Dominican Republic is encouraged by an inheritance system

which states that all legitimate or recognized children,

regardless of gender, inherit equal shares in their parents

property. Under this system of land transfer to married male

children, however, female and unmarried male offspring do

not receive an equal share. On the death of a parent, only

that land which has not already been given away is divided

among the heirs, including those who have already been given

a parcel. This last division usually results in pieces of

bottomland so small that they are sold to those sons who al-

ready have a share and who reside close by the parents' house.

A second function of the cluster is the pattern of reci-

procities which exist between its various households which,

as elsewhere in similar conditions, is enforced by the morality

of kinship and residence (Bloch 1973; Firth 1951; Sahlins 1972).

Through such reciprocities whatever diverse resources are con-

tained within the cluster are shared. This may best be seen

in the distribution of food which daily occurs between house-


100ne of my problems when I first came to live in this
valley was that I was involved in a number of these exchanges.
Each afternoon five lunches would arrive and I, of course, was
expected to reciprocate. My protestations that I could not eat
so much were in vain, though the steady appearance of children
at my house made it obvious that my surfeit should be their
gain as well. They were probably simply reclaiming what was
their own to begin with.
The problem of reciprocity was partly solved when I dis-
covered the local love of popcorn. Admired not only because
it was a nutritious food but because so much could come from so
little, I was able to return bowls of this for the food which

Such distribution, referred to as sending (mandar) food

by the residents, is secondary to the distribution of food

within the household. The sharing of food in the household

involves a crucial division of labor. Men are responsible

for bringing subsistence crops, manioc, sweet potato, bananas,

and the like in from the gardens and the clearings. They also

must lay in sufficient firewood and, in this, they are helped

by their sons. Women, on the other hand, are in charge of

store bought foods, children being sent to make the necessary

purchases at the pulperfa, picking spices from their herb

gardens, and drying the coffee beans and preparing them for

making that.black and delicious brew. Helped by their daugh-

ters, they prepare and cook the day's meals. When the meal

is cooked, especially la comida (the "real meal" or noon meal),

the first plate is filled with food for the husband. The

following plates, the number depending upon the number of house-

holds with whom exchanges are made, are filled and set aside

to.be sent. Then the woman fills her own plate and, afterwards,

those of the children. A secondary stage of distribution within

the household also occurs as the husband and wife give choice

pieces of food from their own plates to the children, for exam-

ple, a choice flake of meat, a bone, or some beans.

The exchange of food between households may best be

came my way. In time, however, by reciprocating more con-
sistently with some than with others, I exchanged primarily
with I-II, III, IV. On the days when I measured caloric intake,
I did not give or receive food in any of these houses except
for a cup of coffee in each and a small piece of roast pork
which I bought. (It was delicious.)

examined in an actual situation. The neighborhood (vecinidad)

in which my house was located, for example, was composed of a

group of clusters which regularly interact with one another

(Figure 6). There are three main clusters, (A), (B), and (C),

which can be identified by the pattern of land tenure and food

exchange. Each cluster includes (A) I-II + III + IV, (B) V +

VI + VIIa + VIIb, and (C) VIII + IX (Figure 6).11

This map is geared to the geneology chart for the same

neighborhood (Figure 7). From comparing the two, it can be

seen that households III and IV in cluster (A) are living on

land given to them by their father in household II, while I is

occupied by a daughter and her children who share the kitchen

of household II. In cluster (B), the father in household VI

has given land to his sons who occupy households V, VIIa, and

VIIb. Household VI still contains two unmarried sons who help

their father in his fields. In cluster (C) household IX

occupies land given to him by his father; his widowed mother

occupies household VIII with an unmarried man.

Each of the households exchanges food with others in its

own cluster. On special occasions, during the Christmas sea-

son (las pascuas), for example, this network of exchange is

enlarged further along the line of kinship. Using Figures 6

and 7, it can be noted that the wife in VIIb is the daughter

of the woman in III and that the wife in VI is the daughter

Households VIIa and VIIb were occupying the same house
temporarily because I was renting the house which had been
occupied by household VIIb. Although they lived together, they
tried to maintain separate household patterns: cooking, child-
care and agricultural labor.


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of the couple in household I, and, thus, sister to the men in

IV and III. Because of these relationships, these households

exchange food on special days.

The purpose of such food exchange, especially when it

occurs daily within the cluster, is to even out temporary or

even more permanent imbalances in the diet of the households.

Such imbalances do exist, either through the uneven distribu-

tion of resources or differences in household composition.

The amount and type of food consumed by cluster (A) over a three

day period in February of 1974 is described in Table 5. The

food cooked in each household was weighed and measured, then

converted into calories using the scales provided by INCAP for

Central America.

The reason for the great disparity between the households

was that the older son in II had roasted a pig to sell the

meat and buy gifts for a woman with whom he had a visiting

relationship. To go with the sudden abundance of meat in

the household, for the son had to give some pork to his own

kitchen and to the other households in the cluster, the

women cooked up very large stews (sancocho). This was par-

ticularly true in II where his mother and grandmother had

helped with preparing the pig.
Large bowls of food went out from II to III and IV and

beyond to VI while very small bowls came in the other direc-

tion from III and IV and nothing from VI. This, in part,

repays III for the milk sent daily when household III milks

its cows. III has ten head of cattle while none of the other

households in (A) have any.

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& 1

It is IV which suffers from chronic undernourishment.

The head of this household is a lottery seller who does no

agricultural work, though his two older sons do annually make

a small clearing in the slash and burn fashion on nearby hills

which are badly eroded. Of the nine members of the household,

two of the children exhibited stunted growth and a third is

mildly retarded, a condition his mother claims was caused by
a lack of food when the child was very young.2

For this household, there is a second means by which food

is distributed throughout the cluster, namely they eat in more

than one household. Thus the children of IV invariably show

up at II and III and hang around the fogon waiting for some

boiled tubers or some rice and beans. They scrape the bowls

and lick the pots. There is a good deal of bantering and not

a little sarcasm directed at the children for this; their

laxity in performing chores is pointed out. The point is that

the children usually get the food along with the abuse. One

of their tasks, after all, is to carry the food between house-

holds and whether or not all the food that leaves III gets

to IV is open to argument.

Thus to an extent imbalance between households can be

evened out and the unevenness of the reciprocity is tolerated,{

owing to the sentiments of kinship and residence, as well as

the exchange of children's services (Bloch, 1973). However,
morality is in limited supply and, as Firth and others imply,

12During that time, the head of this household practiced
slash and burn farming in a distant part of the campo.

there is a constant tension between a household's own needs

and demands on it to share. The extent to which one or the

other is satisfied depends largely upon the relative scarcity

or abundance of food (Sahlins 1972: 125-130).

Due to the inflow of cash from commercial farming into

the settlement, however, some farmers have been able to

purchase additional holdings besides the land which they have

been given or have inherited. Desiring to break out of the

cluster whose members no longer are able to reciprocate on the

same scale, such farmers build new houses on their purchased

holdings in a more substantial and comfortable style. It is

an important symbol of economic progress for large farmers to

leave their kinship clusters.

This move parallels the change in the mode of agricultural

production. Large commercial farms like capitalist firms rely

upon labor which is recruited through the payment of cash wages.

This involves the differentiation of manager and worker func-

tions; human labor is simply another source of energy which

the manager thus acquires in somewhat the same way that he

might purchase fossil fuels. The movement out of the cluster

and its web of exchanges which, in slash and burn farming,

involves the exchange of labor between households as needed,

as well as the exchange of food, symbolizes the social as well

as economic separation of the large commercial farmer from the

household mode of production.

The new housetype itself symbolizes that process of

differentiation. In the past decade, six of these new houses

which are patterned on the contemporary urban style have been

built in Clear Creek. These are made from cement blocks and

contain four or five rooms. On the outside they are coated

with bright pastel shades of commercial paint in contrast to

the wooden houses of the conventional bohio which receive only

a periodic coat of whitewash. The kitchen is contained within

the house because gas or charcoal, not firewood, supplies the

heat.for cooking. A porch in front of the house is used for

visiting and, while the sitting room is still seldom used, it

has important display functions for prestige furnishings such

as the formica-topped tables and upholstered chairs, a phono-

graph and the inevitable plastic flowers, all symbolic of this

household's ties to a new system of production and flow of


There are, however, more profound changes in the internal

structure of such households. The pattern of exchange between

this household and others resembles more redistributive pat-

terns than reciprocal ones. On a daily basis, food is not

exchanged with other households, though this has its exceptions,

but rather is prepared and given to the workers as part of

their daily wage.

The redistributive feasts found close to the Haitian

border, for example, which involve the preparation of meals

for a hundred or more persons and the slaughtering of pigs

and goats, is absent from Clear Creek. The religious frame-

work in which such feasts occur, minus the spirit possession

and drums of the voodoo ritual, is present. In Clear Creek

like settlements close to the frontier, there are velas

(vigils) given in honor of the saints. But these ceremonies

seldom involve more than the distribution of coffee and, per-

haps, some bread or candy. Velas of this kind are, however,

almost never given by large farmers, but rather by the more

devout among the small farming population.

The large fiestas given by large farmers in the Christmas

season symbolize their redistributive roles. The preparation

of stews (sancochos), the provision of music, either by a

small band playing the accordian, drum and gourd (guira) or

by a phonograph and popular records, and the provision of

some rum are all part of this fiesta. In addition, the people

who come to such fiestas, the farmer's kinsmen, workers and

friends, also bring liquor to share. If the farmer owns a

store, the party guests usually purchase the liquor in his

store. Thus some farmers actually appear to make money on

their own apparently redistributive fiestas, a fact which no

one seems to acknowledge in the lively atmosphere generated by

the fiesta.

A different form of redistribution began to take place in

September of 1974 when four of the largest farmers in Clear

Creek, along with the schoolteacher, a migrant temporarily back

from Brooklyn, New York, and a small farmer known for his

piety, began to collect funds for the construction of a new
church and school in the settlement. A new building had been

demanded by the priest who visited the campo on the average of

once a month and who was greatly annoyed at the deteriorating

structure in which he had to celebrate mass. He refused to

return until a new building was under construction.

This small group of individuals, talking informally,

agreed that the church and school should be combined which

meant consolidating the two older wooden schools then located

in the localities of Nuts and Pines. This move was naturally

opposed by some of the residents of these localities who

refused to contribute to the new construction. Nevertheless

enough support was demonstrated and the building was begun in

November of 1974.

The structure had cost some $900 by.February of 1975 and

it was not yet completed. Some of the money was raised by a

lottery backed by the largest farmer in the settlement and

from small contributions which were collected in amounts of

$.50 to $2.00. More than half the money came from the four

farmers themselves aside from $250 raised elsewhere by the

local anthropologist. In addition, these farmers supplied

the transportation of the necessary materials and housed the

only paid worker, a professional carpenter from Black Stone.

Labor was provided by some of the large farmers and by their

close kinsmen, and also by residents who often work for these

farmers who "donated" their labor. In addition a number of

small farmers worked'from time to time.

This type of structured redistribution, supposedly done

for the benefit of all the children of the settlement, demon-

strates an important way in which commercial farming further

changes attitudes toward land and the household, since formal

education prepares students for non-agricultural occupations.

The formal educational system teaches no agronomic skills nor

is.any part of the curriculum directly applicable to the

experience of rural students. The condition of one's hands

is an important symbol of one's social and economic standing

in the Dominican Republic and the school presents a model

of behavior in which a person handles chalk and pencils rather

than hoes and machetes.

Education becomes a means whereby children are drawn off

the land, leaving a holding more intact than if the sons needed

room for their own households. A commercial farmer's anger at

his son's elopement must be seen not so much as due to the

loss of the son's labor, but as due to the necessary division

of his holding. For the large farmer, the effects are even

more debilitating for he does not rely so heavily upon his

sons for labor as smaller growers, yet the son is entitled to

a share by local custom.

The educational process itself encourages migration from

the settlement. If students continue past the third grade (in

the new school there are now five grades), they must leave to

study in River or Jaravacoa. The universities are, of course,

in the capital, Santo Domingo, and Santiago. Though no one

from Clear Creek has ever attended these, some boys from River

have and interestingly enough, this occurred only after that

family moved to Santo Domingo.

Urban employment requiring formal education would reduce

the division of land for, as has been seen, the division is

based upon the establishment of a household on the property

which is given. Any form of urban employment, of course,

would reduce fragmentation and this is an important factor

in migration out of the settlement. The location of the

school in the middle of commercial farming areas is symbolic

of the connection between commercial farming and education.

When the older schools were functioning in Nuts and Pines,

some children from households which practiced slash and burn

farming were able to attend classes due to proximity. But

the new school is located more deeply in the heart of the

valley bottomland, farther from those households which prac-

tice the old adaptive strategy. Whereas some children from

Deep Gorge once attended classes, none attend the new school.

Another influence of the new adaptive strategy of commer-

cial farming is the decision by commercial farmers to limit

the size of their families, in order to minimize the subdivision

of their land. The practice of birth control in the settle-

ment is a new phenomenon. The first two women who had tubal

ligations, which is the form of control utilized, were the

wives of the two largest commercial farmers. Since then 12

women have had the operation but not all of these are married

to commercial farmers; they include two wives of lottery sales-

men and one woman who runs a small store. No women from house-

holds which practice slash and burn farming have had tubal


Slash and burn farmers are simply not able to accumulate

the amount of cash ($80) required for the operation at a clinic

I _


in Bonao. It is interesting to note that five of the women

who have had the operation are all married into the same group

of male siblings which includes the two largest farmers who

together control more than six hectares of bottomland. This

relationship indicates that the decision to have the operation

is probably influenced by information flow among personal net-

works and perhaps by the force of peer-pressure and trend-

setting among the more influential families.

It is important to point out that the operation is under-

gone principally with an expressed concern for the health of

the woman rather than for the size of the family. The idea of

not having as many children as possible is still regarded by

the people in the settlement with some askance and the posi-

tion that having more children would be detrimental to the

woman's health carries more weight. The women who have had

the operation state that as a secondary reason it is important

to have fewer children so they can be provided for and educated

better. But this is strictly a secondary factor and, indeed,

since the average number of live births for these women is 8.0,

only a little under the 9.8 average for all childbearing women,

this would seem to be the case.

The important factor, however, is that commercial farmers

and those engaged in the cash economy more than in subsistence

activities recognize that a large household can be an economic

liability. This change is not an easy one to make and the idea

of birth control is controversial in the settlement, not for

religious reasons but for reasons of health, for some claim

that.the operation is dangerous to a woman's health. The

priests do pot disapprove and, even if they did, it would

not necessarily carry much weight for they disapprove of

many local practices.


This chapter has considered the social and economic

organization in Clear Creek in terms of two crucial factors,

the system of land tenure and the organization of the house-

hold. These factors are demonstrated to be intimately related,

since the household has been the traditional mode of production

and its formation marks a critical point in the devolution of

land from one generation to another. The formation of house-

hold clusters in the llanos represents a change from the more

dispersed settlement pattern which earlier characterized Clear

Creek. These clusters have resulted from the growing concentra-

tion of the population on the most valuable and productive land.

At the same time, the enclosure of land on nearby hills and

its conversion into pasture has pushed the major areas for

swidden farming further away from the settlement and, thus,

made the use of slash and burn techniques an increasingly

less attractive strategy.

The population is undergoing further transformation as the

settlement becomes divided between large and small holders of

land. Large farmers have been shown to move out of the cluster

form of settlement in which exchange reciprocities figure so

prominently. Large growers also limit the pressure on their

own holdings by attempting to educate their children to move

away from the land and by limiting the size of their family.

Their productive capacity, therefore, is no longer contingent

upon.the size of their household, but rather on their ability

to accumulate resources for carrying out commercial production.

It is still necessary to examine in more detail the actual

working of the two adaptive strategies in the settlement:

slash and burn farming and irrigated crop production. Chapters

three and four look at these as technological systems and dis-

cuss how the transition came to be made from one to another,

a transition whose effects we have already seen in the pattern

of land use and of the household.



The socio-economic changes discussed in the previous

chapter have resulted primarily from a shift in the adaptive

strategy of the Clear Creek settlement from a reliance by the

vast majority of residents upon slash and burn farming to a

growing economic dependence of the settlement upon commercial

crop production. This chapter on slash and burn farming and

the following one on commercial agriculture further juxtapose

these two strategies, elaborating on many of their contrasting

elements which have already been touched upon in terms of land

use, energy use, and the mode of production (Figure 1). Greater

detail in defining the social and technological bases of these

strategies is necessary not only for its ethnographic value

but also as a way of emphasizing the radical differences

between them, as well as some profound parallels. Once these

contrastshave been drawn, the constraints which operate to give

socio-economic change in Clear Creek its most important direc-

tion, namely the gradual placing of the settlement's resources

into the hands of a few large growers and outsiders can be better


Three key aspects related to slash and burn agriculture are
discussed in this chapter.13 The first is the distinctiveness

13Slash and burn farming can be defined as a variant of
swidden agriculture, a system in which clearings are used for
short cropping periods which alternate with lengthy fallow

of households which practice slash and burn farming in Clear

Creek; the second is the productive process itself, the third

is an evaluation of the use and flow of energy. Before these

are explored, however, a word should be said about the history

of slash and burn agriculture in the Dominican Republic and in

Clear Creek.14

Swidden farming in the Dominican Republic developed its

present form from the combination of indigenous techniques and

crops with the Old World crops and domestic stock. At the time
of the arrival of Columbus, the Indian population of Hispanola

had developed a highly sophisticated system of farming which

utilized permanent fields, mounding, and even irrigation in

periods. The agricultural system in Clear Creek is clearly a
case of swidden agriculture if one uses the ranking system
developed by Goosten, which derived an "R" index for determina-
tion of the degree of intensity of land use (Ruthenberg 1971:
3, 16). The symbol R stands for the number of years of cul-
tivation multiplied 7y 100 and divided by the length of the
cycle of land utilization (Ruthenberg 1971: 3, 16). Since
the fallow period in Clear Creek's hills has traditionally
been ten years with a two year cropping time, then:

R = 2 x 100 17
This is clearly a case of swidden agriculture as anything
smaller than an R of 30 falls into this category.
As far as I know this is the first time that this sys-
tem hasbeen described in one of the contemporary Caribbean
nations, though Blaut (1959) has discussed aspects of it in
Jamaica. Swidden agriculture is mentioned far back in the
Dominican historical record (Hoetink 1971: 19-20, Loven
1935, Rodriquez Demorizi, 1891: X, 197, Saint-Mery 1796: 49,
Schoenrich 1918: 149). In addition, numerous case studies
have been done elsewhere, including those in Africa (Allan
1965, McNetting 1968, Richards, 1951), Asia (Conklin 1957,
Freeman, 1955, Newton 1960, Rappaport 1971), and the Americas
(Caniero 1961, Carter 1969, Harris 1971, Reina 1967).

combination with swidden techniques utilized on the hillsides

where principally maize was grown (Loven 1935). This bears a

striking resemblance to the balance between intensive and

extensive techniques used in Clear Creek today.

The population of the Spanish colony took over and added

to the Indian food complex, calling cultigens which were propo-

gated by stems or cuttings viveres, because they formed the

bulk of the diet and thereby sustained life. But they aban-

doned the intensive techniques for with the native population

exterminated, pressure on the land was less than before Colum-

bus.. Lacking the development of a plantation system, the

colony had a great expanse of empty land to be filled. The

household was the social unit which expanded into the new

territory and the Indian swidden techniques gave a maximum

result for a minimum of effort (see Sahlins 1972: 41-148).

Swidden farming was combined with the hunting of hogs and

some cattle which ran wild in the forest. The cycle of planting

and fallowing in the forest clearing was repeated usually

three times and then, with the soil depleted, the land was

converted into pasture. The large hatos, or cattle ranches

which existed in the 19th century, were simply large areas

which had been abandoned by swidden farmers. The original

forest did not grow back because the land was periodically

burnt over to allow new grass to come up. Cattle, then as now,

were the most highly valued form of livestock. During the 18th

century swidden and ranching were practiced in the Valley of

Constanza itself, though the region was subsequently abandoned

and repopulated only in the latter part of the last century

(Saint-Mery 1796: 236, Hazard 1873: 314). One can speculate

that the reason for this discontinuity was the exhaustion of

the landscape, but the literature makes no mention of the


It was the mixing of swidden agriculture with livestock

which literally brought people to Clear Creek in the early part

of this century. Farmers from Jaravacoa, hunting wild pigs,

stumbled upon the valley and, as the land seemed good, one or

two returned later in the year and made clearings, planting

beans and v'veres. Those who returned did so in groups of

kinsmen, always a father with his unmarried sons. Working

together, they fenced in the fields and built small, temporary

shelters (ranchos) where they stayed a few days at a time.

These male contingents from Jaravacoa, alternating their resi-

dence between Clear Creek and the natal settlement, were

joined by the rest of their household in Clear Creek during

the bean harvest when extra help was needed.

Since the harvests were good, water abundant, and land

plentiful (with or without acciones), the ranchos were made

more substantial. The first household settled permanently

in the valley in 1913 on a site close to where the new church-

school now stands. Eventually two brothers of the head of

this household arrived with their wives and children, building

houses at opposite ends of the valley while other settlers,

non-relatives, also began to take up residence in Clear Creek.


Two impressions are always mentioned by older settlers in

connection with those early days: the abundant harvests and

the isolation of the households from each other. The situation

was not unlike that of Deep Gorge today where many houses are

located at least one hour's journey from the nearest neighbors.

The houses of these early settlers were built with upright

poles lashed together with vines since nails were too expen-

sive. Beds were made with hide stretched across frames, and

mattresses were stuffed with bean husks; the roofs were thatched

with stiff grasses. This bohio, consisting of the house, the

kitchen, the garden, and several sheds, was enclosed by a stout

palisade, constructed in the same manner as the walls of

buildings. This palisade cut off the household as a clearly

defined group while serving as a practical defense against

roaming wild livestock.

This house type reflected the basic assumption about

land use which has been discussed above: that crops and

buildings should be fenced while animals roamed free. But,

as mentioned previously, increasing pressure on the land

affected some of these basic assumptions about land use.

Restrictions were placed upon access to virgin forest--la

zona ended the free foraging of livestock and encouraged the

enclosure of hillside land. The repeated burning of enclosed

pasture prevents regeneration of forest and the eventual reuse

of the hills for agricultural purposes.

Thus in the areas of Clear Creek where swidden agricul-

ture can be practiced, there appears to be a paring down of

the fallow period. Whereas earlier the elapsed time for

transition of forest to unimproved pasture was about 36 years,

the time for three cropping periods (two years each) with three

fallow periods (ten years each), farmers now appear to be

limiting the fallow period to as little as six or seven years.

In spite of these factors, up until this past decade

virtually all the households in Clear Creek depended upon

swidden agriculture for the main part of their calories and

a little cash, the cash coming from the sale of beans which is

the crop sown first in new clearings. Beans command a high

price and, due to volume, weight, and storage qualities, they

are relatively easy to market. Crops such as sweet potato and

the other viveres, however, are characterized by bulkiness,

perishability, and high water content which, when coupled with

their low price, make their transport to urban markets from

Clear Creek unprofitable.

In the last decade, however, the number of households

engaged in swidden agriculture has dropped significantly.

With a new road into the settlement, it suddenly became

profitable for outside entrepreneurs, with capital to invest,

good credit and knowledge of certain technology allowing for

greater production, to come into Clear Creek and initiate

commercial farming. The cash-producing power of this adap-

tive strategy coupled with the ideology of its more "modern"

way of life attracted a number of swidden farmers away from

their old production techniques, at a time when laws against

cutting virgin forest were being more strictly enforced and

the frontier of new forest was becoming inconveniently distant

from the settlement.

In 1974, only 35% of the households in Clear Creek made

one or more clearings on the hills of the seccidn or adjacent

territories. Though the household is no longer so clearly

bounded as a distinct socio-economic unit as when the palisades

were used, the households of swidden farmers still have cer-

tain characteristics which set them off from the average Clear

Creek household. These features are household size, land-

holding pattern, and location.

Average household size among those which practice swidden

farming is larger (7.4 persons/household) than the settlement

average (5-5 persons/household) (Table ). This gives credence

to the statement that relatively large households are encour-

aged by swidden farmers since the limiting factor in produc-

tion has traditionally been labor, not land or capital. Thus,

offspring who, under other circumstances, might leave to form

a household of their own or migrate out of the settlement,

are encouraged to remain longer by the fact that their labor

is vitally important to their household of orientation.

The second difference noted in the chart is that swidden

households have far less than the average amount of bottomland

(llanos). It is interesting to note that the amount of land

annually cleared in the hills (whether in secondary or primary

forest) usually compensates for this imbalance. Comparing

per capital holdings in llanos, households practicing swidden

agriculture have .06 hectare opposed to the settlement average

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of .15, but in the hills (loma) they have .12 hectares as

opposed to the average of .05 (Table 6).

This difference in holdings of llanos, however, is partly

a function of the location of households practicing slash and

burn farming for these are found quite naturally on the mar-

gins of the settlement, in the higher reaches of Goat, Pines,

and Nuts where the valleys are narrow and meager. Thus, these

houses are closer to the remaining forest since the distance

to one's fields is an important consideration in the practice

of swidden; travel is a major energy cost in the production

process. However, they are further from-the main road through

the settlement which is its main link commercially to the out-

side, a fact which increases marketing costs for their limited

cash crops.

Although swidden agriculture in Clear Creek provided the

original rationale for the settlement, it has become a less

frequent adaptive strategy in recent years. Households which

continue to practice it tend to have more members, occupy less

of the commercially valuable land, and occupy a distinct envi-

ronmental niche. But the manner in which swidden agriculture

actually forms an adaptive strategy can best be seen from

examining the core of that strategy, namely the process of


The production process will be presented as a series of
distinct stages which, in this case, are the categories used

by farmers in Clear Creek which, from interviews elsewhere in

the country, apparently hold true for any area of the country

where the strategy is practiced.

Site Selection

A number of factors enter into the decision as to where

to place a new conuco, a planted clearing, not the last of

which is the government's contention that swidden is illegal.15

Therefore, the location should be hidden from view of the occa-

sional outside forestry agent who might report and fine the

farmer or, more commonly, demand a bribe. Though two residents

of Clear Creek are forestry agents, they do not report swidden

activities, entering into a conspiracy of silence toward the


A second factor is that the field should be close enough

to the bohio that the heavy, cumbersome food crops can be

brought back without undue difficulty. Beyond a distance of

about 1.5 hours, it is necessary to erect substantial shel-

ters where the household lives during peak labor periods.

At smaller distances, the workers can return daily to their

permanent home.

A third factor is the necessity of making sure no prior

claims exist on the land. If it is in secondary growth

(botado), a farmer must make sure that the original farmer

15The first law against swidden agriculture was passed
in 1876 but left without enforcement. Trujillo forbade the
cutting of pine or other valuable woods without a permit as
well as the felling of trees within the vicinity of running
streams. The latest law, passed in the 1960's forbids the
cutting of any tree within the entire country without written
permission. The arbitrary enforcement of this law gives rise
to great abuse;residents interpret it as meaning the government
neither allows nor wants them to work (trabajar), since swidden
has traditionally been the measure of a man's ability to do

does not want to reuse it. A farmer may sell his right

(la derecha), that is, the improvements he made by first

clearing the land, but more often he simply makes it known

he has no further designs on the property. Conflict over

claims may lead to the intervention of local authorities which

is usually avoided by residents.16

A fourth factor which swidden farmers consider is placing

conucos, planted clearings, in the same general area but each

occupying a particular slope or niche. This allows the selec-

tion of a variety of microenvironmental conditions and the

staggering of the production cycle so that a farmer, coming

home from working one field, can stop off in an older clearing

to dig up some sweet potatoes and at still an older one to

get some plantains.

In this same line, a farmer must consider the environ-

mental factors: the slope, soils, and vegetation of a hillside

which give him a series of clues about a location's potential

productivity. The hillsides in and around Clear Creek slope

precipitously so farmers try to find gentler gradients which

would create the drafts necessary for a good burn but not let

a newly planted crop wash away in a heavy rain. Loss of top-

1An example of this occurred during my stay in Clear
Creek. A man from Clear Creek had gone to make a conuco near
the home of his wife's parents in Deep Gorge. An uncle of the
wife, however, had had his eye on a piece of land that the
younger man began to clear. The men argued over the land, but
the younger refused to look for a plot elsewhere. Bypassing the
alcalde who wanted to settle the dispute by discussion, the
uncle went to River where he reported his rival to the police.
A few days later, they came and, joined by the alcalde, they
found, beat, and arrested the niece's husband. He was taken to
Constanza, fined $25, and thereafter he left the settlement

soil during heavy rainstorms is also minimized on gentler


The classification of soils and vegetation show that

even if these farmers are not enraptured with their work,

they have built up a working body of knowledge about their

environment. Soils, for example, are examined by sight and

touch and they yield six basic categories: color, cohesion,

moisture content, structure, exposure, and slope (Figure 8).

Some categories have a number of divisions. Color, for example,

has six major shades. Some categories such as exposure only

have two main divisions, right (derecha) where the sun's rays

hit first during the day (west slopes) and left (izguierda)

where they hit later in the day (east slopes). In addition

to the main division in slope between hill (loma) and bottomland

(llanos) there are four minor subdivisions between types of

slopes in the hills: ridge (cumbre), steep slope (hayda

parada), regular slope (hayda), and hole (hoya).

These soil qualities are, of course, dynamically inter-
related, each factor influencing the other to create a total

gestalt. In the Dominican folk taxonomy, combinations of

soil characteristics are reduced to two main polarities:

good and bad, cold and hot (Figure 8). Good and bad refer

to soil productivity, the actual yield a farmer may expect.

Temperature refers to drainage and exposure to sunlight; cold

refers to a poorly drained, shaded plot and hot refers to well

entirely, going with his wife to live on the edge of Bonao,
and began to look for day labor.






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drained, exposed locations. When swidden farmers describe

the ideal soil for a conuco, they talk about the valley

bottomland: deep, black soil with a medium loose structure

and some stones (to retain the heat), well exposed and well

drained, but, in addition, having some cold spots for certain

crops. Any clearing in the hills, then, represents a compro-

mise with this ideal and reinforces the need to have a number

of clearings so that the deficiencies in one conuco can be

matched.by the benefits of another.

Besides soil conditions, the swidden farmer examines

vegetation; in this, he strongly prefers virgin stands. He

believes that even though the layer of humus associated with

virgin forest is thin, it will nourish his crops and the

burning of the vegetation will produce a good, thick ash. He

looks for certain trees, such as the manacla (Euterpe globosa),

and grasses, such as segua (Maranta arundinacea) which signify

good land, especially for growing beans.

Despite this strong preference, only about one-fifth of

the clearings made in 1974 were in virgin forest because land

which is botado, that is, in secondary growth, is often closer

at hand, and quicker to clear and prepare. On such land, the

farmer looks for trees such as colorado (Cyrilla racemiflora)

and chicharron (Guazuma ulmifolia) which signify productive

soils. He knows that palo prieto (Erythrina glauca) and

palo santo (Dendropanax arboreus) are produced on thin and

poor soil. There is a time element involved here, however,

for palo prieto and palo santo are those trees which come

earlier in the regrowth cycle, after four or five years,

whereas a good growth of colorado indicates that the land

has rested about ten years and is ready for recropping. Of

course, an added advantage is that cutting regrowth is not

considered illegal, a distinction made quite clear in the
last election.1 Once the site is selected, the actual job

of clearing begins.

Clearing (talar)

This stage involves cutting down the underbrush with a

long knife known as the colin, a name derived from the Collins

firm of Hartford, Connecticut, who first brought this type of

machete to the Dominican Republic. If he is working in virgin

forest, the farmer will first clear a part around his future

conuco, letting others who may come along later know that this

spot is already claimed.

In clearing the land and in the next two stages, the

farmer does not work alone since this is defined as difficult

The local Reformista (governmental party) candidate
for sindico in Constanza brought the forestry chief to a poli-
ticaT-lraly in Clear Creek during which the latter, in reply
to demands from the farmers, said they were still forbidden
to cut virgin forest, but secondary growth could be cleared.
He was met with a great deal of heckling. The forestry subchief,
a man noted for his corruption, said during the meeting that
since the law had been passed, nd one had ever filed for permis-
sion to cut a tree anywhere in the seccion. This implied that
officially no swidden agriculture was occurring here or else-
where in his district.
Like any economic activity, the whole question of cutting
forest is a highly political one in the Dominican Republic. In
another settlement near Haiti, two brothers had sought permis-
sion unofficially for many years to cut and burn about 12 hec-
tares of virgin forest. Shortly before the last election, a
local candidate told them that for their support he would see
that they got off without a jail sentence if he got their vote.

and frequently dangerous work. A farmer relies for help upon

older males in his own household, but when the conuco is large,

a cooperative work party (junta) may be organized by the farmer.

The persons called to the junta are the farmer's siblings

and neighbors. When households were more scattered than to-

day, the junta had important social functions in bringing

together persons who rarely saw one another. Members partici-

pate with the understanding that their labor will be recipro-

cated by the others when it is needed.

With the growing compactness of the settlement as well as

the introduction of commercial farming, the junta is used much

less now in Clear Creek. It continues to be used in household

clusters on the margins of the settlement where swidden farmers

principally live. Because siblings are now neighbors, the

labor exchange has simply become one more aspect of the reci-

procities within the cluster, quite unlike the situation among

commercial farmers where labor exchange has ceased. Juntas

are, however, created informally in new clearings where a num-

ber of conucos may be made in close proximity to one another.

Felling (tumbar)

Felling the largest trees with an ax and smaller ones

with a colin is the next stage. This is a dangerous task be-

Hiring laborers, including Haitians, a large part of the land
was prepared. Their candidate was elected and a few days later
the huge field was burnt. While work in the forest could be
hidden, the smoke could not. Arrested and taken to court, the
brothers were each fined $9.00 and released. They returned to
plant as much of the land as possible in beans. The entire crop
was washed away in a heavy rain a week later.


cause an inexperienced or careless worker can cause a tree to

fall in the wrong direction. Stories of persons with limbs

or lives lost in such mishaps are common, but undoubtedly

more common than the actual occurrence.

Chopping Up (picar)

This stage involves the breaking up of the larger trunks

and branches to permit a more rapid drying and an even burn.

Waiting (aguantar)

After this period of intense work, there begins a period

of waiting for a succession of dry weeks which will leave the

felled wood ready for burning. This necessitates usually six

or more weeks so that fields, prepared in January or February,

are burned in March or April if the weather permits. Conucos,

however, are made twice a year, with a smaller field planted

in August or September. This second field must be readied

in June or July, after the beans are harvested from the first


Burning (ouemar)

Burning both clears the field and fertilizes the soil,

though much depends upon how well the brush and timber burn.

If the wood burns evenly, a rich layer of ash will be depo-

sited over the field and a second burning will not be re-

quired. The effect of burning upon tropical soils is a

complex one but a number of studies agree that it produces

a slight increase in pH, in nitrogen, and in carbon with

increases also in magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and

calcium (Nye 1964, Popenoe 1959, Watters 1960, Zinke 1970).

These immediate reactions are not, however, consistent through

the profile and there appears to be a decrease in the amount

of these elements after the harvest but before secondary growth

begins building the soil back through the deposition of leaves

and the decay of roots.

The problem in Clear Creek, as elsewhere in areas where

slash and burn is practiced, is that the period of regrowth

is not sufficient to allow the full rejuvenation of the soil.

This factor, coupled with the erosion of the soil due to

heavy rains, makes a second and third conuco on the same site

less and less fruitful. When the land is given over to pas-

ture, then, it is still periodically cut back and burned to

allow young grasses to grow. Thus even small trees are unable

to reestablish themselves and reclaim the land for forest.

Reclearing (avistar)

If the burn has been uneven due to wind, dampness, or

the slope of the land, the reclearing takes considerable

time. The farmer must drag the unburned residue into large

piles and fire it, posing the risk that meanwhile a rain

will wash away the ash from the first burning before he has

a chance to plant in it.

Planting and Harvesting (sembrar v cosechar)

Planting, like the selection of a site, requires the

farmer to consider a large number of factors. The first

concern is to ensure a successful bean crop since this

forms the major part of the farmer's cash income. The right

amounts and combinations of cultigens, rice, and corn must be

selected to give large and continual yields. As with site

selection, the emphasis is upon diversity and variety. Each

of these concerns is examined in more detail below.

Cultigens, that is, the viveres, are not planted from

seed, and the cuttings necessary for propagation are sought

from a wide network of kinsmen and neighbors. Manioc stems

and sweet potato vines, like banana and plantain cuttings, are

readily obtained from others, but farmers may also use cuttings

from older fields or his own house garden. A swidden farmer

will often travel some distance to get cuttings if he hears

that someone has a particularly good variety of one of the

viveres, such as sweet potato or yam. The farmers freely

share cuttings of the viveres with one another, and in this

way constant experimentation occurs and crops are tried out J

in new microenvironments.

Among swidden farmers, crops that are easily transported

and stored, beans, dryland rice, and maize, are not so easily

shared. Maize and rice are usually stored from one harvest

to the next planting, but if a farmer runs short, he may

borrow from another grower only if he agrees to return the

seed at the end of the season at the rate of 10 to 1 per

measure, usually the cajon (10 to 12 pounds). Only a small

portion of the bean harvest is kept, however, at the end of

the season and this is usually for consumption. The reason

is that the price of beans at harvest (May-June, October-

November) is usually higher than it is at the time of planting,

owing to the timing of harvests in the Constanza region which

is different from that elsewhere in the nation. While beans

have always been marketed out of the settlement, a higher

proportion seems to have been retained in the earlier decades.

The first concern for the swidden farmer is to ensure a

successful bean crop, this being the major part of his annual

income. Beans are the first crop planted; when the plants show

two leaves, viveres and the other crops are interspersed among

them. The multicropping of viveres is viewed with janudiced

eye by the person unacquainted with tropical farming systems

for he sees in the plot only jungle and chaos. In addition,

there is great individual variation in plant combinations.

Yet a major element in the Dominican swidden is that each

farmer approaches his work with his own genius or foolishness.

This individuality is indicative of the latitude with which

swidden farmers interpret and manipulate their traditions.

The advantages of such latitude are stressed by Johnson who

quotes Campbell in making an analogy to biological evolution:

Heterozygosity, in particular the presence
of recessives, represents a latent poten-
tiality for rapid responses to a shift in
environmental selection. In a similar way,
dissident opinion, unexpressed with majority
opinion is successful, represents a latent
potentiality for change if group failure is
encountered (1972: 150).
While the seeming randomness of the conuco plantings opens

the possibility to new combinations being discovered, the

selection of crops takes place within the framework of a

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few basic principles. A list of crops commonly planted on

conucos is presented in Figure 9.

Farmers express their understanding of the different

soil requirements of various crops in terms of the familiar

folk dichotomy of hot and cold. They realize that crops must

be planted in soil conditions which favor their development.

For example, a plot which stretches on both sides of a narrow

valley may have bananas planted on the warmer, northwest face

and plantains with yautla on the colder southeast side. Like-

wise yuca and sweet potatoes are planted in the upper reaches

of a plot where the soil is better drained while yautia is

planted where it responds to greater moisture and higher acidity

in the lower parts. Thus the farmers describe the crops as

favoring a certain type (hot/cold) soil. For example, yuca

is said to like "hot" soil while plantains and yautia are

said to like "cold" soil.

Some of the crops have inherent qualities of hot and

cold apart from the soils they favor. While the majority of

crops are believed to be neutral in their effect on one

another, certain combinations are harmful. Rice, for example,

is believed to be so hot that it will hurt rabano while chick

peas because of their coolness must be kept on the borders of

the conuco. Other mixtures are safe but spacing is crucial.

Care is taken so the leaves and vines of sweet potatoes do

not cover other crops planted with them.

In addition planting combinations aim at developing as

total a leaf cover as possible. Crops are chosen which

develop at different heights, a technique which makes the

swidden resemble the structure of the forest it has replaced

(Geertz 1966). Thus, in a mature swidden, squash and sweet

potatoes grow on the ground level under medium height yuca

or rabano which, in turn, may be slightly shaded by leaves

of the banana and plantain.

Besides diversity in size and height, a conuco should

have crops maturing at different times to produce a continual

source of food to the farmer and his dependents (Figure 9).

After beans and maize are harvested, squash is the next crop

produced. Sweet potato follows and forms a major part of

the local diet. At approximately the same time, dryland rice

and rabano are harvested. After a year, yuca, both sweet and

bitter varieties, should be harvested along with yautia,

though, if the season is a poor one, they can be harvested

early. The great advantage of root and tuber crops is, of

course, that they can be left in the ground until they are

needed, although pests are still a major problem. Bananas

and plantains will produce for a number of years, depending

upon how well they compete with weeds which invade the field

after other crops have been harvested.

Combined with the farmer's use of a number of conucos

during the year, the system obviously aims at diversity.

The vicissitudes of weather and the onslaught of rats,

crows, and disease would make any monoculture, an unstable

vegetative system, extremely susceptible to upset. This can

be clearly seen in an examination of just one crop, beans, of

which farmers keep very clear mental records because it is

their main source of cash.

Over a six year period, two households in Pines cleared

a total of 29 conucos whose first crop was always beans.

The average yield was four and a half cajones for every

cajon seeded, giving an average harvest of some 147 kg. per

hectare. This figure, however, is the result of wide varia-

tion in yields; seven harvests represented losses to the

farmer, that is, they got back less than they planted (or

nothing at all) while five returned more than 380 kg. per

hectare. The farmers explained this variation on the basis

of weather conditions and poor soil. Conucos likewise exhi-

bited great variation in size from 3.6 to .2 hectare with a

mean of 1.1 and a mode of .8 hectare. Bean loss, however,

did not represent the whole spectrum of crops planted and

the conucos were able to provide for the household's subsis-

tence in spite of the relative instability of one crop, albeit

the most important in terms of commercial transactions.

Planting and harvesting beans is a labor intensive

operation and, because this work is not defined as either

difficult or dangerous, women in the farmer's household work

in the fields. When distance does not necessitate the re-

moval of the entire household from the house and yard, older

males leave for the conuco in the morning while the females

attend to the kitchen, the house, and the small domestic

animals. The main meal is prepared and brought up to the

men in the early afternoon. From that time until the later

afternoon, the entire household works in the conuco except

for smaller children who are either attended by older female

offspring or play in the fields, mimicking the adult activi-

ties. In the evening, the whole group returns; the men carry

sacks of viveres from older clearings for the next few meals

while looking for firewood along the path.

As can be seen from the above description, the women

of the household contribute to the direct work of production

and, through their preparation of the produce, to the creation

of the closed loop energy cycle of the household. That cycle

is open to the outside only through the sale of beans and,

occasionally, some wood or charcoal. Income from these acti-

vities allows for the purchase of tools, food staples such as

cooking oil, salt, tobacco, and, ironically, beans as well as

clothing. Labor is contributed by the household, with labor

exchange providing a mechanism for the recruiting of additional

male help.

In terms of its use and sources of energy, then, swidden

agriculture in Clear Creek represents a relatively simple

system (Figure 10).

The flow of energy in this adaptive strategy is relatively

closed by being a self-contained system, relying upon the out-

side for a crucial but small portion of its energy needs. The

tools of the swidden farmer, usually bought with bean money,

are few and simple, a colin, an ax, a machete, though this last

has not entirely replaced the coa, a wooden digging stick

still employed to plant rice and corn. An exceptionally high


_ ___ ___ ____ _I_ ____

_ ____ __1~__1_ I~




I 4









H Hi




D~PI ----------- ~-----X1I^-s~--r~~~rra~-lrrr



Energy budget for slash and burn agriculture.

Work hours per hectare (two year period)


Find and claim field
Clear underbrush
Cut trees
Break up brush and trees
Clear and burn over
Plant beans
Plant other crops
Harvest beans
Build "rancho" in the field
Harvest otner crops
Travel to and from field

Hours Required


Human energy inputs per hectare (two year period)

Input Amount Kilocalories

Labor 3,270 hrs. 611,489
Tools 6 kg. 27,612
Total 639,101

Energy returns per hectare (two year period)


Sweet potatoes

Amount (kg)


Minus 30% loss due to disease and pests



436 800


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