Making milpa, making life in La Mera Selva: a testimony of how Tzeltal peasants perform maize cultivation practices in the Lacandon Jungle, Mexico

Camacho Villa, T.C.


This PhD thesis is a testimony of how Tzeltal peasants make milpa in the Lacandon Jungle, Chiapas, Mexico. It describes how they alternate maize cultivation practices with other activities in their lives through different juggling performances. These performances show how these indigenous peasants consider maize cultivation practices not only as agronomic activities but also as political, social and cultural actions. Therefore slash-and-mulch becomes a variant of land preparation and a response to a landownership conflict. Sowing becomes a negotiation with the environmental, technological and social circumstances of living in this tropical rainy forest. Weeding and bending are control practices and postponing/delegating them become peasant strategies to cope with the lack of basic services. Finally, harvesting is cutting the cobs from plants and strengthening the reasons and meanings to continue cultivating maize. These performances show how in the making of the milpa, Tzeltal peasants are making their lives.