First Advisor

Martha Works

Date of Publication

Winter 4-10-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Geography






Corn -- Mexico -- Oaxaca Valley, Subsistence farming -- Mexico -- Oaxaca Valley, Land use -- Mexico -- Oaxaca Valley, Migrant agricultural laborers -- Economic aspects -- Mexico -- Oaxaca Valley



Physical Description

1 online resource (viii, 136 pages)


Subsistence maize production has long been a dominant economic activity of households in Santiago Apóstol, a Zapotec community in the Central Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico. A baseline study from 1973 documents a regionally pervasive form of household level agriculture whereby cultivators prioritize land for subsistence maize above commercial crops. Since then, much has transformed the face of rural Mexico, including migration to the United States. Migration accelerated beginning in the 1970s as a response to government disinvestment in maize, but it may also be a new force of cultural and economic change impacting agriculture. The question arises, has migration modified longstanding subsistence agricultural practices centered on local varieties of rainfed maize? If not, what might explain the continuities and changes in agricultural practice observed? Ethnographic land use and maize consumption surveys among 19 migrant headed households conducted in Santiago Apóstol in the summer and winter of 2012 indicate that mean production of maize remains equivalent to that documented in the late 1960s, suggesting that migration has not engendered a generalized shift to commercial crops. Potential explanations for the persistent use of rainfed, local maize among migrant headed households are drawn from a mixed methods methodology involving triangulated analyses of household economic data, land tenure arrangements, perceptions of environmental change, participant observation, and archival research. Triangulated analyses allow speculation on linked human environmental changes in the landscape that may have reinforced use of a traditional, rainfed grain crop.


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