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introducing the area

employment and income

 quotes about employment and income
 key testimonies featuring employment and income

Male members of the four communities talk of employment and working conditions locally, but also outside, in Oaxaca, Mexico City or the US.

A farmer from Tiltepec (Mexico 13) tells of regular migration to other parts of Mexico and to the US to find paid work: ".after [1962] I went to work in the Valle Nacional [in the region] where there is tobacco. I continued like this, year after year. I used to go to the USA every year for seven years; I wasn't there long, just two or three months." That was followed by other jobs in Mexico: "I moved around a lot, I went to Mexico City to work in construction .They put down tanks and made tunnels and I was drilling."

A young man from the same community, who now states his occupation as a farmer (Mexico 5), has spent time in Oaxaca: "I've been to Oaxaca but just for a while. about a year, half a year.I was working with a master bricklayer. We built a house...after that we went to pave the roads there in the city and we did that for about a month.That has been the only work I've had that has paid me a little more, a little better."

Several say that free trade economics has reduced employment opportunities in Mexico City, making migration a less secure option. In contrast, local trade unions helped create more secure working conditions within the community of Ixtlán, in forestry and the local sawmill: "In this year the Tuxtepec trade union began, they came up here, in to the forest to meet with the people to form another trade union. It put the work into a proper form; there was security" (Mexico 11).

Nevertheless, local waged work is hard to find for these narrators. A carpentry business in Ixtepeji is one example of a local business providing employment opportunities: ".I began .14 years ago, but after 12 years of working alone, the company was formed. We were around 16 partners, but now only five partners are left and we are working together. Back then, the company was acquiring its own equipment. Now that we have equipment, well, [the company] is quite big: it is able to employ around 30 people at the most" (Mexico 22). The profits from this business vary substantially, he says: "Only if we have quite a big job, then it leaves us well off". Other initiatives mentioned include a fish farm, a chocolate factory, a mushroom-growing business, some handicrafts such as pottery and the making of molinillos, the wooden whisks used to create the froth for the popular Oaxacan hot chocolate drink, and flower cultivation. The busiest time for flower selling is when communities are celebrating festivals (Mexico 28): ".The beginning of the sale [season] was on December 8th.we were still selling until midnight of Christmas day. The next morning, on the 25th of December, we sold a little more.And for the coming new year, the flower sale happened again.Then next it was the fiesta de los reyes on January 6th, so we celebrated the three kings, we went there to sell flowers too."

Charcoal making was a job which several older men talk of doing when they were younger. And a narrator in Ixtepeji (Mexico 21) recalls employment in the 1960s, cutting wood for a factory in the area, paid on a piece-work basis: ".they paid us 30 pesos per metre. [To do a metre, took] possibly one day, and sometimes we didn't make a metre a day, because it took so long. We had to cut down the tree, put it on the road, then split it and stack it.There were no chainsaws then, then we worked with troceras (sharp woodcutting tool) and it took longer."

quotes about employment and income

"A few years ago they taught us a [new type of] work - fish farming - and this is what I've been doing until now. Of course I can't live off this, but anyway it is work that I put effort into, as well as love, because there can be losses too. But we managed to do it; we learnt to do the job. We learnt the management of the fish in the ponds, which we have until now. We have had the luck to learn, I can say a lot of luck.We know how to feed them from when they are small until they are fully grown and can be sold."
Silvestre, M/72, farmer, El Punto, Ixtepeji, Oaxaca, Mexico 24

"It is a good business, charcoal, [although it is] heavy work. we had to take the loads of charcoal by mule, and go walking to Oaxaca, imagine that! Walking about 10 hours at night, to arrive at 8 or 9 in the morning in the city to sell the charcoal there. We were forced to go out, whether it was raining or not. Thank God that I have this work [making molinillos - wooden whisks for making chocolate drink)] now. I don't think I could go back to doing what I did before."
Rufino, M/64, artisan, Las Animas, Ixtepeji, Oaxaca, Mexico 23

[We grow] all types of fruit - peaches, plums, quince, pears, apples, nuts, avocados. - and there are carpenters who make furniture. They go to Ixtlán, Oaxaca or Tlacolula to sell, and it's good. They cut down trees that are already old and on the point of falling. Lately they've been farming trout and cultivating mushrooms.
Mario Fernando, M/36, community manager, Yavesía, Oaxaca, Mexico 12

"However, the big cities also have problems now; there aren't the same work opportunities that there were in the 60s and 70s. They're very crowded and one can't find work so easily now, not even if you have enough education, because one has to have experience and recommendations."
Mario Fernando, M/36, community manager, Yavesía, Oaxaca, Mexico 12

"But the people who started [the paper mill] said that they didn't know how to pay the people, what wages they were going to give. The people from here, from Atepec, spoke with them and they said how much they could pay the people and that was how they came to say 12 pesos a day and we agreed. [When] the Tuxtepec trade union began, they came up here, in to the forest to meet with the people to form another trade union.There were a lot, three or four sessions with the people because they worked in the forest, on the flat land and at the top of the mountains."
Manuel, M/77, farmer, Ixtlán, Oaxaca, Mexico 11

key testimonies featuring employment and income

  No.   Name   Sex/Age   Occupation   Location  
Summary Transcript   11    Manuel   male/77   farmer   Ixtlán, Oaxaca  
Summary Transcript   12    Mario Fernando   male/36   community manager   Yavesía, Oaxaca  
Summary Transcript   13    Mario   male/67   farmer   Tiltepec, Oaxaca  
Summary Transcript   21    Lucio   male/82      Ixtepeji, Oaxaca  
Summary Transcript   22    Fernando   male/33   carpenter   Ixtepeji, Oaxaca  
Summary Transcript   24    Silvestre   male/72   farmer   El Punto, Ixtepeji, Oaxaca  
Summary Transcript   5    Emigdio   male/19   farmer   Tiltepec, Oaxaca  
Summary Transcript   7    Ignacio   Male/56   Farmer   Yavesía, Oaxaca