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Tiltepec, Oaxaca


22 June 1999


Donna Vicky, as the interviewer addresses her, has lived in the village of Tiltepec for 21 years, since she was 11. She is now the mother of four daughters. She feels that life in the community has become harder since her childhood, as changing weather patterns mean the land is less productive and “one needs to work much more now, do more work to be able to support oneself.... They used to sow a little and they got a lot, and now we have to sow a lot to get anything.” However, she feels that electricity has brought considerable benefits, as it allows them to continue to work in the home after dark.

Although many of her responses to questions about her life and the community are short, she happily talks in detail about local foods and the villagers’ changing diet. While the old people used to eat more beans, herbs, salsas (sauces), avocados and mushrooms, “now the people are eating eggs, meat, many things and canned sardines, all that”. She clearly prefers traditional eating habits and there is much interesting description of how to recognise, gather and prepare guias (local name for edible leaves of young plants), tepejilote (small palm, Chamaedorea tepejilote, with edible fruit that resembles a small corn cob), and fungi.

She also provides some insight into the specific tasks that fall to women in the community. It is their job to collect tepejilote, as well as mushrooms, guias, and firewood, whilst the men work in the fields. She describes the difficult nature of gathering the tepejilote, which tends to grow in steeply sloping and rocky places: “Yes, you get a little bit of tepejilote for hundreds of cuts and bruises, for hundreds of cuts and bruises, yes it’s very nasty.” She then explains how the collected fruit must be carried back in morralitos (a small knapsack). The testimony finishes with Victoria describing some of the many types of local mushroom.

detailed breakdown

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Section 1-2  Family details: she has four sisters, one brother. Her father and one sister also live in Tiltepic. Discusses changes in Tiltepic and thinks that things are harder now: “one needs to work much more now, do more work to be able to support oneself”, as the crop yield is lower.
Section 2-3  The introduction of electricity: it “helps us because we can do our work by night now and we can do other things in the day.” The use of pine firebrands and collecting firewood for stoves The village school; her four daughters.
Section 3-7  Food and changes in eating habits: “everything’s changing now, they’ve forgotten about guias and mushrooms; now they’re almost only eating meat.” Explains how to prepare guias and tepejilote. Discusses the different bush meat animals: “well, there aren’t as many as before… They are alive - it’s not that there aren’t any, there are some, but further away.” The rain and water - says Tiltepec has always had a lot of water.
Section 7-10  Tepejilote collection is mainly done by women. The difficult locations of the plants: “... the rocks are nasty where you find tepejilote, you can’t find it in nice places.” How to tell if the fruit is good; the difference between sweet and bitter tepejilote. The many different types of mushrooms.