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El Punto, Ixtepeji, Oaxaca


10 October 2001


Silvestre’s testimony covers a variety of themes – including education, the varied ways in which he has supported himself and his family over the years, natural resources and community service. In sharing his experiences, he points to people’s initial caution about making changes – when, for example, the first school in Ixtepeji was being established and “there were many who were against the schoolthose who couldn’t see the need for [it]”; and in more recent times when he and a few others hesitantly learnt the skill of fish farming and “since we didn’t know about the job, we did it all with some doubt and a little enthusiasm. . .”. On the other hand, his detailed description of learning fish farming also testifies to his determination and sheer hard work: “it is work that I put effort into, as well as loveseveral partners and I got together and taught ourselves about the work. We did it on our own, and we worked on the job for 60 days without stopping. I can’t explain how we maintained ourselves but we did it, each person put in his own personal effort. We did it as if it were a tequio (obligatory, unpaid community work).

Silvestre, like others in the collection, is also a proud communero (registered community member) and cuidadano (citizen). He explains the duties, obligations and rights that go with both roles and lists the cargos (unpaid community positions) he has held, stating “I am happy, because I have served my town with loyalty.”

The interviewer questions him on the issue of the exploitation of natural resources. In response, Silvestre talks about the need for job diversification, especially for young people, “so that they don’t exploit the trees too much, and so that they think of another way of life, some jobs that don’t exploitthe forest”. The testimony also gives a flavour of the biodiversity of the region, mentioning several types of tree and many species of wild animal.

detailed breakdown

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Section 1-2  Personal and family details. He was one of a handful of children who attended the first school to be established in El Punto. Building the school. Bringing water to the school: “Seeing the needs of the school, the citizens of the community went to bring water by canoitas (small irrigation channels made from reed or wood) from a place called Palo Hueco.”
Section 2-3  His different jobs – making charcoal, working in the fields, making spoons, carving wooden animals and figures. Fish farming: “A few years ago they taught us a [new type of] work – fish farming – and this is what I’ve been doing until nowit 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.” Making wooden spoons and molinillos (wooden whisks for making chocolate drink); resources used.
Section 3  Charcoal production – resources used, the process: “to prepare the wood we use only the axe, because as I tell you, I never had the chance to have machines – let’s say chainsaws – which are used now. I made all the cuts to make charcoal with only an axe.” Handicraft - carving figures from wood, travelling by mule for one and a half days to sell these in Oaxaca. Farming. Clearing the land, planting, harvesting. “When God wants, he gives, and in that way I have lived. Doing a little bit of everything…” Cultivation of beans.
Section 4  Rights, duties and obligations as a communero (registered community member): “I have served in all the positions they have given me. I have done it with loyalty…The duties of a comunero are… to respect the rules there are …concerning the forest or whatever it may be.” Rights, duties and obligations as a ciudadano (citizen): “to serve the town in everything that the civil authority can call him to do. And he has to be ready for those calls, calls to do tequios (obligatory, unpaid community work).” Learning fish farming.
Section 5  Setting up the ponds. Assistance from ASPRO (Agua y Solidaridad para el Progreso – water and solidarity for progress) to create the ponds – provided cement, technical advice, the fingerlings: “we had the luck to learn about the management of the fish, and how to feed them.. until now we are working all right. The only thing is, since we don’t have enough resources, we have only been working with two ponds until now.” The yield: “8,000 fingerlings we get from there…90 per cent we can say we have harvested… all these fish make about 4 tons of ‘mea’t which we get during a period of eight or nine months.” The costs: “we have to feed them the appropriate food to get them to the right size for the market where they can be sold.” Original site for the ponds was badly chosen; water overflowed during heavy rains, and with it all the fish. “It was a total loss. But we had had the luck to learn about the management of the fish, and how to feed them. So we didn’t get disheartened by that loss; we continued working.”
Section 6  Fauna in Ixtepeji: rabbits, squirrels, tlacuaches (Mexican possums), coyotes, zorras (foxes), cacomixtles (small nocturnal animals with distinctive long black-ringed tail, Bassaricus astutus), tuzas, tigrillos (literally, little tigers; ocelots). “…I can’t affirm there are wolves, but some people told me there were wolves, lions…” White-tailed deer. Views on conservation of natural resources: “it is true that we live from this, we have lived from this for a long time; but now times are changing… we need good advisors who can lead us along a good path, so we can stop exploiting nature.”