photo of Mexican man the sierra norte
Mexico glossary









Ixtepeji, Oaxaca





Section 1
In this case we want information about what your occupations have been, since you were old enough.
Well, when I started working, it was at the age of 10. I went to get the timbre (Acacia angustissima - thornless shrub or small tree that recovers well from frequent cutting)
or was collecting firewood to sell, helping with the daily sustenance with my brother

The timbre that you just mentioned, is it wood, or what?
It is the bark of the tree called timbre. It is not a big tree, it is a thin tree and it grows in the scrub, not in the forest, more in hot soil, and the bark is collected to sell at the tannery of Oaxaca, in the area of Jalatlaco.

Is this a way of making money, of making a living wage? And what was the firewood for?
Also for selling, to sell in San Agustin, or in Oaxaca, around there we were to sell firewood.

After these occupations when you were little, still almost a child, what else did you do?
After that, when I was still a young boy, I worked more, I used to look after cows, and later I went to school, and from there I went to carry the lunch or the tortillas (maize-based flat bread) for the ones who cultivate the wheat there at Llano Timon, so as to support the family. I left at dawn and I went back to school, or I left late and came back the next day very early to go to school. My job was to care for the cows and to milk them before going to school.

That was when you were 12 or 13 years old?
Oh yes.

And then when older, letís say about 20 years old?
At 18 or 20 years I was still single; when I got married I was 26 years old. Then I was involved in wheat cultivation. I left my brother Jose and I worked alone, but before that I worked with Jose in wheat and maize cultivation. We used to plant maize in the month of April or we finished in May at the latest. The sowing took place from the 9th to the 10th of May.

Was the production of maize and wheat for consumption only or did you sell it too?
No, it was only for sustenance, we didnít sell anything. What we sold was the wheat. That was sold a little during harvest. When it was sold the most was during the work season, which was in the months of May and June, when the wheat was replanted, because the wheat was stored at home in bags made of palm matting, and from there we sold it to buy maize and beansÖ because we didnít work with beans before. Later we started to grow beans, the thin ones, but this was much later, and then we cultivating wheat. Now we donít grow wheat any more.
Section 2
Beside these jobs of cultivating wheat or [sowing other] seeds, what other jobs did the neighbours or you participate in?
Well, some used to work as mozos (helpers) with the ones who cultivate wheat, and others are occupied with making charcoal or collecting firewood or morillos (pieces of wood used as firewood), also for selling. The only thing was that the work with the morillos lasted longer. They started to cut trees to leave them to dry and in two or three months they sold them to people who came here to buy from San Agustin Yatareni.

This could be considered exploitation of the forest?
Yes, then we didnít hear about the forestry law, because we could cut trees everywhere, and a lot of wood was wasted because the person who cut tejamanil (traditional rough pinewood planks), he took a sample, he cut down the tree, and if it was not good the tree stayed down, and it was lost because it wasnít good for anything. The morillos, those got sold.

From which tree did you get the tejamanil?
The most preferred one was the pine, because it was better to cut, and the oyamel (type of pine), which we didnít call oyamel then, we called it pinabete (local term for oyamel). In those times, when the paper mill came here, we knew the name of oyamel, not pinabete, and the one we called gretado (type of tree, Cupressus lindleyi), a tree with shorter leaves like the pine, we called gretado, now we call that yacahuite (local term for gretado). It is a very soft wood to cut and to split, we split that very well.

And this tejamanil wood, what was it used for?
It was for selling at Oaxaca, in the valley, and for our homes, for our ranches.

Was it a building material?
Yes, we used it to build our little homes. There were two classes of tejamanil: the one which was from here for the community, they called tejamanil de piedra (literally, planks of stone), because it was thicker and wider, and the one which was sold in the city was thinner and narrower, that was for selling. But the one for our own use was thicker and they called it tejamanil de piedra.

When did the Tuxtepec paper factory arrive in our community?
That Tuxtepec factory began to work in 1962. It was started on the El Cerezo side, thatís why the first section of the forest [where felling took place] was by Llano del Cuil and beyond, until it got to the Neveria de Paz, then another section as far as Aguapaloma, and from there to Tres Cruces and Rancho Cascara. The work extended all over there then; the people worked from Ixtepeji, from the Yuvilia and Tierra ColoradaÖ But then it was split up, it wasnít in a single piece.
Section 3
Ah, it was not whole trunks?
No, it was not in one piece, it was split [into logs]. The wood is cut into pieces measuring 1.20m in length, the bark is taken off, [the wood] is split [into logs], and stacked in piles. The piles were in a line, one metreís height was 1.17m (ďun metro de altura era 1.17mĒ) and they paid us 30 pesos per metre.

How long does it take you to do a metre?
Well possibly one day, and sometimes we didnít 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. Thatís why since we started working with pieces [it has been faster]. There were no chainsaws then, then we worked with troceras (sharp woodcutting tools) and it took longer. Because it is a lot of work to cut a big tree, sometimes we did 3, or up to 4 metres a week, and that was done by two men, it wasnít done by one person alone. Thatís why the one who worked the most, he did up to 4 to 5 metres a week, but this was rare.
Once, the first section that Antonio Agustin Navarro had, he did 3 metres in one weekÖ He was with I donít know who, another partner, they were behind our first section. But that man did very little, the poor man, because it was harder then, and he got a bad section, then he couldnít do more.

After the [earlier process of] splitting the wood, there was [the process of transporting] whole trunks. Did you participate in that?
Not after that. Or did I? Lately we have delivered timber in whole trunks, but it wasnít long wood, but of 1.2 m as well, but we didnít split it. We were at the section above the Neveria cave, I delivered with Paulino, my nephew. There we delivered recently and after working there I quit, that was in 1963 I think, because from there I did not work any more.

Concerning everything that is happening or has happened at the community, we know you have always liked hunting, did you participate in that?
Yes, Iíve liked hunting since I was 10 years old we can say, because I began to go to the arriada (literally, the cattle rustle) with my older partners, but I couldnít shoot. When I began killing was at the age of 14, then I began to kill more often. What I shot the most were rabbits and squirrels, chachalacas (literally, chatterbox; long-tailed, ground-dwelling bird, Ortalis vetula), perdices (Great Tinamou, a type of bird), but for sure I killed foxes, and later I learned to use the hunterís lamp. I killed I donít know how many animals: comadrejas (weasels), mapaches (raccoons), colapintas (literally, painted tail; type of wild animal), and cacomixtles (small nocturnal animals with distinctive long black-ringed tail, Bassaricus astutus). Those I killed too, but by the light of a lamp, not at day but at night.
Section 4
How about deer, did you kill deer?
Yes, I killed some, but I canít say exactly how many, but around 300, I killed so many. I was killing first with mauser (weapons commonly used at the beginning of the last century) - TTM or 7 millimetres. Later I had 22 Automatic (type of rifle), and with that one I killed some deer. But yes, I killed almost 300 deer. Thatís why when I quit hunting it wasnít until 1981, after my servicio (cargo service). Because when I was on my servicio at Ixtepeji, I still killed a deer, it was in 1980. Then I stopped going and since then I havenít gone, it was the last deer I killed, it was up in the cave of Neveria, where there is a gravel bank.

Are there any other animals that you saw in our forest, and that you didnít kill?
Well, the only one I didnít kill was the mountain lion (puma) thatís what they call it. Because, that one - I saw it, but I couldnít shoot it. But there was a man who did kill one of those, because they are here in our forest, that man was called Florentino Mendez, he killed a lion, what they called lion (puma). But it is bigger than a deer! It is too big, too heavy, we carried it just a short way, and its meat is very good, we ate it.

We have heard that in our forest wolves existed, is that a probability?
Yes, they did. When I was younger, I saw a pack of at least 12 or 15 animals, and I saw I was surrounded by them, but I shot at one, and the rest ran away, but I didnít follow them. After that with the lamp I saw others, over there by Rancho Cascara, with a friend called Angel Garcia. We went at night, but we couldnít shoot them because they run away from the light. They are not like the deer which comes closer; that one gets out of the light. But there are wolves, because recently after that I saw another big wolf among the forest of San Pablo, and together with Huayapan, at the hill of Agua Cirial. I saw it close up, like a distance of 8 to 10 metres from me, but I didnít want to shoot it, because we donít eat it, why should I kill it? Donít you agree? But there are wolves around here.

Are there other animals that you have killed, besides deer and all that Ė any other carnivores?
Well zorrillos (skunks), tlacuaches (Mexican possums) and armadillos, those - yes, I killed a lot of them.

We have knowledge that in our forest there are tigrillos (literally little tigers; ocelots, Leopardus wiedii) and leocillos (literally little lions; Herpailurus yagoarandi). Have you seen them sometimes?
No I havenít seen the tigrillo. My brother Jose, when he was a child, once he killed a tigrillo over there by the Rincon de la Tierra, where we called Manuel Tejon. He had gone to La Palizada for water and then he killed a tigrillo. I saw it dead, I didnít see it alive. The one I saw alive was the wild cat. That one is a black cat that seems like a [domestic] cat, but the mouth was longer, but it was the same like a cat, so black and with a long tail, but I didnít kill it, I only saw it. That one, I saw it at the Canada de Leon, where there is the hard soil, going up towards La Piedra Quebrada. I was waiting for the deer, but in order not to make a noise I didnít want to shoot at it. I saw it close, but I didnít kill it.
Section 5
Apart from the hunting, animals and all that, our community has been cultivating flowers lately. In what year did you participate in that, in the production of flowers and other things?
No, I donít rememberÖ around 1972, when we were planting maize at La Coronilla. Then we cultivated the flowers, then I didnít work as a mozo (helper), but I was working on my own, then we planted a lot at La Coronilla. We planted maize and beans. Then we were planting flowers Ė nube (literally, cloud; a type of flower) and gladiola (large, popular cut flower)- since then we have been working, we havenít left it, we always work at it.

Is all that flower production for sale?
Yes everything; we hardly use them at home. No, all is for sale, and the sale is at Tlalixtac on Sundays and Fridays, and Tuesdays at Oaxaca. Not when thereís nothing, but when we had flowers we used to sell on those days.

In our community were there too many people involved in that job?
Yes, there were some, but they didnít have enough sweet potato, because with all the planting they did they went to Orizaba to bring the sweet potato, they said, because they didnít have the seed. The ones who worked here were: Aurelio Gomez, Donato Gomez, Leovigildo Mendez, Sixto Santiago, and others, but I donít remember who they were. And the ones from El Punto were the ones who worked that way. There was a meeting, Iíd say a union of, what do they call it? Flower growers. The head was one called Pablo Perez, he was from El Punto. He had a truck, and that truck passed by, and in that truck we took the flowers to sell. That was long before, in 1950-1951, but later we stopped working, and then later we came back to it again. But that person had a truck called the ďQueen of FlowersĒ, and he drove it. We even took some photographs to certify that we were floriculturists in order to be able to sell in Oaxaca.

And from that time until now, has our community been involved in that?
Now yes, the majority. The most produced are the margarita (daisy) and the nube (literally, cloud; a type of flower) and at La Cumbre the one most produced is the cartucho (non-indigenous flowering plant, Argylia radiata), the agapando (large white or blue/purple flower; agapanthus), and the Alcatraz (Calla lily).

Well this is what interests us now Ė to get the details about the things of our community since its beginning. You started talking more about the 1920s, is it true?
Yes, when I started to know about things was from 1929 up to now. When I was orphaned, left alone without my parents, I was then in the care of my brother Jose. And from there, at the age of 26 I got married and I began to do my own work. Later I put myself to work with bread. I worked several years making bread, but what bread! I made it and went to sell it at San Agustin, and later I didnít sell it at San Agustin, I sold it at the ranches, but first I sold it at San Agustin.

And was that also a job for the sustenance of your family?
Yes also. Then the flour was so cheap, then it cost around 18, 20 or 22 pesos a bag, and I asked to have that on credit. I would pay for a bag and the other one I took on credit, I came back to pay after eight days and they gave me a new account, with a man named Juan Lopez in the area of La Merced. There, there was a lot of trust, he had a store and he gave me the merchandise on credit, I paid him some and he gave me more, and I made the bread here. I delivered some to San Agustin, and the rest I sold here, and, later, I sold it all here only.
Section 6
Have these been your occupations, from when you stopped being a child until these years now?
Yes, until these years.

How old are you now?
Now my age isÖI am about to be 83 years old, the 15th of December I will be 83 years old.