photo of Mexican man the sierra norte
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IxtlŠn, Oaxaca


June 1999



The translation of this interview consists of extracts only.

Section 1
At what age did you begin working in the mine?
When I worked on the committee, when my father died - I was 20 years old when I began working as a labourer on the surface. I went to various workshops and then got the job of a surface miner. I worked there for 12 years and then I left and went to the USA. I was there for about four years.

Even though you told us that you worked on the surface, could you tell us about working underground?
Well, the miners who were brought to drill worked inside the mine, and the carts that carried the material, the earth that didnít have any minerals in it. I had the job for six years. They worked a rota of three turns, the first, the second and then the third and they took turns like that. On Sundays they rested and they continued working on Mondays. Only the watchmen continued working on Sunday, they were given a day off during the week. The mine began, well, as the date is now it will be close to 100 years old. The work of the mine was very famous before because there were a lot of workers, there was a lot of trade and it earned a lot of money. It has all decreased a lot because the mineís gone down, because it doesnít produce like before...

During this time that you were working in the mine, as you were telling us, was IxtlŠn already exploiting the forest?
No, not yet. I donít know in what year they started going into the forest, when the sawing started exactly. I think that the sawing began in the year 1950, they began at around that time because I left in the year 1953 and returned in 1957 and they were still working in the forest. They stopped sawing at the end of 1957. The studies of the paper mill arrived in 1958 and thatís why they began clearing the boundary line and extracting wood. There was a lot of machinery because it was a foreign company, it was from Canada, but a little later it became Mexican, it wasnít Canadian anymore. But the people who started it said that they didnít 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 that the company would pay us 12 pesos. They took the amount of 12 pesos a day and thatís how it all began. Thatís why I was working for 12 pesos a day after a year. 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. There were a lotÖ three or four sessions with the people because they worked in the forest, on the flat land and at the top of the mountains, they work in Aloapan, they worked in Zoquiapan, in Ixtepeji, CuicatlŠn, here by JalatlŠn and all of those forests...
Section 2
Were you still working there when the factory disappeared, or rather, when it stopped exploiting the forests?
Not any more, I had left because the company had a lot of forest and the villages were taking back their forests. I donít think that it was good for the people; they didnít have work to spare and the forest was being exhausted. So as not to spend a lot of money the company took its people out and lost the areas where they were cutting and the villages started taking back their forest. Thatís why they now sell from village to the factory; now the long wood is sold to the sawmills - they sell it as it is, they donít work it, itís done in the sawmill instead. There was a union for the communities when the sawmill was established
There was IxtlŠn, Calpulalpam, Xiacui and La Trinidad and they called it Ixcacit because of these names but I donít think that it worked out for them [Xiacui, La Trinidad and Calpulalpam left] and they left IxtlŠn alone. Each one took its land to work it in its own way.

And what year are you talking about?
It was about 1970 or 1975 when the forest had...