The Journal of Culture & Agriculture 38:1 (June 2016)

Verónica Pérez Rodríguez*


Abstract: This article presents ethnographic information on terrace farming that was collected to ground archeological interpretations of cross-channel terraces known as lama-bordos in the Mixteca Alta region of southern Mexico. Ethnographic interviews asked about labor organization and the labor requirements of terrace construction, and also documented agroecological knowledge associated with terrace farming. The integration of ethnographic and archeological data indicate that lama-bordo terracing started 3,400 years ago and today lama-bordos continue to be built, maintained, and farmed at the household level, in ways that correspond with the recorded stratigraphies of Prehispanic lama-bordo terraces. Even in contemporary contexts of government agricultural programs and global markets, farmers continue to grow food and build their lives around lama-bordos using a complex body of knowledge about the weather, plants, soils, and the behavior of pests. The continuation of this land-use and food-producing strategy for over three millennia attests to the longevity, effectiveness, and resilience of this ancestral practice that has been a cornerstone for Mixtec society and survival.

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* Denotes CSDA Associates and Staff