FOOD IN TZINTZUNTZAN, MICHOACÁN, MEXICO: TRADITIONS AND TRANSFORMATIONS
Robert V. Kemper
Department of Anthropology
Southern Methodist University
Dallas, TX 75275 USA
|[Note: this article was published in Spanish in 1996: “La comida en Tzintzuntzan, Michoacán: tradiciones y transformaciones” pp. 365-395 en Janet Long (editor), Conquista y Comida: Consecuencias del Encuentro de dos Mundos. México, D.F.: UNAM.]|
ABSTRACT: During the five centuries since the arrival of Europeans in western Mexico, the people of Tzintzuntzan, Michoacán, have developed a food tradition which combines indigenous Tarascan elements with those of other areas of Mexico as well as with those of foreign countries. In this paper, we examine the continuities and transformations in food production, distribution, and consumption from the "Tarascan Empire" period (prior to the 1520s), through the "Spanish Colonial" period (1520s - 1810s) and the "Mexican National" period (1820s - 1930s), to what I call the "Mexican-U.S. International" period (1940s - 1990s). The data sources for the analysis include archaeological investigations, ethnohistorical and historical documents, and long-term ethnographic research since 1945.
In this paper I shall examine the food system of a single community -- Tzintzuntzan, Michoacán, Mexico -- from the period prior to the arrival of the Spanish conquerors in the early sixteenth century to the present day. We are fortunate to have information on foods and their uses from archaeological, ethnohistorical, and contemporary ethnographic sources. These range from the field surveys of archaeologists such as Shirley Gorenstein and Helen Pollard (1983)in the Lake Pátzcuaro basin, to the data contained in the famous Relación de Michoacán (orig. 1541), to the ethnographic observations found in the publications and notes of George M. Foster (1948, 1967), who has conducted fieldwork in Tzintzuntzan since 1945.
THE "FOOD SYSTEM"
By "food system," I mean the complex arrangements of production, distribution, and consumption by which people in a given society provide themselves with the food needed to meet their ordinary and ritual requirements. The analysis of a food system should be sensitive to historical processes in order to assess changes in food use in the society being studied. Also, we should consider the internal and the external dimensions of a food system -- that is, local cultural changes as well as large-scale political and economic transformations. A food system is not just a matter of basic nutritional needs. It also includes the diverse ritualistic aspects of food use, from religious sacraments (e.g., bread and wine in the eucharist of the Catholic Church) to secular affairs (e.g., cake and ice cream served at children's birthday parties) to sporting events (e.g., hotdogs and cold drinks at baseball games).
THE CASE OF TZINTZUNTZAN
Before we can analyze the food system in a specific society or in one of its member communities, we must consider the institutional framework within which that food system exists. For Tzintzuntzan, this means understanding how a community once at the center of the powerful Tarascan empire has become -- by the 1990s -- a small town of about 3,000 residents involved in a large-scale emigration system that includes Mexico City, diverse other Mexican cities and villages, and the United States. Therefore, our treatment of the food system of Tzintzuntzan will be divided into four sections, corresponding to:
(1) the Tarascan "Empire" period before the 1520s;
(2) the Spanish "Colonial" period from the 1520s to the 1810s;
(3) the Mexican "National" period from the 1820s to the 1930s; and,
(4) the Mexican-U.S. "International" period from the bracero programs of World War II to the Free Trade negotiations of the 1990s.
This historical framework for studying the food system of Tzintzuntzan yields the following analytical grid:
THE FOOD SYSTEM DURING THE "TARASCAN EMPIRE" PERIOD
Our primary sources for understanding the food system in the Tzintzuntzan area during the Tarascan empire period are archaeological and ethnohistorical. A number of archaeological excavations and regional surveys have been carried out in the last several decades, although information about foodstuffs is unevenly provided in these sources. The principal documentary ethnohistorical source for the Tarascan civilization in the late prehispanic period is the well-known Relación de las ceremonias y ritos y población y gobierno de Michoacán (orig. 1541; [1956; 1977; 1980]). The large number of scholarly and popular treatments of pre-conquest Tarascan culture are often no more than restatements and interpretations of the text and illustrations found in the Relación de Michoacán (e.g., López Austin 1981; Castro-Leal 1986; León 1979 [orig. 1903]). The best overall guides to sources on the Tarascans are those of Brand (1943) and Argueta et al. (1984).
In the century or so before the arrival of the Spaniards, the Tarascan (or Purépecha) civilization controlled a large territory in what is now west-central Mexico. Gorenstein and Pollard (1983: 4) suggest that their empire ". . . extended beyond the Lerma River in the north and beyond the Balsas in the south. In the west it included Lake Chapala and the Coalcoman region of Jalisco. The eastern frontier followed a line drawn from Acambaro in the north, passing through Zitacuaro and ending south of the Balsas River." The focus of power in the Tarascan empire was the Lake Pátzcuaro basin, located between 19°45' and 19°25' latitude and 101°55' and 101°25' longitude, at an altitude of about 2,000 m. above sea level. Among the ninety or so settlements in the lake region, the most important was Tzintzuntzan, which probably had a population of more than 20,000 persons attached to it (Gorenstein and Pollard 1983: 37), equivalent to more than 35% of the Basin population (Gorenstein and Pollard 1983: 93). The local population was divided into an elite group and into a commoner group. Tzintzuntzan served as both political and religious center for the Tarascan empire in the years before 1520. As Gorenstein and Pollard have argued, "Tzintzuntzan was at the head of a system that integrated administrative, economic, religious, social and transport functions for the Basin" (1983:94).
The Tarascans produced a wide range of foods within the Basin region and also used foods produced elsewhere. According to Foster, who bases the following summary on a wide range of ethnohistorical sources,
Outside of the village, agricultural lands were recognized to have definite owners; . . . Maize, beans, and squash, planted after the first rains in early June, were the basic crops, and chiles, chayotes, and small tomatoes were also grown. In the absence of a plow and draft animals, a simple digging stick was used for all agriculture. A variety of fruit trees, both wild and domesticated, were exploited, among them the cherimoya, guava, mamey, cacao, chicozapote, capulín, and tejocote. Deer and rabbits abounded in the hills, and were hunted, in addition to small mammals, with bows and slings. The turkey was common, and may have been domesticated in Michoacán. Other than this bird, and a small dog, there were no domesticated animals . . . Tortillas, a wide variety of tamales, maize gruels known as atole, boiled beans, squash, chayote, meat, and fruits formed the basic diet. The earth oven was used to bake meat and bread. . . . [F]ishing was of great importance, and in some places such as Janitzio and Jarácuaro in Lake Pátzcuaro it surpassed all other occupations in importance. . . . Ducks were hunted from the water with the spear-thrower or atlatl, propelling a long reed dart (1948: 10).
It has been suggested (Gorenstein and Pollard 1983: 104) that a sharp dichotomy existed between foods used by commoners and those used by the elite. The former were produced through subsistence activities or obtained in the local marketplaces; the latter were obtained primarily through government-controlled lands and usufructs. According to Sepúlveda (1988: 42), Tzintzuntzan's residents had access to prime agricultural lands for the cultivation of maize, beans, squash, amaranth (huautli), chiles, and other crops, to lakeside marsh lands for hunting (e.g., waterfowl, especially duck; frogs; and watersnakes), and to the lake itself for fishing (e.g, acúmara, the famous pescado blanco, and tiny sardines called charales). The Tzintzuntzan-based royal family had its own duck hunters and fishermen to provide foods for their needs, whereas commoners gathered small plants and hunted small animals. The royal family had access to private properties which could be passed to the next generation through inheritance; the commoners shared in communal properties as well as in working public properties intended for generating tribute to the emperor.
A regional marketplace (tianguis) existed in Tzintzuntzan before the arrival of the Spaniards. Although many foods flowed through this market, we have direct information only for the following foods: maize, beans, chiles, amaranth, fruits, ducks, fish, and certain prepared foods. In addition, indirect evidence is available for other foods, including squash, gourd or gourd dates, nopal cactus, quail, doves, parrots, squirrel, small dogs, wild plants (especially those used for medicinal purposes), . . . rabbit, turkey, and honey bees" (Gorenstein and Pollard 1983:100). An important food item which can be considered a market import was salt, since it rarely appeared on tribute lists.
The Tarascan government also retained a cadre of long-range merchants who provided "specialized, rare goods obtainable only from the far reaches of the territory or from outside the territory itself" (Gorenstein and Pollard 1983: 103). Cacao was one of the few foodstuffs brought to Tzintzuntzan by these governmental merchants, who otherwise focused their attention on animal skins, marine shell and bone from the Pacific, tropical bird feathers, precious and semi-precious stones, gold, silver, and slaves.
The tribute network of the Tarascan empire focused the goods and services of the entire empire on Tzintzuntzan. Goods were brought to Tzintzuntzan about every 80 days (cf. Warren 1968) The most common foods on the tribute lists were maize, tropical fruits, and cacao; much more rare were items such as salt, beans, chiles, rabbit, turkey, honey, and maguey wine (Gorenstein and Pollard 1983: 102). According to the Relación de Michoacán, foreign visitors often brought tropical fruits or other foods when they visited Tzintzuntzan.
The Tarascans also exported some goods -- especially fish -- from the Basin to other parts of their empire. Dried fish passed from the local marketplace to zones where it could be exchanged for other foodstuffs, including maize, amaranth, beans, and chiles.
Local production in the Lake Pátzcuaro basin area does not appear to have been sufficient to meet the consumption needs for the commoners and the elites residing there. Gorenstein and Pollard (1983: 108) suggest that about
44% of the maize and 9% of the beans consumed were imported. Some of these came from tributaries outside the Basin and served to maintain the elite. However, since the elite controlled much of the best agricultural land and since the size of the maize deficit was huge, one can only conclude that large quantities of foodstuffs, representing the major proportion of commoners' diets, must have been imported through market networks. These networks were essentially regional and local, suggesting the foodstuffs traded into the Lake Posture Basin probably came from adjacent zones.
For instance, the Relación de Michoacán mentions that maize, beans, and chiles came to the Basin markets from the Asajo zone to the northwest and from the Coringuaro zone to the southeast.
It appears that the elite obtained their imported foods primarily through governmental channels, either through the tribute network or through governmental merchants. Gorenstein and Pollard suggest that "the function of these imports was largely . . . to maintain the status difference between members of the elite and the rest of society." They also believe that, because a "notable proportion" of the foods imported for the elite "included sources of meat protein, such as deer and rabbit, which are not mentioned in market contexts . . . substantial nutritional differences between social classes" may have resulted (1983:109).
In sum, it appears that the food system of the "Tarascan Empire" period involved two interdependent flows: the first was the local and regional market network, intended to meet the subsistence needs of commoners; the second was the much broader governmental network of tribute and merchants, intended to meet both the subsistence and status needs of the elite. Certain foods -- including maguey wine from within the Basin and tropical fruits, cacao, and ocean fish -- were restricted to the elites (Gorenstein and Pollard 1983: 115). In other words, "the elite production, distribution, and consumption patterns, although part of the Tarascan economy, had their own viability and could be sustained even if the larger system suffered [unpredictable] vagaries . . . ." (Gorenstein and Pollard 1983:116).
THE FOOD SYSTEM DURING THE "SPANISH COLONIAL" PERIOD
The primary sources for the colonial period are the reports written by governmental and religious officials or other visitors who happened to pass through the Tzintzuntzan region and recorded their observations. Since Tzintzuntzan retained an important place in the Franciscan campaign to save Tarascan souls, until the Friars were sent away in the 1780s, their occasional reports do give glimpses of colonial life in the community. On the basis of such reports, we can reconstruct the food system during the period from the 1520s to the beginning of the nineteenth century. The reliability and validity of these historical sources is inconsistent, but they do generally agree on the declining importance of the community from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. Perhaps the clearest indication of the relative insignificance of Tzintzuntzan is that no Relación de Tzintzuntzan was commissioned, even though a total of seventeen separate Relaciones -- including one entitled Relación de Pátzcuaro -- were carried out between 1579-1582 (Acuña 1987).
The first contact between the Tarascans and the Spaniards occurred in February 1522, but not until later in the year did Cristóbal de Olid and his troops invade Michoacán. Subsequently, the Tarascan king (Tangaxoan) and his treasures were taken to Mexico City where Cortés received him. According to Beaumont (1932: II:24), Tangaxoan and his retinue were treated well, ate meals with Cortés, and especially were impressed with Spanish wine. By the end of 1525 or in early 1526, the first Franciscan friars arrived in Tzintzuntzan. They soon constructed a church and a temporary convent and began the task of saving the souls of the Tarascan people. The smooth transition to Spanish rule was abruptly ended by the reign of terror that followed upon the arrival of Nuño de Guzmán, who arrived with his army in 1530 to raid and plunder Michoacán and Jalisco. The actions of Nuño de Guzmán were somewhat balanced by the humanistic efforts of Don Vasco de Quiroga, who has become famous for establishing "hospitals" (likely inspired by reading Sir Thomas More's Utopia) in the Lake Pátzcuaro region.
In 1534, Tzintzuntzan was granted the title of Ciudad de Michoacán and in 1536 the bishopric of Michoacán was created, with Tzintzuntzan as its seat. Unfortunately, when Don Vasco de Quiroga became the first bishop in 1539, he soon decided that the site was unsuitable because of the
poor water supply and the cramped position of the town between the hills and the lake, and so, in the following year, he moved to Pátzcuaro. . . . The bishop took with him the church organ, the bells, the royal title to the claim of Ciudad de Michoacán, and a great many protesting Indians to populate the new town, and left behind little beyond the foundations of the new cathedral and a great deal of ill will. Thus was sounded the death knell of Tzintzuntzan, depopulated and despoiled of its rightful political category (Foster 1948:19).
Based on maps drawn in the mid-1500s, it appears that the community had already taken on its modern "grid-plan" form (cf. Beaumont 1932, III: plate 2, facing p. 410; Seler 1908 III: plate 3, p. 66). In 1593, after more than a half-century of disputes in the Spanish legal system, King Phillip of Spain bestowed the new title of "Ciudad de Tzintzuntzan" on the community with the right to be independent from Pátzcuaro and to be free from being absorbed into any encomiendas established in the region.
Although maize remained the most important crop -- and the corn tortilla the principal food -- in the Lake Pátzcuaro basin, by the 1530s Old World wheat was being grown on encomiendas near Tzintzuntzan and was afterwards grown by natives for purposes of tribute to the Spaniards (West 1948: 43). Similarly, beans and squash continued to be important in local diets, although other new foods were introduced into the Tarascan area from Europe (e.g., barley, broadbeans, lentils, and chickpeas, cabbage) as well as from other areas of the Americas (e.g., the South American potato [solanum tuberosum] and oxalis [papa de Castilla]). Several other vegetables -- e.g., lettuce, radishes, carrots, peas, garlic, onions, and turnips -- were introduced from Europe and were cultivated in the Tarascan region during the colonial period (West 1948:40ff.; Durston 1976: 29-30). Similarly, some European fruits (e.g., peach, apple, pear, quince, olives) were brought with the Franciscan friars and other Spaniards who came to the Tzintzuntzan area in the sixteenth century.
The introduction of the European plow made it possible to break the heavy soils of the fertile valleys in the lake region. The lakeshore fields (milpas) on the edge of the town of Tzintzuntzan were good candidates for the use of draft animals and plows.
Europeans also introduced cattle, sheep, pigs, horses, mules, chickens, and European bees to the region to complement the native turkeys, small dogs, and bees (West 1948: 50). Some of these animals served as aids in the fields and also as additional sources of protein, at least for the Spaniards and mestizos if not for the bulk of the indigenous population. These animals also supplemented the diet in those areas, such as the southern reaches of Lake Pátzcuaro, where fishing declined during the colonial period (West 1948: 52).
By the middle of the seventeenth century, Tzintzuntzan was surrounded by haciendas which offered agricultural labor for its inhabitants. These included: Sanabria, one of the first land grants in Michoacán, administered by representatives of the Augustinian order; Chapultepec, the property of Don Hernando Altamirano; Molino de las Ruedas, which belonged to Don Alvaro de Díaz Barriga; and the haciendas of Juan de Luébana and Nicolás de Rueda. Each of these large estates produced corn, beans, and wheat as well as raising cattle and horses (Rendón Guillén 1980: 34).
As the population of Tzintzuntzan declined during the colonial period -- to about 1,000 persons by the early 1600s -- its role in the regional food system also became less important. It seems likely that enough food could be grown locally to sustain this reduced population size, but the village-level specialization reinforced by Don Vasco de Quiroga made the regional marketplaces more important than ever. As a result, subsistence practices were tied to participation in the regional marketing network. Although Tzintzuntzan continued to have a twice-weekly tianguis, the major marketplace for the Basin region shifted to Pátzcuaro, where it has continued up to modern times.
With the demise of the Tarascan royal family and the subsequent departure of the colonial political and religious leadership to Pátzcuaro, Tzintzuntzan no longer could depend for its sustenance upon the formerly extensive tribute system. On the contrary, its residents (eventually more mestizo than indio) were now subjects in the Spanish tributary system. Instead of receiving goods from far-flung places, the people of Tzintzuntzan now had to seek commercial alternatives to the old system of redistribution. Thus, during the colonial period, in Tzintzuntzan and in similar communities in the high valleys of Michoacán, a new category of huacaleros (traders) and arrieros (muleskinners) came into existence to service the mutual needs of the lowlands and the highlands.
During the Spanish Colonial period the diet of the people of Tzintzuntzan came to include a mixture of plant and animal foods not available previously. The variety of foods increased as did the total potential nutritional value of the daily diet. Unfortunately, the arrival of European diseases also had consequences for the population in Michoacán -- such that the native population did not escape the general declines suffered through Mesoamerica (Cook and Borah 1971). So, the net effect was that a far smaller community emerged by the end of the sixteenth century to participate in the food system in the lake region. The people of colonial Tzintzuntzan still depended fundamentally on maize for tortillas and related corn-based products, although wheat-based breads became important (especially as substitutes for tortillas in years with poor corn harvests). Fish probably remained the most significant animal food, but pork, beef, chickens (and eggs) took on important roles in the diet to complement the native turkeys, bees, ducks, frogs, salamanders, and water snakes.
In sum, during the Spanish Colonial period the food system in Tzintzuntzan underwent significant transformations while maintaining its aboriginal elements. Nothing seems to have been lost in the dietary inventory, but the mixture of old and new elements no longer was tied to the aboriginal social order. The old nobility had been eliminated and replaced by a new elite composed mainly of non-native governmental and religious officials. Tzintzuntzan ceased to be a focal point of its own empire and instead was reduced to the status of a minor peripheral "city" within an international political-economic system based in Spain. This "dependency" marks the beginning of what has become almost five centuries of participation in an ever-widening system of exploitation by external forces.
THE FOOD SYSTEM DURING THE "MEXICAN NATIONAL" PERIOD
For the period from Mexican independence to the World War II, primary data sources about Tzintzuntzan include reports of occasional visitors to the Lake Pátzcuaro region as well as governmental studies and census documents. The personal interest of Lázaro Cárdenas -- revolutionary general, governor of Michoacán state, and president of Mexico -- in the indigenous Tarascan culture brought renewed attention to Tzintzuntzan during the 1930s. A series of archaeological investigations at the yácatas (pyramids) on the eastern slopes above the village were followed by ethnographic research in the mid-1940s.
In the first decade of the nineteenth century, the German traveler Alexander von Humboldt described Tzintzuntzan as "only a poor Indian village, though it still preserves the pompous title of ciudad" (1811: 208). He estimated the local population at about 2,500 but this undoubtedly included the adjacent hamlets of Ichupio, Ojo de Agua, and perhaps other nearby ranchos.
In the 1820s, Tzintzuntzan was mentioned briefly in a comprehensive geography of Michoacán. After discussing the town's early history, Martínez de Lejarza offers the following comments about its situation:
After having been abandoned and reduced to a miserable Indian town, only in recent times has a constitutional ayuntamiento (local government) been established in Tzintzuntzan. The climate is cold and nothing of value is produced there that cannot be found in other communities around the lake. The major industry of its inhabitants is making a well-regarded pottery which is marketed through the kingdom. Tzintzuntzan has a secular curate pertaining to the bishopric of Morelia and possesses 2,254 souls as of 1822 ([orig. 1824] 1974: 121).
In 1861, Epitacio Huerta, the governor of Michoacán, gave to Tzintzuntzan the title of Ciudad Primitiva so as to preserve and perpetuate the memory of its indigenous origins (Rendón Guillén 1980: 41). Yet, in the same decade, Tzintzuntzan lost its status as a cabecera municipal, reverting into a tenencia of the nearby town of Quiroga. After the passage, in 1868, of a law for the distribution of communal lands (reparto agrario), large parcels around Tzintzuntzan fell into the hands of powerful mestizo politicians affiliated with Quiroga. Thus, the people of Tzintzuntzan remained land-poor and dependent on pottery-making and long-distance trade (as arrieros and huacaleros) for their livelihood.
The new railroad line from Mexico City, through Morelia, reached Pátzcuaro in 1886, but it bypassed Tzintzuntzan. Telegraph service became widespread in Michoacán, including Pátzcuaro, by the late 1880s, although Tzintzuntzan was not included in the system. Telephone lines became well distributed between the state's cities before 1910, but again Tzintzuntzan had no local service while Pátzcuaro was quickly made part of the system (Uribe Salas 1989: 186-189).
In similar fashion, the rural development policies of the regime of Porfirio Díaz favored large-scale haciendas and foreign capital investments in mining, livestock, and cash crops (e.g., tobacco, sugarcane, rice). As a small town bypassed by the railroad, Tzintzuntzan was ignored by government planners during this period, whereas Pátzcuaro enjoyed continued commercial development as the door to the tierra caliente to the south. The governorship of Aristeo Mercado (for whom a street in Tzintzuntzan is named), which lasted from 1891 to 1911, represented the height of Porfirian policies in Michoacán. As Gutiérrez has argued,
The government of Aristeo Mercado was characterized by the delivery of natural resources to foreign firms and their Mexican partners, and permitted the exploitation of cheap labor. In this period social change was represented by new sectors such as railroaders, miners, and textile workers who all were subjected to inhumane exploitation by voracious patrons who operated in the absence of adequate labor laws. The government of Aristeo Mercado thus facilitated the dependency, the surrender, and the neocolonialism of Michoacán (1989: 154).
The Revolutionary era (1910-1920) in Michoacán made life difficult for the people of Tzintzuntzan, but "appear to have left less imprint on Tzintzuntzan than on many other towns of the area" (Foster 1948: 21). Villagers had to retreat to the hills as different armies and bandits passed through the area, but the consequences of the military conflict were probably fewer than the accompanying interruptions in food supplies, poor harvests, and occasional epidemics. For instance, in 1916, the bandit Inés Chávez García and his gang came through Tzintzuntzan several times, "taking the previous year's harvest and giving the new planting to their horses as forage, thus leaving the people with nothing to sustain their families through the following year. This disaster was made worse by the Spanish flu in 1918, but still the population of Tzintzuntzan declined only slightly from 1,114 in the 1910 census to 958 in the 1921 census (cited in Foster 1948: 28).
In 1922, representatives of Tzintzuntzan petitioned to reestablish its previous status as head of an independent municipio, but not until 1930 did their dreams become reality. By presidential decree of Lázaro Cárdenas, Tzintzuntzan regained a small part of its former political status and gained the minimal recognition needed to receive assistance and improvements through diverse state and federal agencies. During the 1930s, the government facilitated the installation of running water and electric lights in Tzintzuntzan; in 1938 built a six-year primary school; and in 1939 arranged for a highway connecting Morelia and Pátzcuaro to pass through Quiroga and Tzintzuntzan. Despite these modernization programs, the local population remained at about 1,000 persons: the 1930 government census recorded 1,003 and the 1940 census 1,077 (cited in Foster 1948: 28).
In the 130 years between Mexican Independence and World War II, during which period large-scale commercial agriculture and diverse rural development schemes came to Michoacán and the Lake Pátzcuaro region, Tzintzuntzan continued with the food production system which had been in place since early colonial times. Local subsistence production was limited in quantity, and was often not adequate to meet local needs even with a population hovering near 1,000 persons. Nevertheless, it does not appear that significant new plants or animals were introduced into the local food production system during the National period. Corn (especially for tortillas), beans, and other subsistence crops continued to dominate in local fields and house-lot gardens. Individual agricultural holdings were of relatively limited size, and many families were dependent on usufruct of lands belonging to the comunidad indígena. A few families had teams of oxen or cattle with wooden plows, but even these had little idea about using commercial fertilizers, irrigation, or better varieties to increase production. It has been suggested (Rendón Guillén 1980: 48) that Tzintzuntzan sustained an important fishing industry on account of the inmigration of Tarascans from nearby hamlets during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but that ultimately the fishery was reduced dramatically due to the spread of aquatic plants in many areas of the lake.
During the National period, Tzintzuntzan continued to play a dependent, subsidiary role in the regional food distribution system. Its tianguis declined in significance, as travel by canoe, then later by steam-powered barge made it easier to reach the Pátzcuaro wholesale and retail markets. The economic emphasis on pottery-making made the villagers dependent on barter and cash transactions in the regional marketing network, especially in Pátzcuaro. A number of men continued to be involved as huacaleros or arrieros in the trade to and from the lowlands to the south in the period. Not until the arrival of the railroad and -- more importantly -- the highway did many Tzintzuntzeños travel toward Mexico City or toward the United States, even though metropolitan and foreign influences in Michoacán were significantly increased during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The long-term demographic, political, and economic stagnation of Tzintzuntzan was mirrored in the stable character of the local diet. Year in and year out, tortillas, beans, locally and regionally produced fruits and vegetables, and small amounts of meat were the core of the peasants' diet. Some foods, such as cheeses and pineapples, from the tierra caliente became at least seasonally important in the village. Knowledge of the American or European origin of plants and animals became less critical than an awareness of how to make dishes combining elements of both continents. Indeed, as Foster discovered during his initial fieldwork in 1945,
Compared with many, and perhaps most parts of Mexico, Tzintzuntzan and the Tarascan area in general are characterized by well-developed culinary arts. The variety of available foods, the number of herbs used in cooking, and the varied recipes known are outstanding in every sense of the word. Naturally, few housewives have time to make every meal a gastronomic delight, but when the occasion presents itself -- a wedding, death, or church fiesta, most can turn out a meal that should be long remembered (1948:48).
After describing in considerable detail the diverse ways in which Tzintzuntzeños prepare maize, wheat, tamales, atole, and other foods (including eggs, nopales, squash, mushrooms, green vegetables, and fish), as well as diverse beverages (including coffee, chocolate, milk, pulque, aguardiente, beer, and soft drinks), Foster (1948: 51) goes on to discuss the "hot" and "cold" categories of foods in Tzintzuntzan. Curiously, he attributes the "hot"-"cold" concept to be a "basic Mexican Indian" way of thinking, although his subsequent investigations have documented its Old World characteristics.
On the basis of a detailed study of food consumption among seven families over a period of several weeks (in 1945), Foster determined that "three meals a day, corresponding to breakfast, dinner, and supper, is the custom for those families that can afford it. This frequency is reduced to two meals, and even one, where food is limited. Meal hours may vary a good deal, depending on the activity of different members of the family" (1948: 165). He goes on to note that "The preponderance of beans and tortillas as the diet of the lower income groups is apparent, as well as the very limited quantities of other foods. Striking also is the fact that the members of these families eat only about half as frequently as those of the higher income brackets. Wealthier families, except for the lack of fruit and fresh vegetables, have a diet which seems basically sound. . . . Members of the upper brackets eat when they want to; those of the lower brackets when there is food available" (1948: 166).
According to Foster, "A great of nourishment is taken between meals in the form of odd snacks, purchases in markets, and the like. Fruit, for example, never appears on a menu, yet considerable quantities of oranges, pears, peaches, bananas, capulines, mangoes, and zapotes are consumed. These are thought of, not as food, but as special delicacies, and are eaten when available. . . . The extent to which these additional foods are taken, depends, to a large degree, on relative economic levels. In some cases they are an insignificant addition to the family diet, and in other cases, of great importance" (1948: 167). He goes on to add that "Eating is looked upon as a necessity and as a pleasure. From the standpoint of the organization of the family work schedule, it is usually most convenient to eat at stated times, but there is nothing sacrosanct about the meal hour. One eats when one is hungry and when food is available" (1948: 167).
In sum, between Mexican Independence and World War II, the food system in Tzintzuntzan was relatively stable. Production techniques were little changed from colonial times. Distribution was enhanced by the arrival of the railroad and highways in the region. As a result, certain foods from distant regions could be incorporated into the local diet, but most food consumption still emphasized locally and regionally produced items. Moreover, the lack of refrigeration in the village meant that foods were purchased and eaten in a fresh state whenever possible. So, regardless of the modernization beginning to penetrate rural Mexico, Tzintzuntzan retained an essentially traditional food system until the 1940s.
THE "MEXICAN-U.S. INTERNATIONAL" PERIOD
The primary source of information for the period since 1940 is the long-term ethnographic research of George M. Foster in Tzintzuntzan. In addition, some of his colleagues (including Stanley Brandes and myself) have investigated routine and ritual uses of food in the community and beyond. Other scholars have studied the regional economy with special emphasis on the food system's linkages to metropolitan and foreign enterprises, in both the public and private sectors. Finally, government census reports provide useful data for appreciating the demographic and economic transformations in the Tzintzuntzan area in the last fifty years.
It is necessary to justify the label I have given to this period. In my view, a special feature of the half-century since the 1940s is the internationalization of Mexican life, in particular the introduction of significant elements of the U. S. food system into Mexico at the same time that millions of Mexican laborers have gone north across the border to participate directly in that food system. Given this significant degree of integration, especially for the state of Michoacán, it seems reasonable to define the fifty years since 1940 as the "Mexican-U.S. International" period.
Since 1940, Michoacán and the Lake Pátzcuaro region have suffered major transformations in the traditional economic system, primarily because of the increased role of international (mainly U.S.) capital in the state's fruit and vegetable production. A counterpoint to this investment has been the continuing exodus of several hundred thousand Michoacán residents to work in the fields and factories of the U. S. since the bracero treaty was signed between the two nations in 1942. The result of these two circumstances has been the creation of a dependency on international markets for the regional economy in which Tzintzuntzan is embedded.
Although Michoacán has served as an important area for large-scale agricultural enterprises which aim most of their production to metropolitan areas in Mexico or to foreign markets, little of this commercial production comes directly from the Lake Pátzcuaro region. Because of its climate, altitude, and limited supply of large parcels of arable land, the Basin has not assumed a production role similar to that of Zamora for strawberries, Uruapan for avocados, Huetamo for cantaloupes, or Apatzingán for watermelons. Even where efforts have been made to implement irrigation-based agricultural projects in the Basin, these have contributed to the long-term lowering of the water level in the lake. Limitations in available water supply are still a major concern in Tzintzuntzan and most of the region's communities -- especially since the population in the lake area has finally surpassed the estimates for the Tarascan Empire period.
The regional marketing system is still focused on the city of Pátzcuaro, but improved highways now make it easier for storekeepers and individual producers and consumers to go to the state capital, Morelia, to make major purchases of food and other supplies. In a sense, Tzintzuntzan is now a suburb of Quiroga and Pátzcuaro. Busses or local taxis will carry Tzintzuntzeños (and their goods) along the highway between these two lake towns for a modest charge (1,500 pesos [$0.50 US] in 1992). Moreover, since many villagers now own or have access to trucks, pickups, or cars, the difficulties of what used to be a major expedition with pack animals have been turned into a relatively pleasant outing. Even a trip by bus or private vehicle to Morelia takes less than one hour each way.
The magnitude of interaction between Tzintzuntzan with the United States, especially with California and other western states, has no parallel in the community's history. Although perhaps half of the men in Tzintzuntzan participated in the bracero program between 1942 and 1964, only since the mid-1980s have large numbers of men and their families gone northward to work and live. Significant enclaves of villagers have been created in southern California, central California, and northern California, as well as in Washington state. These individuals and families are part of a still-growing "extended community" of which Tzintzuntzan is the central node.
The population of Tzintzuntzan proper has gone from about 1,000 residents in 1940 to over 3,000 residents in 1990. I estimate that whereas fewer than 100 persons born in Tzintzuntzan were living outside the community fifty years ago, the corresponding figure for 1990 is about 3,000 -- in effect, about half of the community is in and about half is out of Tzintzuntzan.
Tzintzuntzan has not been isolated from governmental modernization programs during the past half-century. On the contrary, because of its special symbolic status as the cradle of Tarascan civilization, it has been able to claim an "indigenous" quality although fewer than 7% of its inhabitants can still speak or understand the Tarascan language (and only about 10% could speak Tarascan in 1945). During the 1950s and 1960s, Tzintzuntzan was the site for numerous community development programs from CREFAL (Centro Regional para la Educación Fundamental en América Latina), located on a former estate of Lázaro Cárdenas in Pátzcuaro. These included several experiments with chicken and egg production, pig and cattle raising, and the use of fertilizers to enhance agricultural yields (Foster 1967: 327-347). The state and federal governments have also contributed to improving the inadequate water distribution system (81% of the houses have running water taps in 1990 versus 22% in 1945) and have installed recently a marginally functional sewer system (serving 66% of the houses in 1990 versus none in 1945).
Electricity is now widely available in the community (91% of the houses in 1990 versus just 14% in 1945), and most houses (79% in 1990 versus just 49% in 1980 and 14% in 1970) have propane stoves to replace or supplement the ancient three-stoned fire with its comal or the traditional raised adobe hearth. Electric blenders are found in 75% of the kitchens in 1990 (up from 34% in 1980 and only 4% in 1970) versus only the ancient molcajete (mortar and pestle) in 1945. Refrigerators are in 30% of the houses (up from none in 1970 and 34% in 1980). Increased knowledge of the wider world is reflected in the use of radios (94% in 1990 versus 70% in 1970, 41% in 1960, and 2% in 1945) and televisions (78% in 1990 versus 54% in 1980 and just 11% in 1970).
Foster has recently written about the transformation of Tzintzuntzan since his arrival in 1945 in these words:
At times, comparing the picture today with that existing when I first arrived, it is tempting to believe that Tzintzuntzan has become a consumer society. Yet not all people share equally in these improvements; a good many families -- a decided minority, however -- live at a poverty level, bypassed by most of the good things in life that have come to other fellow villagers. Less and less can the fiction be maintained that "Here we are all equal." Although Tzintzuntzan in no sense is a class society, the gap between the well off and the poor is far greater than in 1945.
Standards of living in Tzintzuntzan have risen, and so have prices. During most of the post World War II period Mexico enjoyed remarkable monetary stability compared to much of the Third World. Then, toward the end of the 1970s, the country entered an economic crisis from which it is only now emerging: the peso has been continually devalued, and in some years inflation has surged past 100%. Tzintzuntzan has not escaped this affliction . . . Yet people do adjust to rapid price and wage changes. Prices go up, but so do earnings, and in a society where savings accounts in banks are rare, suffering is less than one might imagine (1991: 27-28).
The most common local crop remains corn of various types, nearly all of which is used for family purposes rather than for resale. Other traditional crops -- including beans and squashes -- supplement the fruits and vegetables grown in house-lot gardens. Chickens, pigs, and cows are kept by many families. For the entire period since the 1940s the proportion of households with farming as their primary occupation has been below 10% and fishing is now done by only a couple of older men. The number of pottery-making families has also fallen, although many of these have taken up the weaving of wheat-straw figures (popote) as an income supplement since the 1960s.
In the 1990s, more Tzintzuntzeños are involved in agriculture and its ancillary activities in the United States than in the village! Several hundred men, women, and children work each year in the fields or food factories in California and Washington -- and the number has increased each year since the mid-1980s. Within the last few years, Washington apples have been available in the Morelia wholesale market, thence they have been introduced to Tzintzuntzan. In effect, migrants from Tzintzuntzan are harvesting the very Washington apples being sold in their native community several thousand miles away. In such circumstances, it is difficult to draw the boundaries to the local food production system.
Regarding the 1940s, Foster wrote these insightful words:
The advent of the railway in the last years of the 19th century and of highways in the second quarter of the 20th century have been of tremendous importance in this development of trade, but from the long-term view they represent changes in degree and not in kind. And even today the huacalero with his crate on his back and the laden animal offer stiff competition. Eventually these older forms of transport will be reduced to a level of little importance, and the new means of moving goods and people will contribute substantially to a higher standard of living for all. At present, these effects are just beginning to be felt (1948:131).
In the 1940s, Tzintzuntzan had no market of its own (as it had had up until the first years of the twentieth century), so the villagers traveled to Pátzcuaro for the Friday tianguis or to Quiroga for its Sunday market. The Pátzcuaro market is among the best known in the Mexican provinces, following in fame those of Oaxaca and Toluca. It has been described by several ethnographers (Foster 1948: 132-137; Kaplan 1960; Durston 1976; Kemper 1979) so I shall not repeat those descriptions here. Two points are worth mentioning. First, in 1945, nearly all of the foods offered for sale were from the lake region, the adjacent western sierra, or the tierra caliente to the south. Only a few products came from beyond the borders of Michoacán state, with the most important being pineapples from Veracruz and salt from Colima. Second, the marketplace was subject to the seasonality of many fresh fruits and vegetables because refrigeration and other means of conserving foodstuffs were not available in Mexico.
In the 1940s, Tzintzuntzan had about a dozen small stores where fresh foods and canned foods were available for purchase -- at prices higher than those in Pátzcuaro.
The range of foods (and other items) available in such small stores is quite remarkable. Even in 1945, when Foster did a complete inventory of several stores, some 33 items were kept ready for the daily food purchases by local housewives: maize, beans, habas, rice, bran, Quaker oatmeal, cornstarch, spaghetti, macaroni, dried meat, canned salmon, canned shrimp, bread, crackers, lard, sesame oil, piloncillo (raw brown sugar), refined sugar, lime, chocolate, coffee, chiles (of diverse types), olives, salt, pepper, spices, bottled hot sauces, medicines, alcoholic drinks, bottled beers, bottled soft drinks (including Coca Cola), and bottled grape juice (1948: 139-140; Table 19).
In 1990, there are more than twenty locally owned and operated stores which sell foods: fresh, canned, bottled, refrigerated, and even frozen. Some of these stores are little more than part-time stands where housewives hope to make a few pesos selling items to their neighbors. Even the biggest stores contain only a room for a sales counter and display of goods, one or more adjacent storerooms, and perhaps more storerooms in the back of the family's house.
At the beginning of 1992, I made a complete inventory of the largest and most successful store in Tzintzuntzan. It has over a 100 different foods for sale, a number of which come from great distances and were never part of the local food system even a generation ago. The following list reflects the diversity of foods by category, not does not reveal the variety of brandnames within each category: cooking oil; vegetable oil; bottled olives; avocados; garlic; almonds; rice; boxed atole mix; canned tuna; sugar; alcoholic drinks (including aguardiente de caña, brandies, gins, sherries, margarita cocktail mixes, margaritas, rums, champagnes, tequilas, and vodkas); peanuts; coffee in jars; squash; soup bouillon cubes; dried shrimps; cut cane; onions; boxed cereals; mixed hot cereal; bottled and canned beers; chayotes; fresh and canned peas; various fresh and canned chiles; packaged snack chips; packaged chocolates; canned chocolate milk mix; raisins; cabbage; cauliflower; Gerber baby foods in jars; diverse wrapped candies; string beans; canned corn; packages spices; Nestlé baby formula; beans; jamaica; miscellaneous boxed Gamesa crackers; chewing gum; guayabas; flour; hotcake mix; rice flour; wheat flour; refrigerated hot dogs; chicken eggs; canned fruit juices; jícamas; canned evaporated milk; canned condensed milk; canned powered milk; lettuce; lentils; limes; lemons; popcorn; tangerines; lard; red and yellow apples; packaged margarine; jars of mayonese; jars of strawberry jam; home-made honey; Karo syrup; mole in jars; tangelos; oranges; pecans; pan Bimbo in packages; potatoes; papayas; packaged pastas; cucumbers; piloncillo; pineapples; bananas; boxed instant gelatin mix; canned tomato puré; cheese; soft drinks (including 7-Up, Sidral, Coca-Cola, Fanta, Jarritos, Mirinda, Pepsi, Peñafiel, Premio, and Sprite); packaged flavored-water mixes; salt; sausages; tomato ketchup; bottled hot sauce; canned sardines; cilantro; tamarinds; McCormick teabags; red tomatoes; green tomatillos; grapefruits; packaged flour tortillas; packaged tostadas; grapes; bottled vinagre; yoghurt in individual refrigerated containers; and carrots.
The owners of this store travel (leaving Tzintzuntzan before 4:30 a.m. and returning by noon) to the large wholesale market (mercado de abastos) in Morelia twice a week and make occasional trips to Pátzcuaro or to Guadalajara (to buy supplies for pottery makers) to sustain their diverse inventory. By avoiding the middleman, the store owners can make significant profits on their sales and do so while offering prices competitive with those in nearby Pátzcuaro or Quiroga. I accompanied the owners on a trip to the Morelia market and noted their acquisitions: oranges, 80 kgs., 80,000 pesos; red tomatoes, 75 kgs., 56,000 pesos; beets, 1 bunch, 1,500 pesos; dew melons, 45 kgs., 18,000 pesos; cantaloupes, 45 kgs., 22,000 pesos; carrots, 30 kgs., 5,000 pesos; mangos, 3 boxes [90 kgs.?], 78,000 pesos; pineapples, 1 box, 18,000 pesos; cauliflower, 10 pieces, 15,000 pesos; bread, 30 round pieces, 30,000 pesos; chiles serranos, 5 kgs., 15,000 pesos; grapefruit, 1 box, 22,000 pesos; chiles perones, 5 kgs., 55,000 pesos; rice, 100 kgs., 160,000 pesos; bananas, 70 kgs., 45,000 pesos; dark red bananas, 3 boxes, 75,000 pesos; cilantro, 2 bunches, 2,000 pesos; papayas, 47 kgs., 38,000 pesos; celery, one bunch, 5000 pesos; peas, 8 kgs., 18,400 pesos; and perejil, a bunch, 3,500 pesos. So, on this single trip the owners spent a total of more than 600,000 pesos at wholesale prices for 22 different categories of fresh foods. Assuming that this is a typical buying trip, then this store probably buys, at wholesale prices, more than 15 million pesos worth of fresh foods every year.
In addition, they receive deliveries by truck of many other foods, including soft drinks, breads and snacks, and also make purchases from local fishermen who offer their goods in barter. The store also provides a place -- a couple days a week -- for a local butcher to display and sell his beef and pork, cut to order for the individual client on the spot. Finally, the owners make several dozen glasses of rompope (a gelatin with alcohol) every evening to sell the following morning.
In addition to the stores selling food in Tzintzuntzan, there is a baker, three tortillerías and nixtamal grinding mills, as well three pharmacies to attend to medical needs. In the evenings, the main plaza is the site of two carts where local men sell tacos of various types, and the side streets offer occasional house-front specialties (e.g., barbacoa, churros, boiled corn-on-the-cob with chiles and hot sauce) for sale. Finally, the village boasts of two permanent paleta (ice cream) vendors, usually to be found near the primary or secondary schools when they let out in the afternoons.
Aside from these regular and informal channels for food distribution, the annual cycle of village festivals offers special chances to distribute food. The posadas of the Christmas season, the tiradero (throwing) of foods to the assembled crowds in the church atrium during Corpus Christi, and the vendors and food stands on other holidays all offer ritual opportunities for distributing and redistributing food within the community (see Brandes 1988 for details).
It should be clear that, during the period since 1940, the availability of diverse foods has increased significantly for the people of Tzintzuntzan. They still depend on tortillas (and other corn products) and beans for much of their basic diet, but these are commonly supplemented by eggs, wheat-based breads, rice, miscellaneous vegetables, miscellaneous fruits, and meats (mainly, chicken, beef, pork, and fish) to round out the daily cycle. Coffee, soft drinks, beer, and stronger alcoholic drinks are widely used, especially since the local water is not always safe to drink without adequate boiling. The quality of the diet depends significantly on the household income, so that in recent years some families eat as well as middle-class urban dwellers, while the poorest families do little better than did their ancestors in colonial times.
As Brandes (1990: 165ff.) has pointed out, on the basis of his long-term research in Tzintzuntzan, "we need to differentiate between ceremonial and daily meals. [There] is a marked contrast between these two styles of eating, . . . In Tzintzuntzan, ceremonial meals differ from daily meals in at least seven different ways." He goes on to describe in detail each of these key differences, but here I shall simply provide the general descriptors (in each case, the first descriptor applies to daily meals and the second descriptor to ceremonial meals):
1. Individual consumption versus collection consumption;
2. Flexible versus inflexible mealtimes;
3. Absence versus presence of drink;
4. Non-calculated versus calculated consumption;
5. Silence versus conversation;
6. Individual versus collective food preparation;
7. Private versus public consumption.
Brandes concludes that:
Ceremonial meals in Tzintzuntzan, then, are an effective medium through which social ties are established and reinforced, and local prestige hierarchies manifested. They can only exert this impact, however, because they satisfy a number of important conditions. First, there are extraordinary occasions during which special behavioral norms, setting them apart from everyday meals, apply. . . . Second, the behavioral norms that govern ceremonial meals promote communal consumption in public arenas. Ceremonial meals are thereby transformed into stage performances, which readily lend themselves to the manipulation of social images. Finally, ceremonial meals are almost by definition sacred occasions. They are intrinsic to the celebration of rites of passage and annual community fiestas, which are (with the possible exception of Independence Day celebrations in September) all religious in origin and meaning (1990: 173-174).
I would propose another dimension to Brandes's model. The more ceremonial the occasion, the more "traditional" the menu offered to the guests. Thus, weddings, funeral wakes, and other solemn functions have an associated meal consisting of hand-made foods rather than packaged, boxed, or bottled foods. To be sure, some of the ingredients did not originate in the Tarascan Empire period, but came into the local cuisine during colonial times. Thus, no one distinguishes between guajolote con mole and pollo con mole -- the latter is much more common and less expensive, but not to be frowned upon -- either of which is normally accompanied by a sopa seca ("dry soup") consisting of rice cooked with tomatoes and squash slices. Similarly, pozole typically contains pork pieces to complement the corn grains and other indigenous ingredients. And, of course, hand-made (though machine-ground) tortillas are more likely to be served on special occasions than in the daily routine.
In recent years, processed food products from major Mexican and multi-national corporations have also begun to assume some importance in the local culture, but have not yet replaced their fresh equivalents. So long as many families are food producers as well as food consumers, the local traditions are likely to be upheld in the face of television advertising for processed foods. The people of Tzintzuntzan certainly recognize the time-value of some foods (especially, machine-ground nixtamal and machine-made tortillas), but they are willing to spend more time to have more palatable food (e.g., making tortillas by hand or by hand-press instead of in the tortillería). Virtually every daily main meal begins with a homemade soup, often using a Knorr Suiza bouillon cube as a basis for the stock, including fresh vegetables of various kinds.
I have always been amazed that villagers use their elegant propane gas stoves as cook-tops rather than as ovens. Boiling and frying are much preferred to baking -- perhaps because of the problems of the high altitude -- but more likely as a continuation of cooking styles dependent on the ancient three-stone fire ring and comal or the traditional raised adobe hearth, one or both of which are still to be found in many village houses. In parallel fashion, most families do not make full use of their refrigerators -- which are primarily used to store beer and soft drinks and keep minimal leftovers. This suggests that eating, like shopping, is still a day-to-day affair, not a cultural enterprise planned out days or even a week in advance. I do not expect to see microwave ovens (or even small toaster-ovens) in many Tzintzuntzan households in the near future. Nor do I expect the villagers -- who do not have a single restaurant in their community -- to be willing to spend their limited funds on expensive "fast foods," even though they may do so when they are working and living in the United States.
In sum, what I have labeled as the Mexican-U.S. International period has been a period of increased diversity in the food system of Tzintzuntzan. Foods produced in the village are, by and large, those known since colonial times, though the use of chemical fertilizers and special seeds has improved productivity. Many more foods, both fresh and processed, are available to the people of Tzintzuntzan today compared to fifty years ago, particularly because of better transportation in the region. Food consumption still emphasizes "traditional" foods, but exposure to television and other mass media -- as well as experiences working in the United States -- may convert the younger generation to "fast foods" and other less nutritious choices during this decade. All of these transformation, as well as efforts to maintain food traditions, are occurring against a backdrop of boom and bust cycles in the Mexican (and U.S.) economy in the past half-century.
During the past 500 years, the food system of Tzintzuntzan has undergone important transformations while maintaining its essential traditions. The indigenous elements of the Tarascan Empire period, especially the varied uses of corn, beans, squash, and chiles, were combined during the Spanish Colonial period with elements brought from Europe. Thus was formed a complete cuisine which changed relatively little during the Mexican National period, through the nineteenth century and up until World War II. I have argued that since the 1940s, in what I have called the Mexican-U.S. International period, the local food system has become more diverse than at any time since the 1600s. The post-1940 period also corresponds to the creation of what might be called the "extended community" (Kemper 1991) -- through exposure to the mass media and through emigration to metropolitan areas in Mexico and to several parts of the United States.
Unlike their urban counterparts, many families in Tzintzuntzan are still food producers as well as food consumers. This important distinction (and its relation to subsistence economic activities) makes the Tzintzuntzeños less vulnerable to wild swings in the broader economy. Still, as the current generation moves into the work force, the community is becoming increasingly dependent on emigrant remittances for its survival.
The contemporary food system of Tzintzuntzan represents a blending of Tarascan, Spanish, Mexican, and U.S. elements whose continuing development will be documented as part of our on-going long-term ethnographic research in the village and among its emigrants. It is difficult to know how the present situation will have changed in another century, when scholars might again assemble to discuss the six hundredth anniversary of the encounter of two food traditions, but I hope that the present north-south interaction of the Tzintzuntzan food system with that of the United States proves to be as fruitful as that between Tarascan and Spanish food cultures.
Thus, I conclude with the hypothesis that the future will not see pollo con mole replaced by Kentucky Fried Chicken, pozole by Campbell's canned soups, acúmara (a lake fish mentioned in the Relación de Michoacán) by Long John Silver's fried fish platter, or barbacoa de puerco by MacDonalds Big Mac hamburger. If present trends continue, then what some critics have described as the "Coca-Cola-zation" of Mexican culture since World War II may become the "Mexicanization" of the food culture of the United States during the twenty-first century.
My personal interest in foods in the Lake Pátzcuaro area, and specifically in Tzintzuntzan, began with my first fieldwork project in Mexico -- a study of the Pátzcuaro marketplace -- which I was carrying out exactly 25 years ago from today. This nascent interest in the anthropological study of food systems was heightened when I was asked to serve on the doctoral dissertation committee of Janet Long-Solís, the organizer of this "Simposio 1492," at the Universidad Iberoamericana in 1980. As many of you know, Dr. Long-Solís's excellent study (1986) of chiles (capsicum) involved a systematic analysis of its history in Mexican culture as well as its contemporary production, distribution, and consumption. Her emphasis on studying food as part of broader institutional frameworks has been reinforced by my continuing long-term research among the migrants of Tzintzuntzan -- many of whom are now involved with agricultural activities in California, Washington, Alaska, and other states north of the Mexican border.
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