Aaron’s project: “Exchange and the Environment: a study of agricultural practice and information transmission in the Gildardo Magaña Ejido, Los Angeles, Michoacán.”
“Spring semester in rural Mexico was the capstone of my undergraduate experience. The projects, interviews, and excursions included in the field school culminated in the most incredible moment of my collegiate career, both academically and personally. Being thrown head first into life in rural Mexico with little grasp of the language and life could make or break a person. Trying to adjust to these changes built my person, forced me to find out who I am, not to mention this was done while balancing both a directed study and the group field school project. Academically, these ventures enabled me to use the study habits and knowledge I had developed throughout my years to their fullest while learning a foreign language and foreign customs. And what a great place to learn them. Having spent the preceding spring studying Spanish in Mexico as well, I was confident that my familiarity with the custom and language would serve me well. While it did give me a introduction to Mexico, it did not prepare me for real Mexican life, for the cultural differences highlighted in a rural setting. This is where living with, understanding, and accepting host families comes to bear. The most evocative element of the field experience was the Mexican people, the families we lived with – both in Los Angeles and Ocotillo, they are the most generous and caring of people. They welcomed five foreign students and one professor into their homes and lives without a complaint and were constantly there, making us part of their lives, wanting us to see and experience rural life to its fullest (the swimming trips to the río, fiestas, the chorros, trips to the ranch, Angahuan, the dusty road up the Volcán de Colima, café caliente, roping and riding horses at the ejidal parcels, and of course the rodeo!), and helping at every instance they could.
The field work experience was invaluable. The opportunity Donna presented and the countless hours of hard work she put into it made the field school the success it was. I gained an understanding of anthropological field work that will be priceless as I continue my studies and found that there is much more to the process than I had could have imagined. My individual project consisted of a study examining the degree of environmental destruction caused by farming practices that the ejidatarios of Ejido Gildardo Magana in Los Angeles, Michoacán, Mexico are aware of, through an investigation of information transmition and individual knowledge. “Exchange and the Environment: a study of agricultural practice and information transmission in the Gildardo Magaña Ejido, Los Angeles, Michoacán” was completed through interviews with 23 ejidatarios as well as expert advice from sugar cane union representatives, agronomists, a representative from Hurst’s Berry farm, and a doctor at the local clinic.
The influx of foreign export companies is changing the San Sebastián zone, where Los Angeles lies, from a primarily sugar cane producing region to a diversified area where avodaco, blackberry, raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, peach, guyaba, and agave are providing alternatives to the dwindling profits turned with the production of sugar cane. The closing of the San Sebastián sugar mill two years ago, combined with the decreasing assistance to sugar cane producers, is providing an excellent opportunity for the study of information transition and decision making between the production of sugar cane (which provides security) or an alternative crop (with the chance to turn greater profits).
Along with the influx of export produce companies has come greater environmental concern related to foreign food standards and agrochemical regulations. This is proving contradictory as these export crops require much greater amounts of agrochemical application while harming both the environment and human well-being. Uncontrolled use of agrochemicals in the campo has led to severe destruction as the soil and water continue to be contaminated, the safe application of the chemicals is neglected, and a lack of information about safety and destruction is becoming evident. The situation is becoming worse with the increased application of agrochemicals required for export produce.
The neglect of the campo on
a national level is evident with the deteriorating environment, lack
of organization for the distribution of information,
and a national consciousness unconcerned with ecological issues and human
safety in the application of agrochemicals. The application of chemicals
such as Parathion, Endulsulfan, Marathion, and Furudan without any precaution
is reason for concern, though the ejidatario is not preoccupied with
this. For the ejidatario all decisions – from which crops to cultivate,
to the amount of agrochemicals available to use, and whether or not to
invest in the correct protective equipment for chemical application – are
economic endevors. With the desire to stretch the land to its limits
for the accumulation of profit, any ecological and safety concerns are
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