READING GUIDE – UNIT 2 GATHERIN G THE D ESER T
Create: A bibliography entry for this book. (Use the library as a resource)
I N T R O D U C TI O N : D E S E R T P L A N T S A S C A L O R I E S , C U R E S A N D C H A R A C TE R S
Define: atole de pechita
Describe: three changes to Sonoran Desert Plant use during the last few centuries described by Nabhan at the top of Pg. 5.
Name: four “key species” that are a staff of life to cultures within their range from Pg. 5
How many wild, edible species are document in the Sonoran Desert? How many crop species?
Define: folk botany
Connect: Read the last chapter of this section. What does it tell you about how this book will be different from our last text?
W I N TE R : TH E C R E O S O TE B U S H I S O U R D R U G S TO R E
Recall: Which author from Unit 1 talked about the creosote bush arriving in North America from Argentina sometime in the Pleistocene?
Name: Give two other names for the creosote bush:
Explain: Why is it significant that the greasewood called King Clone is dated at between 9,500-11,000 years old?
Describe: three treatments attributed to creosote by traditional cultures of the Sonoran region:
W I N TE R : M E S C A L B A C A N O R A : D R I N K I N G A W A Y TH E C E N TU R I E S
Name: Two kinds of agave used in the production of bacanora
Recall: How is the reproductive cycle of the agave similar to that of the creosote?
Name: The genus of bat that has coevolved with agaves:
Describe: In what ways have certain agave species coevolved with bats? (name at least 2)
Explain: What phenomenon was noticed starting in the mid-1970’s which indicated that pollination of agave seeds was declining?
Describe: Two factors that could be impacting the relationship between bats and agave in their life cycles:
Connnect: How much did you know about mesquite/mescal/bacanora production prior to this course? Why is it important that we understand that agaves are more than just the “source” of a favorite spirit?
S P R I N G : M E S Q U I TE A S M I R R O R , M E S Q U I TE A S H A R B O R
Define: Use the context of this chapter to define groundwater depletion
Describe: How did cattle change the distribution of mesquite in the Sonroan region when introduced by Europeans?
Name: What introduced crop seemed to cause the shift away from mesquite gathering in indigenous communities?
Name: Which two aspects of European settlement caused a drop in mesquite populations during the latter 19th and early 20th centuries?
Describe: What effect did groundwater depletion have on the Santa Cruz River in Tucson? How is that related to mesquites?
Describe: Why is charcoal gathering potentially more harmful than harvesting wood for firewood or furniture?
Describe: Why do more plants grow in the shade of a mesquite than grow just beyond it’s canopy (hint: the answer is NOT shade):
Describe: What does Nabhan mean by the chapter title “Mesquite as Mirror”
S P R I N G : O R G A N P I P E C A C T U S : B R I N GI N G I N T H E R A I N F E A S T
Describe: What climate factor controls how far north organpipe cactus are found in the Sonoran Desert?
Describe: What is the relationship between pitahaya dulce, bats and moths?
Name: Name 4 uses for organipipe cactus among the Seri tribe of Mexico:
Recall – From Unit 1 name 4 Giant Columnar Cacti
Describe: Why does Nabhan theorize that columnar cactus fruit ripen to coincide with the summer rains? (for bonus learning – what are these rains called in Sonora?)
S U M M E R : TE P A R Y B E A N S A N D H U M A N B E I N GS A T A G R I C U L TU R E ’ S A R I D L I M I T S
Name: 3 plants cultivated by the Sand Papago at Suvuk? (They’re also known as the “3 Sisters”)
1. 2. 3.
Name: Which bean in cultivation at the Romero’s field proved to be less heat adapted than the tepary?
Describe: Two strategies used by the tepary to thrive in hot, arid conditions:
Describe: the change in genetic diversity of tepary beans with the introduction of food welfare programs on the Papago and Pima reservations:
Identify: Which four plants have been proven effective at controlling blood sucrose levels for diabetics?
S U M M E R : F O R TH E B I R D S : TH E R E D – H O T M O TH E R O F C H I L E S
Discuss: What do the Papago mean when they call the chipepin “I’itoi ko’okol”?
Describe: What effect does Nabhan say could explain the chile’s popularity in hot climates?
Describe: What is the coevolutionary relationship between birds and chiles?
Describe: What characteristics did humans desire in selective breeding of chiles?
Connect: What is your experience with domesticated chiles? What patterns have you seen in the genetic modification of chiles?
F A L L : D E V I L S C L A W : D E S I GN I N G B A S K E T S , D E S I GN I N G P L A N TS
Define: What is the most documented cultural use for the fruit of the devil’s claw plant?
Describe: What characteristics did humans desire in selective breeding of devil’s claw?
Describe: What characteristics made Pima baskets unique and highly desirable?
Identify: Two characteristics that separate “wild” devil’s claw from the domesticated varieties:
F A L L : W H E R E H A S A L L TH E P A N I C GO N E ?
Describe: How was the archaeologist able to identify the historic community that ay have grown the panic grass seeds found in the cave in the Trigo mountain?
Recall: What other plant discussed in this text also underwent a reduction in crop diversity (genetic diversity) due to changes brought about during European settlement in the Sonoran Region? How are these circumstances different?
Describe: How are the appearance of the Salton Sea and the decline of the Cocopa tribe related?
F A L L : G O O D T O TH E B I T T E R E N D : W I L D D E S E R T G O U R D S
Name: Four uses for the compounds in bitter gourd in traditional or modern cultures:
Describe: How have digger bees and wild gourds coevolved? Why is this relationship important?
Name four cultural uses for the fruits of the gourd:
Describe: What is the relationship to wild gourds and commercially grown squashes in modern fields in Sonora?
O V E R A L L
Write: 3 “detail” questions to put on a test (include the answers)
Write: 3 “concept” questions to put on a test (include the answers)
Connect: Select quote from this book that felt significant to you.
Explain what it means:
Explain why it matters:
Conclusion: give a 2-3 sentence summary of your big take-aways from this text.
CHIL D REN OF THE M AY AHUEL
Create: A bibliography entry for this article. (Use the library as a resource)
Recall: How does Radding’s description/definition of a desert compare with those we’ve seen in other texts? How does it compare with your own description?
Bonus: What language do these words come from?
Define: The parts of the agave plant discussed in the text:
Recall: What alternative method of reproduction have most agave species developed as an adaptation to arid conditions? Where else have you seen a discussion of this adaptation in our readings?
Name: Four traditional uses for the agave plant other than the production of alcohol (note that we do not consider agave nectar a traditional food as it requires modern equipment and chemistry to produce):
Describe: How did the unique adaptation of the agave plant make it ideal for early agricultural use?
Define: Nocturnal carbon fixation
Describe: Two benefits to agaves planted in prehistoric rock pile fields:
Describe: Two possible uses for trincheras era rockpiles as suggested by research:
Name: Two varieties of agave mentioned to be in use by the O’odham in “recent historical periods”: (give both latin and common names)
Define: mescal casero
Define: mescal del monte
Describe: What does the Conclusions section of the article surmise about the impact of early agriculture on the genetic diversity of agave? How does this relate to our more modern relationship with the plant?
Write: 2“detail” questions to put on a test (include the answers)
Write: 1 “concept” questions to put on a test (include the answers)
Connect: Select quote from this article that felt significant to you.
Explain what it means:
Explain why it matters:
Conclusion: give a 2-3 sentence summary of your big take-aways from this text.
THE D ESERT SP EAKS: THE P EOP L E OF B AJA
Create: A bibliography entry for this video. (Use the library as a resource)
Define: Where did the name Volcán Las Tres Vírgenes come from?
Name: What was the primary food source for the Cochimi according to the video?
Recall: What tribe described in another text from this unit also had many religious and cultural ties to the fruiting season of the giant columnar cacti like organpipe? How are these traditions similar or different?
Note: we will dive much deeper into the Spanish mission era in our next unit. This is a sneak peak!
Describe: What was one possible reason for the failure of the Spanish missionary effort given in the video?
Name: a)Which Catholic order followed the Jesuits as missionaries in Baja California? b) Where did the go when they left the Baja? (this is something we will discuss in our next unit)
Describe: What is the relationship between conservation and tourism in the Baja Peninsula and islands of the Sea of Cortez?
Define: oasis (use Dr. Grismer’s definition)
Name: Three negative impacts from modern development on natural oases:
Recall: What was the term used for impacts like those named above from our Unit 1 readings?
Recall: Name three terms used in the discussion of the Sierra de la Laguna?
1. 2. 3.
Describe: How do the mountains of the Sierra de la Laguna impact the aquifers which support La Paz?
Connect: This is an older video – it first aired in 1994. How do you think that conditions may have changed in Baja California since then?
Connect: Select quote from this video that you feel connects to the content of the course.
Explain what it means to you.
The Children of Mayahuel: Agaves, Human Cultures, and Desert
Landscapes in Northern Mexico
Abstract This article brings together research in ethnobotany, ecology, and history to show the mutually reinforcing rela- tions between humans and agaves. Its theoretical framework integrates three foundational concepts relating to the pro- duction of space, the evolution of life-forms, and the cre- ation of desert landscapes. Centered on the mutually formative relations between the agave family of plants and both indigenous and colonial populations in northern Mexico, this study challenges the conventional distinction between wild and cultivated plants and addresses different modes of cultural diffusion between Mesoamerica and the arid lands of the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts. Its aim is to relate the botanical complexities of the Agaveae to the development of different systems of knowledge and cul- tural beliefs relating to the plant and to the historical com- munities that have intervened in its cultivation and distribution.
The uses of agaves are as many as the arts of man have found it convenient to devise. —Howard Scott Gentry, Agaves of Continental North America (1982)
Cynthia Radding, “The Children of Mayahuel: Agaves, Human Cultures, and Desert Landscapes in Northern Mexico,” Environmental History 17 (January 2012): 84 – 115.
# 2011 The Author. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Society for Environmental History and the Forest History Society. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: [email protected]
Introduction Inspired by H. S. Gentry’s affirmation linking human creativity to the uses of agave and to the distributional patterns of different species, this article brings together botanical, historical, and anthropological research on the agave family of Mesoamerica and northern Mexico. Its purpose is to show the mutually reinforcing relations between humans and agaves and to relate the botanical complexities of the plant to the development of knowledge about agaves among both Amerindian and European sources. It argues that the distribution of biomes helps us to understand the production of historical spaces and their cultural meanings as these evolve in the discernible relation- ships between peoples and plants. This study challenges the conven- tional distinction between “wild” and “cultivated” plants, focusing on the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts, arid lands that are sur- rounded by grasslands and scrub forests and intersected by river systems and mountainous terrain that mark the western and eastern ranges of the Sierra Madre. It addresses the different modes of cultural diffusion between Mesoamerica and the northern deserts during the pre-Hispanic era, and it points to the contrasts and continuities between the indigenous meanings and uses of agaves and their expres- sion in the colonial and modern periods.
The theoretical frameworks that guide our discussion combine the production of space, the concept of life-forms, and the cultivation of desert landscapes. Building on Henri Lefebvre’s theories of the social production and representations of space, this study emphasizes the role of human labor in the botanical evolution of agaves as well as the religious and scientific import of the representations of agaves that emerge from both native American and European cultures. Lefebvre’s thesis interpreted socially produced spaces such as tilled fields and managed pastures, terraced hillsides and irrigation works, towns and urban centers.1 In arid lands traversed by nomadic peoples, we can see the social production of space in harvested stands of saguaro cacti, ephemeral weirs built across streambeds to capture the runoff of seasonal rainstorms, or the smoked pits dug for roasting agave leaves and hearts.
Representational spaces refer to the hermeneutics of humanly crafted spaces that evince ceremonial, political, or religious values, such as cathedrals, temples, pyramids, or the kivas of Puebloan peoples in the American Southwest. Less visible, but equally endowed with meaning as representational spaces, are the simple ramadas erected for ceremonial dances or the processional routes that are reenacted seasonally for religious observances. In Lefebvre’s framework, representations of space refer to images and textual descriptions of specific places or regions through figurative scales and symbols of geographic features and human settlements.
The Children of Mayahuel | 85
Indigenous cosmologies of the Americas render representations of space in the codices that depict calendrical cycles and deities as well as in the petroglyphs chiseled in caves and hillside terraces or the figures of decorated ceramics, weavings, and baskets.
The “spatial turn” that Lefebvre’s work inspired has typically been applied to urban phenomena in the creation of public spaces or to the transformation of rural spaces into manorial estates and peasant agricultural villages.2 This article relates the production of space to the nomadic cultures of northern Mexico through the interventions of different tribal and colonial peoples in the distribution and species variation of plant communities. Through the representations of space found in images, legends, and botanical knowledge of agaves, it integrates the material production of space with the percep- tions of desert landscapes in pre-Hispanic, colonial, and modern histories.
The concept of life-forms complements the production of space, focusing on the convergence of functions and adaptive strategies among different organisms that interact in arid-lands biomes.3 Life- forms overlay the botanical categories of phyla, genera, and species by grouping plants according to their observed strategies for survival: for example, the breadth and depth of root systems, succulent stems and leaves that store water, or microphyllous plants (with tiny leaves) that minimize loss of water through evapotranspiration. Strat- egies are discerned through patterns of “interaction of the life form with the environment over thousands of years,” creating horizontal linkages across distinct species occurring in desert ecosystems that share adaptive features.4 This article uses the concept of life-forms to build vertical linkages across time that explicate the mutual develop- ment of societies and plant communities.
Joining these two conceptual frameworks, this article brings together evidence from diverse fields of study on the intersection of natural and cultural processes in the reproduction and differentiation of agave species. Organized in broad chronological periods, it covers desert landscapes, agave taxonomies in different knowledge systems, and the historically evolved relations between agaves and people. It shows that plant communities sustain human life at the same time that they evolve through overlapping livelihoods, modes of social organization, belief systems, technologies, and patterns of conflict. Our discussion moves through different classification systems refer- ring to the agave family, the qualities of selected agave species, and the evidence culled from archaeology, history, and ethnography for documenting the combined techniques of cultivating and gathering agaves. The conclusions return to the ways in which human societies shape desert environments, harvest their fruits, and spin webs of knowledge about the natural world, pointing to changes over time and in space.
86 | Environmental History 17 (January 2012)
Cultural Perceptions of Deserts In desert climates, rates of evapotranspiration exceed precipitation; for those who live in them, deserts are lands of little rain, snow, or dew. Desert conditions refer not only to rainfall and temperature but also to the texture and composition of soils and geological features like shallow soils on rocks or sandy soils that retain little water. The aridity of the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts arises from their separ- ation from oceanic sources of moisture, compounded by the drying effect of air masses moving over a mountain barrier and air currents that become warmer and drier as they descend toward the earth’s surface.5
Grafted onto these geographic and biological determinants of desert climates, the concept carries important historical and cultural mean- ings. The Tohono O’odham of northwestern Sonora referred to their homeland as “the shining desert,” an environment they continue to claim through religious rituals and subsistence practices. Notwith- standing the summer heat and prolonged dry seasons, the Tohono O’odham found life-sustaining resources in plants like the cholla, mes- quite, and saguaro; wild game ranging from deer and birds of prey to rodents and reptiles, and the springs and seepage that formed in the fissures of hills and low-lying rocky slopes.6 They produced spaces in their surroundings through seasonal migrations to three different eco- logical niches: the groves of saguaros, whose fruit ripened just before the onset of summer storms in July; the fields (oidag), where lowland arroyos and washes briefly overflowed with the runoff from summer rains, providing a short cultivation season for beans and amaranths; and the wells (wahia) on the hillside slopes for the winter season of hunting and gathering.7 Desert-dwelling Tohono O’odham bolstered their livelihood through trade with the Akimel O’odham, agricultural- ists who occupied floodplain land from the Gila River system in the north to the southern arc composed of the San Pedro, Santa Cruz, Magdalena, and Altar-Concepción drainages, forming the province that Spaniards would name Pimerı́a Alta.
Following Iberian contact, Spanish chroniclers described desert-like regions according to the modes of settlement they found there. Early sixteenth-century explorers contrasted the settled agricultural valleys with surpluses of maize to the despoblados—uninhabited spaces without discernible communities—fraught with danger.8 The Iberian invaders soon learned that the despoblados were, in fact, well popu- lated by nomadic bands who moved over the land in deceptively small numbers according to the seasons for hunting and gathering desert blooms, shoots, and seeds. Their aridity contrasted with the Mesoamerican tropics of central Mexico, and thus early European chroniclers perceived them to be
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