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Mesoamerican Subsistence Techniques. Mesoamerica’s ecological diversity is reflected in the great diversity of domesticated plants. I found these different.

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Presentation on theme: "Mesoamerican Subsistence Techniques. Mesoamerica’s ecological diversity is reflected in the great diversity of domesticated plants. I found these different."— Presentation transcript:

1 Mesoamerican Subsistence Techniques

2 Mesoamerica’s ecological diversity is reflected in the great diversity of domesticated plants. I found these different varieties of maize in a storage room in a Catholic church in Pichataro, Michoacan, Mexico.

3 Dietary Diversity is a function of physical/natural diversity Mesoamerica is an overwhelmingly mountainous region, which is a primary reason for the high level of diversity in the physical environment.

4 This slide explains why mountain-building has been so frequent in Mesoamerica. Remember the importance of subduction.

5 Mole (cacao and chiles) Avocado Cacao The great diversity of native food plants, in italics, contributed to the region’s diverse culinary traditions. Cheese and onions The additions of foods from other cultures further diversified the cuisine.


7 Diagram of the Valley of Mexico in which the Aztecs had their capital city, Tenochtitlan. This valley was in the northern part of Mesoamerica. However the Aztecs had settlements and trade routes that extended to present- day Nicaragua.

8 Monte Alban, a large Zapotec settlement in Oaxaca, Mexico. Also within Mesoamerica.

9 The ceremonial ball court at the Classic Mayan site of Copan, in northwestern Honduras. Also in Mesoamerica.

10 This list demonstrates why Mesoamerica is one of the most important centers of plant domestication. S. Mexico, Guatemala and Central America were locations within Mesoamerica

11 Common market scene, where vendors sell products from plants domesticated in Mesoamerica.

12 Theobroma cacao: “food of the gods”

13 Cacao plant growing as an understory tree in a rubber grove in Guatemala. This setting is a human substitute for its natural habitat. Cacao is native to the tropical rainforest, where it grows as a shrub on the forest floor. This rubber grove is a simplification of that setting in which a tropical rainforest tree (rubber) is planted in monoculture. Its canopy shades a monoculture of cacao shrubs.

14 Rubber-cacao grove: A contemporary system of agroforestry that combines two tropical rainforest plants that were in the New World


16 Tepejilote in Tiltepec, Oaxaca

17 Hongos, edible mushrooms, in Tiltepec, Oaxaca

18 Guajalote, or turkey, in Ixtlan, Oaxaca. One of the few animals domesticated in Mesoamerica. A hairless dog also was domesticated. Not this kind.

19 Lousy picture of a avocado (aguacate) grove. Where’s the fruit?

20 Agave farm. Mesoamericans had many uses for this arid-tolerant plant including for fiber and alcohol.

21 Maize, squash and los insectos, chapulines.


23 Los insectos preparado. Chapulines. Part of the Mesoamerican diet past and present. Tastes like chicken ;) Not really. Centro de Abastos, Oaxaca, Mexico.

24 Chapultepec is Nahuatl for Grasshopper Hill

25 This newspaper reports on growing exports of grasshoppers to Europe.

26 A Mesoamerican domesticate not mentioned by Dr. west. Cochineal.

27 Cochineal are the insects that Mesoamericans raised in prickly pear cactus plantations.

28 Cochineal nests

29 Cochineal were used for red dye. During the colonial period cochineal was a major export from southern Mexico and Guatemala. Synthetic dyes ruined the cochineal trade

30 This Zapotec man is reviving it in southern Mexico.

31 Other Mesoamerican domesticates: Cotton and indigo

32 Two components of the Mesoamerican trilog, which is maize, squash and beans.

33 June 1998January 2003 Milpa Guamil Bosque

34 Maize Frijoles West called this horticulture. More commonly it is know as intercropping. More than one single plant species is planted in a field.

35 Chinampas in Xochimilco a region within Mexico City


37 Chinampa cross-section diagram

38 Tablones in the flat Almolonga Valley in Guatemala.

39 Almolonga Valley, Guatemala

40 Terraces on the slopes above Lake Atitlan

41 Terraces near Totonicapan, Guatemala Why did they create these terraces?

42 Abandoned terraces in Oaxaca

43 Plant Introductions

44 Produce market in Sebaco, Nicaragua, which contains a mix of Mesoamerican domesticates (tomatoes, chiles) and introduced domesticates (carrots, celery, apples, bananas).

45 I start every day with a visit to the nearest juice place.

46 …where I buy a fresh mixture of Mesomerican and introduced plants in a glass.

47 The juice places regularly advertise mixtures that are supposed to provide certain benefits.

48 Roadside fruit market in a Banana Republic. Honduras. Fried plantain chips are my favorite bus food.

49 “My peoples’ chicken”. Actually an introduced domesticate that has become a dietary staple in Central America and the Caribbean. Granada, Nicaragua

50 Mixed farming: prickly pear cactus and apples. Apples can produce in the tropical montane forest region of Central America.

51 Some platos tipicos, typical plates, in Mesoamerica.

52 Black beans and corn tortillas in Antigua, Guatemala. Gallo beer is good, but its ingredients were not domesticated in Mesoamerica.

53 Typical breakfast, lunch or dinner in Central America. Gracias, Honduras.

54 See what I mean by typical. Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

55 Empanada de champinoes y queso. Pastry of mushrooms and cheese. Oaxaca, Mexico.

56 Empanada de queso y flor de calabaza. Pastry of cheese and squash flower. Oaxaca,Mexico.

57 Empanada de frijoles y huevos, y un chocolate. Pastry of beans and eggs and hot chocolate. Ixtlan, Oaxaca, Mexico.

58 The biggest corn tortillas I’ve ever seen. Tiltepec, Oaxaca, Mexico.

59 One of my favorite breakfast places in Mesoamerica. Tiltepec.

60 A comedor is a private residence where the owners prepare meals for customers. If I’m not eating street food, this is where I eat in Central America and Mexico. Gracias, Honduras.

61 Comedor Maricruz. Gracias, Honduras.

62 Marketing diversity Preserving diversity

63 How odd is this? Taco Bell is trying to expand into Mexico… For real.

64 Conversely, this restaurant in Oaxaca is attempting to teach urban Mexicans about the great diversity of maize by creating a menu that includes only dishes which have only locally-grown native plants as ingredients.


66 Restaurante Itanoni. Oaxaca, Mexico.

67 This mural protests the introduction of genetically-modified maize from the US out of fear that cross-pollinization threatens locally domesticated maize varieties. Oaxaca, Mexico.

68 Food represents a much larger part of a household’s budget in Central America and the Caribbean than in the US. So, when the price of a dietary staple such as tortillas or beans increases, it’s newsworthy.

69 Some regions in Mesoamerica have exploited their cuisines as tourism attractions, such as Oaxaca’s mole festival.

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