Daily Routines and Acculturation of Working Poor Maya in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Mexico

Katrin Tovote, University of Hawai’i

The SPA/Lemelson award allowed me to continue the research I started in 2006 with Maya street working children in the city of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Southern Mexico. I extended my previous studies on the daily activities of Maya street working children to their families who, due to religious and political conflicts as well as poverty, migrated from their rural communities to the urban setting of the city. In particular, I was interested in how the Maya families adapt to their new ecocultural environment.

In this context, I performed ethnographic observations and talks in the city center and during visits at family homes (July – October 2009). With the help of two indigenous male field assistants, I subsequently conducted interviews with 130 male and female Mayas in the age range from 9 to 84 years (September – October 2009). The interviews aimed at obtaining information on migration histories, family structures, family goals, language use, education, work, resource management, media use, intercultural contacts, gender roles, dress and body styling and how those areas were manifested in daily life activities of families members coming from at least three different generations.

Based on the transcriptions of those interviews I am currently in the midst of analyzing the collected data. Preliminary results point to several emerging areas of interest: work as the central organizer of Maya family life; subjectively perceived relevance of schooling to fight poverty; emergence of adolescence in Maya communities; gender-appropriate behavior from the perspectives of Maya males and females of different generations; life-goals related to family life in flux; individuality in the context of collectivism – the distribution of responsibility and resources within the family. Further in-depth analysis will provide more detailed information about those initial research results.