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Population growth and economic development in Chiapas, 1524–1975

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In a recent work on the Tzotzil (Maya) of Chiapas, Mexico, George Collier has suggested that indigenous groups frequently employ agricultural practices which are in “obvious disequilibrium” with their environment. As a result, he claims, such groups bring about the permanent destruction of their lands and forests. In this article, historical and demographic evidence is presented to demonstrate that the development of commencal agriculture outside of native communities, not overpopulation or technological conservatism within them, lies at the heart of such destruction. Finally, it is argued that anthropologists must consider the evolution of social classes in rural areas if they are to understand the difficulties which economic development entails.

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Wasserstrom, R. Population growth and economic development in Chiapas, 1524–1975. Hum Ecol 6, 127–143 (1978).

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Key words

  • Tzotzil Indians
  • highland Maya
  • economic development
  • demographic history
  • social class
  • indigenismo