Summer 2018 Ethnographic Field Study in Oaxaca, Mexico
In summer 2018, seven SDSU undergraduate students majored in Foods and Nutrition (3), Sustainability (2), Environmental Science (1), and Chemistry (1) completed a two-week ethnographic field study in Oaxaca Mexico.
We crossed the US-Mexico border and took off from the Tijuana International Airport for Oaxaca.
Crossing the border
The SOULA group landed in Oaxaca City and visited Monte Albán, one of the earliest cities of Mesoamerica. The students explored the magnificent ruins and learned about the history of this ancient socio-political and economic center of the Zapotec civilization.
Monte Albán archeological site
We visited the Tlacolula Sunday market to document the local produce and food products and observe how the vendors interact with customers.
Tortillas on a comal
Students buying chapulines
Following the Tlacolula market safari, students visited Mitla, the Zapotec religious center. We admired the unique, intricate mosaic designs of the buildings and learned about the rise and fall of this ancient city.
Palace at Mitla
The group traveled to the Ixpantepec Nieves, an indigenous Mixtec community, where the students lived and worked alongside farmers and their families for four days. On June 25 evening, two farmers gave a lecture on corn seeds and soils.
Maestra Angelina (left) giving the group a tour of the community
The soil lesson
Students learned how to identify, collect, and cook wild greens in the morning. In the afternoon, they worked with a farmer in a milpa field. The farmer taught the students the technique of tilling the soil with an oxen-driven plow and the Mixtec method of planting the corn, bean, and squash seeds.
Collecting wild greens
Students driving yunta and planting seeds
The SOULA group was introduced to the nixtamalization of corn and its nutritional significance. Students practiced grinding with a metate to make salsa and masa and enjoyed the delicious tortillas.
Cooking corn seeds in limewater
Grinding the nixtamalized corn seeds into masa
Students enjoying tortillas made by themselves
In the afternoon, students hiked to the foothill of the community and investigated the use of irrigation by farmers who have access to the water source. They also visited a water reservoir established in the community for rainwater collection.
Left: Dr. Larom and students checking a water sprinkler in the milpa field; Right: Dr. Larom and Trevor hiking to the water reservoir
Water reservoir for rainwater collection
June 28 – June 29
The group traveled back to Oaxaca City on June 28 and took a chocolate tasting and learning tour of Oaxaca’s various markets and chocolatiers on June 29.
Chocolate atole, a traditional Mesoamerican hot chocolate drink with red (left) and white(right) cacao in the background
Tejate, a traditional Oaxacan cold chocolate drink
Students enjoying tejate in the Benito Juárez Market
Students took a cooking class, in which they shopped for local food ingredients and learned how to cook in the Oaxacan way.
Shopping in the market
Genesis making chocolate
Jesus cooking beef “tripe”
Aubrey and Yazley decorating tortilla
Shruti toasting chapulines and chicatanas
Students explored the beautiful city of Oaxaca.
Oaxaca city sign in front of the Church of Santo Domingo de Guzmán
Inside of the church
Fountain in the Cultural Centre of Oaxaca
The SOULA group returned to the Ixpantepec Nieves and stayed for three days. On July 2 evening, two farmers gave a lecture on fertilizers.
The fertilizer lesson
Don Juan gave a horticulture lesson to the SOULA group. The students toured his garden full of apple, avocado, banana, fig, papaya, peach, pomegranate, and plum trees.
Students in Don Juan’s garden
In the afternoon, students weeded in Don Juan’s milpa field.
Students weeding in the milpa field
Students learned how to cook with the seeds of huaje, the tree Oaxaca derives its name from.
Splitting the huaje pod
In the morning, students learned how to cook pozole.
In the afternoon, students prepared a milpa field for the second tillage. We investigated the erosion problem in the community. Don Juan explained his erosion management experiments.
Students working in the milpa field
The community suffers from erosion
July 5 – July 6
The group traveled back to Oaxaca City on July 5 and took a mezcal tour on July 6.
Various agave hearts for mezcal production
The SOULA group in front of a pit oven
The group took a ceramics class on July 7.
The Summer Field School was concluded. We left the beautiful Oaxaca City and returned to San Diego.