Grassroots polycultures: Sustainability and resilience in Chiapas, Mexico

Tatiana Schreiber (2005)

The relationship between organizational pluralism and the potential for long-term cultural, ecological, and economic sustainability and resilience is addressed in two regionally-based organizations of small-scale farmers involved with organic coffee and/or cacao production in Chiapas, Mexico. Both are supra-community organizations with primarily indigenous membership. However, the organizations vary with regard to the pluralism (ethnicity, language, religion, political ideology) inherent in each. The research reflects a dialogical research process in which participants were involved in the development of radio programs to promote the organizations (and their products) for international audiences. The audiotapes gathered for these programs explore participant's viewpoints concerning economic independence, social equity, autonomy, ecological ideas, and individual and collective identities. Working with one cooperative in the highlands, and one in the Lacandón jungle, comparisons were made between organizations in two distinct ecological contexts; an organization of members who had migrated and one whose members had not; and an organization whose primary source of internal cohesiveness was a common political ideology versus one whose principle collective identity was regionally-based stewardship of the environment. While currently the most "successful" of the two organizations is that with the most cohesive political ideology and the least internal pluralism (and which is affiliated with the Zapatista movement), this work suggests that the most pluralistic (with regard to ethnicity, language, and religion) of these organizations is developing a new regional, ecologically-based identity, which may provide the best prospect for long-term economic, ecological, and cultural sustainability and resilience.