ECOLOGY OF TLACOTEPEC: MMFRP RESEARCH UPDATE


Winter Quarter Field Research Successful

In the first two weeks of Winter Quarter, about 35 UCSD graduate and undergraduate students participating in the Mexican Migration Field Research Program and their Oaxacan collegues traveled to the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico to conduct in-depth research on migration. Using the 70-page survey they designed, MMFRP researchers conducted over 700 surveys in the small town of Tlacotepec. In addition to their quantitative data on everything from modes of entry to health issues, researchers conducted over one hundred hours of qualitative interviews.

Upon their return, they headed to San Diego neighborhoods including Vista, Oceanside and Lemongrove to try to contact every Tlacotepense in the area using a “snowball sample” research method, where existing study subjects recruit friends and acquaintances to participate in the study. After five weeks of successful snowball fieldwork in San Diego, each chapter-group began seriously planning for publication. Representatives from each chapter presented the layout for their chapter in presentations last week. Final detailed outlines were submitted for review this week in preparation for their first draft, due the second week of Spring Quarter.

Ecology Team Update

The trip to Oaxaca was a very unique experience for our team. We understood what kind of data would come from the survey we created, but we had no idea what the “story” of ecology in Tlacotepec would be. It took a couple of really difficult days in the scorching Oaxacan sun to adjust to being real investigators of the topic. We were, however, very pleasantly surprised.

We found that access to water, a main focus of our chapter, is surrounded by a convoluted political narrative. Community members accused municipal leaders of mismanaging federal funds, while political leaders accused community members of disinterest and disorganization. We were caught in the middle of the political crossfire, especially since we arrived amidst local party strife. Nonetheless, this led to an exciting chase to find the truth behind why the community doesn’t have a dependable system of water for domestic and agricultural use. In addition to talking to present and former political leaders, we interviewed community members from several different water committees to talk about efforts to bring water to the small town.

We were also lucky enough to visit the town’s current water system and study the drain and pipe systems in place. In addition to the question of accessibility to water, we wanted to find out what else the town was doing in terms of conservation and preventing global warming. One of our favorite discoveries was a federal project implemented in 2008 to reforest several acres with pine trees. We visited the site and saw the acres of full-grown and newly-planted pine trees dotting the hills just outside of Tlacotepec.

All in all, we felt the trip was very successful and educational. Although the fieldwork in Oaxaca and San Diego was taxing, it was by far one of the most satisfying and exciting adventures we experienced. We look forward to writing our chapter and contributing to the discussion about the effects of ecology and global warming on migration. Although we are still in the primitive steps of writing our first drafts, we are very eager to incorporate all that we’ve learned in order to create an engaging chapter that will bring a better light to the subject of ecology.

Photos courtesy of MMFRP.

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