Indigenous communities and global markets: the commoditization of artisanal mezcal from Oaxaca, Mexico
Lira Ledesma, María Guadalupe
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Global markets offer development opportunities for rural and Indigenous communities through the commoditization of elements from their cultures and territories. However, when participating in global value chains, they often face challenges linked to their autonomy and territorial management. Using the case of mezcal, an agave based spirit produced in Mexico, this thesis addresses the relationship between Indigenous communities and global markets through the commoditization of artisanal products. My goal is to examine the commoditization process of mezcal, its impacts on the commons of Indigenous producer communities and the community-level responses to these impacts. My objectives are: 1. Examine how Indigenous producers are integrated into the mezcal value construction process and the barriers they face to capture more value and meet their development goals. 2. Analyze how mezcal markets impact LULC (Land Use and Land Cover) dynamics in the producer community’s territory. 3. Examine how mezcal markets impact the commons of the producer community, including institutional responses to change. Data was collected using participant observation; semi-structured interviews; and participatory classification of LULC. Results show the narratives used for mezcal commoditization (craft and small scale production; uniqueness of flavor; Mexican culture; association with landscape and culture of production sites; sustainability and social justice) and the contrasting situation in production sites with a trend towards increased production, standardization of techniques, a disadvantageous position of producers in the value chain and LULC changes (expansion of agave crops) due to the growing demand. Furthermore, rural and Indigenous producers have limited influence in the mezcal commoditization context, and limited opportunities to obtain more benefits from the value chain. In conclusion, participation in global markets is not a straightforward path for producer communities to take to meet their development goals. Patterns of cooperation, in the form of locally crafted institutions, become important for maintaining the autonomy and control of producer communities over their territorial resources. Policy changes will be important to reduce community vulnerabilities and increase community capacities to capture more benefits from their insertion in global value chains.