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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Implications of Commerce and Urbanization for the Learning Environments of Everyday Life: A Zinacantec Maya Family Across Time and Space


In recent decades, ecocultural environments of the Maya in Chiapas, Mexico have undergone continuous change from more subsistence-based to more commerce-based and from more rural to more urban. Comparing ethnographic observations of one family over a ten-year period and across rural and urban environments, we used activity-setting analysis to investigate changes on the micro level that would reflect these shifts in the macro-environment. The development of commerce between 1997 and 2007 led to increased reliance on technology, increases in individuation and individual choice, specialization for economic tasks, and, for women, more formal education. Other changes in this same period of time were greatly intensified by urban dwelling: contact with strangers and people of different ethnicities, women's economic achievement, and greater freedom for young women to have unchaperoned contact with young men.

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