The Complexity of Factors Influencing Commercial Chiltepín Harvesting in the Rio Sonora Valley of Mexico: Habitats, Roads and Relationships

Last fall (2009) I spent the semester between University of Arizona's Southwest Center and the Rio Sonora Valley in northern Mexico. I was there to conduct research on chiltepins (Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum).

Chiltepins are a wild relative of domesticated peppers that grow throughout Mexico and in some pockets of the US. In the State of Sonora chiltepins are the predominant ingredient in salsas and are pickled. Harvested in large quantities from the Rio Sonora Valley chiltepins are distributed for commercial sale throughout the region. Not only are chiltepíns culturally and economically valuable but they are an important component of the local ecology. I gathered a diversity of information through in-depth interviews and surveys with harvesters, buyers, and landowners as well as visiting several of the harvesting areas. An interdisciplinary approach to research from both a landscape and human perspective reveals that a diversity of factors influence both the harvest and conservation of this important plant. Land tenure, agricultural potential of land, access to harvesting grounds, and personal relationships are significant in the commercial management and conservation of chiltepins.

The next stage in my research is to analyze the data that I collected and gather and analyze data on the communities and landscapes where I conducted the research. I would like to work with one or two research assistant(s) in the following ways:

  1. Conduct literature searches for a long list of references that I am hoping to use
  2. Using an INEGI data base along with other digital data collected at different agencies while I was in Mexico last fall, find information such as socio-economic and climate data for the general region and individual communities where I researched;
  3. Work with me to analyze the data and present it in table and graph format
  4. Enter data from household surveys that I collected in the Fall 2009 and work with me to do summary statistics. Present data in graph and table formats;
  5. Depending on the student and time availability, write collaboratively based on some of the above data.

Working with student research assistants would give me the chance to not only teach students about some of the methods used by geographers and my research specifically but really contribute to the amount of work that we as a team could accomplish. I have worked with several students in the three years that I have been at Willamette and I found the experiences to be rewarding on a personal level as well as the end product being research that I could not have accomplished on my own.

Kimberlee Chambers

Kimberlee Chambers

Willamette University

Liberal Arts Research Collaborative

900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.

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