Cosmopolitan Living? Examining the Sugar and Rum Industry of the Costa Escondida, Quintana Roo, Mexico

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Contribution to Book

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This research focuses on the recent historic past (1850–1920) of the Costa Escondida region of northern Quintana Roo. We examine the history of the extractive industries and commodities in the area, concentrating specifically on the production of sugarcane and rum during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We conducted archival research and ethnographic interviews, as well as archaeological research at Xuxub, San Eusebio, and several nearby sites.1 The goal of this long-term research project is to understand the process for making rum at a small-scale production center and to provide material evidence of what daily life was like for the people living in this secluded region.

In this chapter, we examine value as it related to the sugarcane and rum industry of nineteenth-century Yucatán in three ways. First, we note that the smallbatch rum was of high quality and was sought out by consumers. This success is demonstrated by the presence of foreign goods among the manager’s and workers’ living and production areas at our sites. Second, based on archival research, we discuss the value (as exhibited by pay scales) placed on different skill levels of laborers at our sites. Third, we examine the way in which hacienda owners valued aguardiente rum as a way of entrapping henequen workers through indebtedness.


Jennifer P. Mathews & Thomas H. Guderjan


University of Arizona Press





Publication Information

The Value of Things: Prehistoric to Contemporary Commodities in the Maya Region

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