By Benjamin Feinberg
During this hugely unique ethnography, Benjamin Feinberg investigates how varied understandings of Mazatec identification and tradition emerge via speak that circulates inside and between numerous teams, together with Mazatec-speaking businessmen, curers, peasants, intellectuals, anthropologists, bureaucrats, cavers, and mushroom-seeking travelers.
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Additional info for The Devil's Book of Culture: History, Mushrooms, and Caves in Southern Mexico
I got inside with the key, and it started right up like nothing had happened. The men told me that I had to get out of there fast, before the federales came. If the federales caught me, I would be fucked. If they saw me driving the truck in that shape— the windshield shattered, the front all smashed—I would be charged with a crime and they would screw me. They told me to turn off at Cuicatlán, because I would never make it all the way to Oaxaca. They told me that if police stopped me, I should not tell them the truth.
This region actually consists of several distinct geographical zones with distinct climates which can be classified in a number of ways, but I will stick with a simple method based on elevation. This method distinguishes between the cold highlands (tierra fría) over 1,800 meters, a temperate mountainous zone between 800 and 1,800 meters (tierra templada), and the lowlands under 800 meters (tierra caliente). It is no coincidence that the borders between the latter two zones roughly correspond to the political border between the District of Teotitlán, which includes most of the highlands, and the District of Tuxtepec, which includes most of the lowlands.
The mother said that Margarita’s desire to live in Huautla was an affectation, and Margarita said no, she doesn’t understand it’s because I 30 The Devil’s Book of Culture want to. Margarita went on a hike and the next day, on an “impulse” left for Oaxaca City to seek work and escape from the mother, who she was afraid would come back for her. She left with her Carlos Castañeda book and never returned to Huautla. The drunk man’s mobile, shifting sense of identity, his easy manipulation of various personas, contrasts with the deputy’s fixing of identity with an authoritative reading that reduced the objects of her speech to passive spectators of their own identity, capable only of a few back-channel responses and a lively dance.