Interview with a Rural Sociologist
by Blake School's Students Vanessa Bartram y Anna Curtis
Q. What is your name?
A. Jose Luis Betancourt
Q. What does your work consist of?
A. Jose Luis works with the communities and the ejidos that are around the
sanctuaries. He started his work here three years ago and works for a
government institution that is called the National Institute of Ecology
(INE). Jose Luis does studies about the lives of the people in the
communities and the ejidos; things such as what they eat, what they do for a
living and what they grow and harvest. He is also interested in their
festivals, their important saints, their celebrations and the impact that
the sanctuaries have had on their lives. It is Jose Luis' job to educate
the people of the ejidos how to better protect the forests and the monarch
Q. How do the people (of the ejidos) feel about the protection of the forests?
A. In the beginning, the people were not ready to cooperate with the
government, because they have been cheated by it many times before. The
people of the ejidos have always taken the wood out of the forest, but now
they are not able to do this because the forests have been protected by
federal law. In 1986, the government created five sanctuaries. They have
had to find other ways of making a living. Jose Luis helps them to find new
sources of income, like tourism. The people can collect the seeds of the
fir trees and sell them or grow them. Another alternative is to collect
mushrooms, but the mushrooms only grow in the summer (rainy season). There
are two ranches where some people are raising deer. In the future, the
people will be able to purify the water that comes from the mountains and
sell it. They will plant fruit trees also, including apples, avocados
peaches and plums.
Q. What are the factors which most impede your work with the butterflies and in
A. There is much ignorance among the people of the ejidos. Many of the people
do not understand the laws that have been made to protect the forest and do
not realize the damage that they are doing when they do not comply. Other
people understand the laws, but do not follow them. It is a big job to
educate the people and Jose Luis is not able to speak with the people of the
ejido as a group until they invite him to.
Q. What is the most difficult part of your work?
A. Sometimes the government does not pay Jose Luis and his colleagues in a
timely fashion. It is most difficult for them in the beginning of the year,
during the months of January, February, March and April because they do not
have the money that they need and thus can not buy supplies, like gasoline
for their trucks and the materials that they need to study the butterflies.
Thus, when they finally receive their money, it is late in the year and they
have to rush to get their work done.
Q. What studies have you done to reach your professional position?
A. Jose Luis attended a university for four years. Then he had to work for
six years before he started working here, with the monarch butterflies.
Q. What do you think of the Internet? Can it be an important tool in the
conservation of the monarch?
A. The Internet is nothing short of a marvel because it can help them
communicate with people all over the world. He can also write to his friend
Jon (Dicus) and receive advice from many people. Jose Luis likes the
Internet because he can communicate with his colleagues very quickly.
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