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A Visit to the Los Remedios Community
A peasant community owning land in and around the Sierra Chincua Monarch Sanctuary
Contributed by David Kaufman
Not long after the discovery of monarch overwintering
sites in Mexcio, it became apparent that these areas were in danger of being lost to excessive logging. Steps were
taken to protect the forests where millions of monarchs made their winter homes. Amidst great internal and external
pressure, the Mexican government declared 6 different areas in the Trans-Volcanic range to be Monarch Sancturies,
thus restricting the use of such lands for commercial logging or farming. Learning about such conservation efforts
in a classroom, the sanctuaries seem to be a victory for the butterlies. A visit to Los Remedios, a rural farming
community of 150 families, tells a much different story of the economic hardship of a community whose livelihood
has been affected by the sanctuaries.
Prior to 1986, when the government officially declared the sanctuaries off limits to deforestation, rural communities
like Los Remedios depended on logging to supplement their income. Each community had been allowed to cut twice
a year and a total of 2400 cubic meters of wood annually. Conservation efforts within the sanctuaries have restricted
the campesinos (farmers) to one cut a year and a total of 600 cubic meters annually. The other primary source of
income for the community is through selling crops, however the cool climate permits only one harvest per year and
most of what is grown is for home consumption.
Logs cut legally are marked with this stamp.
The conservation efforts of well-intentioned conservationists have had an effect on rural economies such as
Los Remedios. In many cases, these rural communities must pay to have their trees cut down, then they must sell
it to a middleman who then supplies the wood to other sawmills. The farmers thus lose out on a substantial portion
of the wood profits as the middleman pockets much of the money.
Los Remedios, in contrast, is unique in that it has its own sawmill. A significant portion of the logging profits
thus remain with in the community. The entire process, even with the recent restrictions, brings in about 200,000
pesos ($25,000) annually, after expenses. The money, however, is not simply divided among the 150 families of Los
Remedios. Only descendants of original landowners are entitled to profits from the sawmill. This group, called
the ejido, consists of only 18 heads of family. Only one family member may hold the title at a time, and it is
usually designated for the youngest male in the family.
Sawmill Owned by Los Remedios
Our guide in Los Remedios, Placido, is the son of an ejido member. His father is no longer living so his mother
now has the title, but eventually she will have to choose who will be the next ejido member in the family. Along
with the additional income of10,000 to 12,000 pesos annually ($1,463) in logging profits for each ejido member,
a member is also entitled to farmland. Not being an ejido member, Placido has no farmland and must buy all his
family's food. Although the sawmill profits go to the 18 ejido members, other farmers in Los Remedios benefit from
The chainsaw operators earn money, as do the transporters and sawmill workers. There are thus a few other ways
of benefitting from the advantages of a sawmill. It is, however, not nearly enough to support the families of the
|A 65 year old Oyamel fir tree is sawed into boards
The people of Los Remedios have never been compensated by the Mexican government for the land that is now off
limits to logging because of the sanctuary. While they understand the ecological importance of the trees around
them, they also know that logging is one of their only sources of income. Nor has their community received any
direct benefit from the monarch related tourism. Nowhere had our group felt more of a division between our American
wealth and the campesino's struggles than in Los Remedios.