Fernando BRIONES*

Professor-Investigator of the Center of Higher Education of Social Anthropology Research and Study (Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social or CIESAS)

   Keywords: Phenological indicators, agriculture-related rituals, mayans, Chiapas, Mexico

  Language of original submission: Spanish  


 Climate has an essential significance in societies: It influences production forms and social relations through systems of codified knowlege in social institutions. Climatical knowledge has been used to diminish the thresholds related to environmental risks. If “traditional” societies have done so through magical-religious practices, “modern” societies have done so through climate forecasts. Thus, both shamans and meteorologists fulfill the duty of interpreting, in order to diminish climatic uncertainty. The knowledge of the climate has strategical significance; insures productive systems and defines prevention strategies to face threats such as excess and lack of water. However, credibility in scientific information (materialized in climatic forecasts and early alerts) depends more on their accuracy and confidence in institutions, whereas traditional knowledge is flexible because it is based on a deterministic/causal logic. If the observation parameters of “traditional” societies are associated to cycles, scientific forecasts operate by patterns. This materializes a problem of translation of scientific information, and represents the interpretation of an extremely complex environmental reality. This dichotomy is mainly represented in urban/rural divisions, and defines the relations between different social actors in the management of climatical risks. In general, projects which diminish vulnerability to climatical threats do no take into account the cultural characteristics of social groups. The management of risks of disaster and the adaptability to climate change cannot be reduced to statistical and economic scenarios. Climatical knowledge and practices are social resources which represent, in non-explicit manner, a mechanism to calculate risk that sets forth -partially- the capacities to adapt to threats. This knowledge is essential to decipher adjustment and resilience mechanisms in face of natural phenomena, but also to understand some forms of vulnerability. On a daily basis, adaptability is essentially a social practice based on experience, social relations, daily production practices and culture in general. How do social groups adapt themselves to hydrometeorological threats? How do they perceive and adapt themselves to global climate change? According to which mechanisms? Which knowledge, practices and strategies are useful for adaptability, and which give rise to vulnerability? We present the climate interpretations that C’holes express through worshipping corn and water sources in ceremonies to aks for rain and agricultural calendars. We analyze field data on speeches related to atmospherical events and phenology indicators, such as the migration of birds and insects that indicate the change in seasons, and associations with the emergence of plants to rain or drought periods. Furthermore, we describe the field observations, where the context of popular religiosity, cohesion and identity seem to favor the ritualization of agricultural works and the observation of climate indicators. The presence of tlatuches or praying men (shamans) that fulfill the duty of insuring the rituals related to agricultural activities form part of the continuity of traditional knowledge. Around the ritual activities related to the agricultural calendar we find practices that define, in a certain way, the success or failure of their crops. *presenting author