Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 38

Universidad Nacional Autnoma de Mxico University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States

B. Traven and the Paradox of Artisanal Production in Capitalism: Traven's Oaxaca Tale in Economic Anthropological Perspective Author(s): Scott Cook Source: Mexican Studies / Estudios Mexicanos, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Winter, 1995), pp. 75-111 Published by: University of California Press on behalf of the University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States and the Universidad Nacional Autnoma de Mxico Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1051911 . Accessed: 11/02/2011 14:41
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at . http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=ucal. . Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

University of California Press, Universidad Nacional Autnoma de Mxico, University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Mexican Studies / Estudios Mexicanos.

http://www.jstor.org

B. Traven and the Paradox of Artisanal Production in Capitalism: Traven's Oaxaca Tale in Economic Anthropological Perspective Scott Cook
The University of Connecticut

Por medio de una lectura critica del cuento oaxaqueio "Canastitasen serie" de B. Traven, se pretende determinar su aporte al conocimiento de las pequefias industrias artesanales ubicadas en la frontera Mexico/Tejas y en estados del interior como Oaxaca. Desde la 6ptica de la economia antropologica en el campo de estudios mexicanos, se propone que el aporte de Traven era precoz, sofisticado, perspicaz y ademas que, por su riqueza de imagenes e ideas, presenta un reto a los investigadores actuales. Sin embargo, se recalca que el antropologo debe de consultar las obras de Traven con un cierto grado de escepticismo, debido a su metodo de producir textos que a veces subordinaba el precisar empirico al efecto literario.

Introduction1

On a blistering hot day during the summer of 1993 I made a


first visit to one of several small capitalist brick plants (ladrilleras) along the banks of the Rio Bravo in Reynosa, Tamaulipas. I inat the conference 1. The firstversionof this paperwas writtenfor presentation Mexican Artisans on Culture/Crafts, in the GlobalMarket Museums/Markets: organized at New YorkUniversity by June Nash and FloraKaplanand held at the CasaItaliana on April 15, 1994. The conference was sponsoredby the Centerfor LatinAmerican and CaribbeanStudies and the MuseumStudies Programof New YorkUniversity, the City College of the City Universityof New York, and the Mexican Cultural Institute, New York.I wish to thank, in additionto June Nash for inviting me to present the paper, KarlGuthke,Joe SpielbergBenitez, Dennison Nash, Jim Faris, Christy McDonnell, Leigh Binford, Francoise Dussart, Frans Schryer,and Frank Cancianfor readingand commentingon it. I am especiallygratefulto ErnstSchurer for his careful readingof the manuscriptand for sharingwith me insights gained from years of fruitfulscholarshipon Traven and his work.
Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos 11(1), Winter 1995. ? 1995 Regents of the University of California.

75

76

MexicanStudies/ EstudiosMexicanos

troduced myself to the man in charge, Antonio "Tonio" Reynoso, who was seated upon a stack of bricks on a flatbed trailer that was being loaded under his supervision. I explained to Toiio my interest, as an anthropologist, in comparing the brick industry in Reynosa with that in Oaxaca which I had studied previously (Cook 1984a). To my surprise, after patiently listening to my explanation, Tono started talking about problems confronting the border brick industry by referring to a story dealing with basket makers in Oaxaca written by a famous author whose name he could not recall. As Toio briefly summarized the story line and his interpretation of its relevance to the border brick industry, I soon realized that he was referring to my favorite B. Traven (1993) tale entitled "Assembly Line" which sardonically describes the futile attempt by a New York City businessman to work out an export deal with a peasant-Indian basket maker in a Oaxaca village. As it turns out, Toiio had not read the story but had seen a Mexican movie version of it.2 Having been surprised by this unexpected infusion of literary discourse and meaningful testimony into what was scheduled to be a routine, preliminary first contact with a potentially important informant, I made a special effort to maintain my composure and continued the conversation about the brick business without dwelling on the Traven story. Toward the end of our conversation, I promised to get a copy of the story for Toiio so that he could read it prior to meeting me again for a more extensive interview session. The next day I was fortunate to locate a video edition of the movie at Blockbuster in McAllen, Texas, and found it to be a reasonably faithful rendition of the published versions of the story I had previously read. That same day in the public library of Weslaco, Texas, I also found a Spanish edition of the collection of short stories by Traven in which the Oaxaca tale appears and made two photocopies, one of which I delivered to Toiio. Since then I have had two formal interviews with Toiio in which the story's relevance to the border brick industry was discussed at length. In addition, I have read or reread several of Traven's novels and short stories, as well as several studies by Travenologists. The focus of my reading has been to evaluate, from the perspective of economic anthropology, Traven's contribution to Mexican studies.
2. I have identified my informant's name with his permission. Toiio is the sole operator of the ladrillera, but the owner is his older brother and former ladrillero, Sebastian.Tofio's business card contains the following information: Ladrillera"Reynoso", Ladrillo solido de Barro hecho a mano, Antonio Reynoso N., Oficina: Calle Division del Norte No. 897, Col. Aquiles Serdan, Cd. Reynosa, Tamps. Tel. 22-72-38 y 22-91-79. The video and film are titled Canasta de cuentos mexicanos after the book of short stories published in Mexico in 1956.

Cook: B. Traven

77

In retrospect, I undertook this project only because Toiio Reynoso raised the issue while trying to explain to me something of fundamental importance for understanding his industry. To not have done so would have been indefensible in terms of my ongoing research on the border brick industry. Moreover, to have completed it compensates for my earlier failure to address the relevance of Traven's tale during all the years I was actively engaged in research on craft production in Oaxaca. So, for better or for worse, any connection between the recent surge of interest in literary/ hermeneutic/dialogical anthropology and my interest in Traven are coincidental. Caveat Lector: Problems in Reading Traven from the Perspective of a Skeptical Yet Sympathetic Anthropologist Background on Traven and His Oaxaca Tale The enigmatic B. Traven, pen name of Otto Feige born in 1882 in Germany (Schwiebus, Pomerania) who also used the pseudonyms Ret Marut, Traven Torsvan, and Hal Croves at various stages of his life (Wyatt 1980; Schiirer and Jenkins 1987, 5-8), as a political refugee from Europe took up permanent residence in Mexico in 1924 via the port of Tampico, Tamaulipas. He probably visited Oaxaca for the first time between 1926 and 1928 on his way to or from Chiapas (Schiirer and Jenkins 1987, 360), which not only served as a setting for many of his novels and short stories but was his final resting place after his death in 1969 (Baumann 1987; Stone 1977, 85-87). Traven's Oaxaca tale was first published in German in 1930 as "Der Grog-Industrielle" (B. Traven 1930); in Spanish in 1956 as "Canastitas en serie" (B. Traven 1956); and in English in 1966 as "Assembly Line" (B. Traven 1966, 73-88) (Baumann 1976, 171).3
3. Travenscholars, especially those keenly interested in meaningsassociated with particularmetaphors and with semantics in general, are confronted with a special problem owing to his habit of "makingchanges in the texts of his books from one edition to the next" (M. Baumann1976, xii). Accordingto M. Baumann (ibid.): "One gets the impressionthat Travenkept reworkingall of his texts all of the time. It is hardto keep up with the manyeditions of his novels and stories that have appeared in German,the languagethey were first published in; it is harder to keep up with the changes Traven made in non-German-language editions. a good example of this difficultyin determining which is the genuine, Unfortunately, definitive version is provided by the title of the Oaxaca tale. According to Ernst Schurer(personal communication),the most accurate Englishtranslationof "Der Gro&Industrielle" of Industry" who, in Traven's is"Captain originalGermanversion of the story,was personifiedby"derAmerikaner" and was not specificallyidentified as Mr.E. L. Winthrop.In the Englishtranslation, the title is changed to "Assembly

78

Mexican Studies / Estudios Mexicanos

Considering that a brickworks provided the setting in which the present article originated, it is coincidental that as Ret Marut in Munich starting in 1917 Traven published a magazine called Der Ziegelbrenner (The Brick Burner or Brickmaker) which was "in format, the size, shape and colour of a brick" (Wyatt 1981, viii). According to Wyatt (ibid.), in this magazine "The bricks were fired by Ret Marut to comment upon the corrupt society in which he lived and to begin the rebuilding of a new and better world....The targets at which these bricks were hurled were the war...and the capitalist society, which had brought the war about."4
and in the Spanishedition, Line"and"derAmerikaner" becomes Mr.E. L.Winthrop; en serie"or"LittleBaskets translatedfrom the English,the title becomes"Canastitas in Series"These are only some examples of why Schirer believes the publication he history of Traven'sOaxacatale is "wortha paper in itself"(which, incidentally, "There hopes to write some day). Accordingto Schurer(personalcommunication): the first Spanishversion was published are differentGermanversions... Apparently in 1946 in Una canasta de cuentosmexicanos underthe title'Lacanasta'. According was done by Esperanza to RolfRecknagelthis translation L6pezMateos....Thestory 'Canastitas en serie' in Canastade cuentosMexicanos,translated by RosaElenaLujan and published in 1956, is a much changed and greatlyexpanded version....It has E.L. more thandoubleits lengthandintroduces the namesof the Americans Winthrop of the Spanishversion and Kemple.The Englishstory'Assembly Line'is a translation but again there are some changes, for instance in the prices and time needed to make a basket." Guthke's (1991, 357-58) is probablythe authoritativestatement in print of role vis-a-vis "Translations Traven's the variousversionsof this manuscript: represented another important area of Traven's literary activity in this period, consisting .of Englishversions of stories publishedin the collection Der Busch. The primarily... as 'ALegendof Huehuetonoc' CaliforniaQuarterlypublished'DerGross-Industrielle' in 1952. Traven Babb,the editorof the journal, correspondedextensivelywith Sanora trying (in vain) to get other stories published. (Accordingto a note to 'A Legend', the story was translatedby Esperanza L6pezMateos,who had presented a Spanish version in the Canasta of 1946;Esperanza fromGerman can scarcelyhave translated into English,however; at the very least Travenmust have been involved in some way in the production of the Englishversion: Probablyhe had actuallyprepared such a version for Esperanza for the 1946 collection.)." In an earlierversion of this article,I arguedthat Traven's use of the "assembly line" metaphor was strictly in the capitalist sense to expose Mr. Winthrop's ethnocentrism(i.e., capitalistmind-set).This interpretation would seem to be quite compatible with the "captainof industry" metaphor.In this version I suggest that Travenintended the metaphor of"assemblyline" to be ambiguousor, at least, to notion of mass production (or simultaneouslyembrace a capitalistand an artisanal of "Assembly Line"seems to be reinforced productionIn series). This interpretation en serie" Of course, the thrust of Traven'sironic by the Spanish title "Canastitas use of the metaphor is still toward exposing the American businessman's ethnocentrism. 4. The association between B. Travenand brickmaking that arose serendipitously in my fieldworkmay,in fact, not be coincidentaland, like his associationwith Tamaulipas,has broader implications in Travenstudies. If Wyatt'sthesis linking

Cook: B. Traven

79

Unjustified Skepticism? I first read Traven's story in its Spanish version at some point during my early years of fieldwork in Oaxaca in the 1960s and intended someday to use it as supplementary reading material in an undergraduate course on economic anthropology. It nicely illustrates the principle of contextualized rationality or how specific material and ideational factors of context or conjuncture influence the exercise of practical reason by peasant-artisans. One of the reasons why, until recently, I had not followed through on this intention, or for that matter referred to it or other literary texts in my analytical work in economic anthropology, is probably due to my skepticism regarding the epistemological status of interpretative statements about social reality that lack any explicit concern with demonstrating systematically in empirical terms why they are not idiosyncratic or impressionistic. From my perspective, the operational method of data collection, analysis, and explanation is a necessary restraint on the exercise of perception, ideology, and imagination in the process of knowledge production, and I have shied away from using texts anthropologically that were produced by other methods. In retrospect, I have probably been mistaken to not make anthropological use of Traven and other literary works. After all, whatever their source, most propositions or interpretative statements about social reality, whether derived from the application of strict operational procedures or not, can be examined against the existing social scientific record or transformed into hypotheses and subjected to empirical testing by those who doubt their reliability. Moreover, in most cases the sacrifice of empirical precision to literary effect, or the commission of errors for whatever reason (e.g., poor translaTraven'sidentity as Ret Marutwith that of Otto Feige is correct, then, it follows that the name of Marut'srevolutionarymagazineDer Ziegelbrenner (The Brick Burneror The Brickmaker) was linkedto the fact that Traven's fatherwas employed in a Schwiebusbrickworks duringhis childhood(Wyatt1980, 310-12). JonahRaskin, who apparentlyprovided Wyattwith the clues to develop this thesis of Travenas Otto Feige, is skepticalabout it but admitsthat the "brickburer/brickmaker"may not be merely a "symboliccoincidence"(1980, 243-n44). KarlGuthke (1991), the most prominent scholarlyskeptic of the Otto Feige/RetMarutidentity,notes that all issues of Der Ziegelbrennerwere "brick-shaped and brick red"but views "brick burner"simply as a building metaphorwith strictlypolitical ratherthan personal/ biographicalmeaningto Traven(1991, 129). Traven's associationwith Tamaulipas, Guthke(1991, 209) points out Regarding that the most substantialresultof Traven's first six years in Mexico,when he spent most of his time living in a rustic bungalow near Tampico,Tamaulipas, were five novels (The Death Ship, The Cotton-Pickers, The Treasureof the SierraMadre, The Bridge in theJungle, and The WhiteRose) that establishedhis reputationand"even today representthe centerpieces of his fame.'

80

Mexican Studies / Estudios Mexicanos

tion, sloppy editing), in producing a literary text can be overcome or corrected through subsequent scholarship.5 Therefore, my recent serendipitous encounter with B. Traven during fieldwork in a Reynosa ladrillera has obliged me to seriously ponder the epistemological consequences of oppositional thinking (e.g., scientific versus literary,anthropological versus nonanthropological, real or empirical versus ideal) (cf. Roseberry 1989, 30-33). More specifically, it has caused me to critically examine Traven's work as a potential source of meaningful images, ideas, propositions, and representations about Mexican peasant-artisans in capitalism. Nevertheless, as a result of examining Traven's contribution to Mexican studies, and especially to its economic anthropological branch, I am more convinced than ever of the heuristic importance of developing operational procedures for bridging the boundaries between literary and scientific/empirically-verified domains of knowledge. Traven's Oaxaca Tale and Reynosa Ladrilleras Synopsis of the Tale Before discussing my interpretation of Toiio Reynoso's views regarding the applicability of Traven'sOaxaca tale to the border brick industry, it is necessary to summarize the tale itself. A New York City businessman, Mr. E. L. Winthrop, traveling as a tourist in the state of Oaxaca arrives one day in a peasant-Indian basketmaking village which Traven names Huehuetonoc.6 Attracted by the uniquely
a friendlyreviewerof this manuscript in reference for MS/EM, 5. FransSchryer, to the penultimateversion of this and the precedingparagraph, candidlyexpressed notion of the relationship his view that I had a rather"simplistic and unsophisticated and between the creationof scientificconcepts, positivismand empiricalresearch," recommendedthat I readBourdieu's Craftof Sociologyto overcomethis deficiency. I long ago decided that a little bit of simple epistemology goes a long way in the and,also,thatthe more sophisticated knowledgeproduction process of ethnographic (and complicated) the epistemology,the less intelligiblethe ethnographicanalysis and the fewer the ethnographies(i.e., the ethnographer gets so absorbedwith the natureand methods of knowledge productionthat he/she either ceases to practice it or startsproducingdiscursivetexts without data).I have tried on more than one occasion to read and understandBourdieubut decided that the time requiredfor me to do so, in a way that would produce operationallysatisfyingresults, would be better spent in other pursuitslike, for example,readingDanielLittle(1986; 1993) who is about as sophisticateda writer on epistemologicalissues as I can handle. 6. Mysearchof the officiallist of populatedplaces in the state of Oaxacafailed to turn up this place name. ErnstSchiirerpointed out to me that in the original Germanversion of the Oaxacatale Travencalled this village"Tlacotepec" (Traven versionthe villageis unnamed.Is it possible 1930, 147), and that in the 1956 Spanish that Traven,for whatever reason, used the real name of the village in the German version?Accordingto my search in the official list of populated places in Oaxaca,

Cook: B. Traven

81

designed baskets he observes one peasant making, Winthrop buys up the basket maker's entire inventory of sixteen baskets for fortyfive centavos (about four cents) each (Traven 1993, 75, 78). After returning to New York and discovering a potential market for such baskets, Winthrop negotiates a trial order with "one of the bestknown candy-makers in the city" for ten thousand baskets to be used as "fancy packing" for French pralines (Traven 1993, 78-79). The negotiated price is $1.75 each, delivered in the port of New York (ibid., 80-81). Winthrop rushes back to Oaxaca to work out a deal with the peasant basket maker. To his chagrin, he finds that the basket maker is willing and able to make only three dozen baskets over a two-month period. Winthrop, obsessed by the prospect of handsome profits if the deal can be closed as negotiated in New York, urges the basket maker to reconsider the possibility of making more baskets and to do so at a wholesale price per one thousand pieces. The basket maker agrees to rethink the matter overnight and the next day responds to Winthrop as follows (Traven 1993, 84): "If I got to make one thousand canastitas, each will be three pesos. If I must make five thousand, each will cost nine pesos. And if I have
there are four pueblos (all municipios) with the Tlacotepec surname:SanJacinto in the districtof Solade Vega,SanMiguelin the districtof Juxtlahuaca, and Magdalena and SanAgustinin the districtof Tlaxiaco.I have not been able to verifythe practice of basketryin any of these pueblosbut was ableto verifythe practiceof palmplaiting (of sombrerosand probablyalso of baskets) in San Agustin(Marroquin 1957, 194) which could be the village in the tale (though it could also be SanMiguel).Another Yosondiawhich is in the ethnographic record(Marroquin 1957, possibilityis Santiago 112) as producing tenates (palm baskets) and is also in the district of Tlaxiaco relativelynear to SanAgustinTlacotepec. is inconsistentin describing the fibersfromwhich the basketsin question Traven are made. In the Englishversion, for example, he (1993, 73, 82, 85) writes that the whereas in the Spanishversion baskets are made of "bastand...all kinds of fibers," or rattan he describes them as being made out of"paja"or straw(1956, 9), "bejuco" (1956, 11), and in two places as made of"petate" (1956, 21, 24) which is a mat made from thin, dried strips of palm. It is not clear why Travenis inconsistent (or confused?)over this issue of raw materials,but my educated guess is that the best clue to the identity of the actual raw materialcomes from his two references to petate (which he must have thoughtwas the word for driedpalm strips).If my guess is correct, then the "policromadascanastitas" canastitas" (1956, 28) or "multicolored (1993, 88) might well be tompeates (or tomplates) about which Murillo(Dr. Atl) small baskets woven of palm leaves, dyed in (1980, 204) writes: "Tompeates...are diverse colors. They are quite attractiveand are popular among all social classes. Likepetates (palm mats),tompeatesfromOaxacaare the best madein Mexico.They are very finely woven and...decorated with moderation,they are very flexible, globularin shape and perfectlyfinished." Incidentally, tompeates may have handles or straps for carrying.Without handles or straps they are also known as tenates. San Miguel Amatlan(district of Ixtlan de Juarez)in the SierraZapoteca is among the best-knowncenters of polychrometompeate/tenateproductionin Oaxaca(see Marinde Paalen1974, 142-43).

82

MexicanStudies/ EstudiosMexicanos

to make ten thousand, in such a case I can't make them for less than fifteen pesos each." Winthrop is dumbfounded by the logic of this response-larger volume, higher cost-and desperately probes for a further explanation which the basket maker provides (Traven 1993, 84-85): "Bueno, patroncito, what is there so difficult to understand? It's all very simple. One thousand canastitas cost me a hundred times more work than a dozen. Ten thousand cost me so much time and labor that I could never finish them, not even in a hundred years." Next, at Winthrop's insistence, to clarify the reasons why village basket production capacity is so limited, the basket maker explains in some detail the elements of the typical Oaxaca villager's livelihood strategy, combining agricultural production for own-use with craft production for raising cash for additional household needs, and embodying logics that in today's academic discourse are known as subsistence "safetyfirst" (Scott 1976, 15-26) and simple "opportunitycost."7 Winthrop pointedly asks the basket maker why he does not recruit relatives or other villagers to help out with agricultural or basket production and elicits the following reply: "They might, patroncito, yes, they might. Possible. But then you see who would take care of their fields and cattle if they work for me? And if they help me with baskets it turns out the same. No one would any longer work his fields properly. In such a case corn and beans would get up so high in price that none of us could buy any and we all would starve to death" (Traven 1993, 85-86). In short, Mr. Winthrop returned to New York empty-handed, frustrated, and cursing the stupidity of Mexican peasant-Indian artisans for their lack of business acumen. Traven's Method It should be clear from the material presented in the above synopsis that Traven was well-informed about political economy and was also knowledgeable about the realities of daily life in Mexican peasant-Indian villages. He cannot be dismissed as a naive, armchair storyteller. He was, rather, a gifted writer who produced texts on the basis of observations and conversations in the field; selective study of primary and secondary documentary sources; broad life experiences in a variety of sociocultural and international settings; and no small measure of insight, imaginative thought, and ideology.
cost in termsof the sacrificeof the alternatives 7. Thisis the logic of calculating forgone in producinga given commodityor service.Forexample,the cost of making ten basketsis the five bushels of corn that might have been harvestedin their stead basketmaker. by the peasant-Indian

Cook: B. Traven

83

Still, the controversy surrounding the mix of fact and fiction in his writings about Chiapas-especially regarding Ladino-Indian relations and the labor process in the mahogany logging industry-seems to be weighted toward support of Zogbaum's carefully documented thesis that Traven purposefully disregarded facts about life and work in the monterfas (logging camps) that conflicted with his preconceived vision and either invented or misconstrued others. As will be shown in the course of the present essay, there are also problems related to the omission or confusion of facts in the Oaxaca tale. However, Zogbaum's critique begs the question of how to appropriately evaluate the work of a figure such as Traven who, after all, never claimed to be a historian, ethnographer, or social scientist of any type-but simply a writer who was both humanistically concerned and well-informed about his subject matter through study and firsthand experience.8
8. Traven's writingsinclude a nonfictionwork Land des Frhultngs(1928) that M. L. Baumann(1976, 130) describes as "severalthings at once: an account of a trip on foot and mulebackthrough the state of Chiapas;an anthropologicalstudy of the TsotsilIndians; a sociologicalreporton Mexicoin the late 1920s;a comparative and the red-Mexican-Indian cultures;and a study of the white-European-American vision of Centraland North America." E Baumann(1987, political-economic-historic 246) appraisesthis work in a way that shows the degree to which Travenbecame a Mexicanist: "Itis a fascinating documentof his philosophical, political,andhistorical reflections growing out of his confrontationwith revolutionaryMexico and his discovery of Indian community life, which, unlike the life in Western countries, seemed to him free from individualambition and greed. Land also shows his and his belief passionateendorsementof the policies of the revolutionary government in the futuregreatnessof Mexico and its Indiancitizens" KarlGuthke,the firstbiographer to have completeaccess to the Traven archives, Travenlived the life of the Indians states that"tothe extent possible for a European, in Chiapas"(1991, 194) and concludes from an examinationof field notes from Traven's 1928 trip to Chiapas that "the entries confirm...that Traven based his Mexican novels on what he himself had experienced"(1991, 197; cf. 194-202). Zogbaum, on the other hand, (1992, chap. 3) convincingly argues that Traven's understandingof Chiapasand Its Indiansas expressed in Land was deficient, but improvedthrough subsequent field trips. Her overalljudgmentof the man and his contribution to Mexican studies is carefullydocumented (1992, 170-71, 180-81) but highlights Traven's as a nonfictionwriter. and generallysympathetic shortcomings In her judgment(1992, 182-83):"That he failedin some detailscannotbe held against him, except that his failure prevented what Traven most desired: instead of stimulatingdebate and callingattentionto the dismalsocio-economicconditions of the ChiapanIndians,he exposed himselfto justifiedcriticismon technicalities.The unevenness of his account of monterfa life ultimatelyprevented him from being taken seriouslyas the chroniclerof the Chiapan loggingindustryby those who could judge what he wrote. Travenunderminedhis own case by deliveringinto the hands of those he accused the weapons with which to attackhim"(1992, 182-83).

84

MexicanStudies/ EstudiosMexicanos A Ladrillero's Viewpoint on the Meaning of Traven's Tale

Why is Traven's Oaxaca tale, written more than a half century ago, meaningful today to a small-scale capitalist brickworks operator (ladrillero) in Reynosa, far removed in time, place, and presumably level and type of socioeconomic development from rural Oaxaca of the late 1920s?9 Its meaningfulness hinges on Toiio Reynoso's perception of a parallel between Traven's explanation of why the peasant-Indian basket maker was unable to pursue a market-driven, capitalist project (i.e., Winthrop's) and Toiio's own understanding of a similar incapability on the part of artisanal brickmakers in the border brick industry. In terms of formal economic discourse, the incapability of both sets of artisans evokes a scenario from the marginalist model of dual sector economies in which, to quote from an economics textbook, "with the assumed fixity of wants an individual's supply curve of effort to the exchange sector turns back for rates of reward above a certain point; beyond this point the quantity of effort offered varies inversely with the reward per unit" (Bauer and Yamey 1957, 85). In essence, the two cases exemplify the "backward bending supply curve of effort" so familiar to neoclassical development economists but by no means applicable only to developing Third World economies.10 The labor productivity issue was central to Toiio's explanation of his relations over the years with an Anglo-Texan broker, Mr.
9. I consider a small-scale capitalist brickworks to be artisanal along with smallscale noncapitalist brickworks. In other words, I use the term artisanal with reference to labor-intensive unmechanized and to semimechanized brick production in enterprises ranging from small- to medium-scale. The term distinguishes these two types of brick production from highly mechanized, capital-intensive factory production. In Mexico, the term ladrillera refers to artisanal as well as to factory forms of brick production. The labor-intensive unmechanized ladrilleras may be of the household-organized petty commodity type (employing mostly family labor, perhaps irregularly supplemented by wage labor) or of the petty capitalist type regularly employing wage labor. The Reynoso brick plant is the latter type. 10. Benjamin Higgins (1959) was among the first to argue that the backwardsloping supply curve of effort "appears in any society which stagnates (or slows down) long enough to weaken the 'demonstration effect' provided by people moving from one standard of living to another, as a result of their own extra effort, directed specifically toward earning additional income" (pp. 286-87). He argued further that "the truth may well be that, in a static world, supply curves of effort and risk-taking are normally backward sloping. Where no other changes are taking place, most people would probably like some additional leisure, or some additional safety and liquidity, when rates of pay for effort and risk-taking are increased, so that the extra leisure, safety, and liquidity can be had without a reduction in material standard of living" (1959, n on 287). Economic anthropologists will also associate this kind of marginalist logic with Chayanov's (1966, esp. pp. 70-85) analysis of the "drudgery of labor" in the context of the Russian peasant farm.

Cook:B. Traven

85

Cypher from Houston.11 On his periodic visits to the Reynosa ladrilleras, Cypher always complained about their lack of output capacity and irritated Toio by making invidious comparisons between his ladrillera and another one in the same area which Cypher wrongly claimed was producing one hundred thousand bricks monthly with only four brickmakers. Toiio knew these claims to be wrong through his own periodic observations of what was going on in his neighbor's ladrillera. He knew, too, that during any given week eight to ten brick molders (echureros) were at work in his own ladrillera, and that his average output of fifty thousand bricks monthly was, at least, equivalent to-and often exceeded-his neighbor's. Yet Cypher apparently never got his output estimates in line and caused Tofio even more disgruntlement by telling him on one occasion that he lacked the will to make his ladrillera more productive. ("El decia que yo no tenia animo de trabajar") Toio tried, in vain, to explain to Cypher the reasons why it was impossible to regularly produce one hundred thousand, or even fifty thousand, handmade bricks monthly in either his or his neighbor's ladrillera:"There are weeks that we make twenty odd thousand; then there are weeks that it is only make, make, make and we produce thirty thousand. But then a week comes along when we have to get, load, and unload firewood, or load unfired brick into the kiln, fire it, unload it from the kiln and stack it or load it on a trailer. And then there are rainy days. It is not pure make, make, make. So I have the desire to work, what I don't have is the desire to lie about the nature of the work. I am not able to tell you that X number of workers on any given day can make me, say, eight thousand bricks. Today, perhaps, but tomorrow they will work at a different pace and they will make me only two thousand. And day after tomorrow, a trailer drives up and has to be loaded so they make me only two thousand again."Toilo's dealings with Cypher were asymmetrical and tensely miscommunicative due to their irreconcilable perceptions of economic reality, and proved ultimately abortive. This parallels the relationship portrayed by Traven between the anonymous Oaxaca basket maker and Mr. Winthrop. Mr. Cypher is Toiio's Mr. Winthrop. To further substantiate his argument regarding the relevancy of the Traven tale, Tonio described a more recent encounter with a trucker-intermediary who drove up to his ladrillerain a flatbed trailer rig and exclaimed to Toio: "Get to work. I'll buy everything you've
11. I have located and interviewed Mr. Cypher (pseudonym). His recollections of the period when he regularly visited the Reynosa brickworks do not contradict Reynoso's reconstruction on any important detail. However, Reynoso's memory for detail regarding their meetings is more vivid.

86

MexicanStudies/ EstudiosMexicanos

got. How many [bricks] can you make a week?" Tofo responded to the trucker as follows, a response that in broad outline echoes, if in the language of petty capitalism, the voice of Traven's basket maker: "Ican make you fifty thousand or four trailer loads but I can't guarantee exactly when. That's how the workers are around here. With three or four hours work daily, they want to earn an eight-hour salary. When the workers see that I have an order, they will ask me for a raise, not to work more hours but to work less for the same salary. They don't want to work additional hours at a higher rate but want to work fewer hours to earn the same salary. So I can't tell you that with more workers on any given day I can produce, say, eight thousand bricks. Today, perhaps, but tomorrow the workers will work differently, they may make only two thousand bricks. And the day after tomorrow when your trailer arrives, they will make only another two thousand. People who think in terms of mechanized factories simply can't understand me when I tell them that the more brick I try to make the less is my profit." During our second interview, Toiio was even more explicit in explaining why Traven's story is applicable to the brick industry: "One has a two-sided problem. The customers, since they speak about large volumes, demand a very low price. That's where the case of the baskets [in the Traven tale] is relevant. If I supply the client with, say, ten thousand bricks weekly, I can do so at a price of thirty-five dollars per thousand pieces. But, if I supply him with twenty thousand, logic says that I would sell at a lower price per thousand. But that's not the case. The price tends to go up due to the little problems we have with the workers." According to Tonio, unlike the nonwage situation in Traven's Oaxaca case, the use of wage incentives by ladrilleros to increase productivity may lead to cost increases, as well as to possible decreases in output. So, a worker who had to work five hours to produce one thousand bricks prior to a wage increase may be able to earn the same income after a wage increase by working one hour less and producing only eight hundred bricks. Despite its many differences with basketmaking in Oaxaca, border brickmaking also confronts a series of constraints on labor input that inhibit the expansion of output for the capitalist market. A caveat is in order here, however. Whereas Toiio Reynoso is correct to emphasize the parallel between the constraints operating on labor performance and productivity in both cases, it is important to point out that these constraints can be (and have been) overcome in the border brick industry by an increase in the number of small ladrilleras, either as new independent enterprises or as satellites of already existing enterprises. The satellitization strategy is known as

Cook:B. Traven

87

the "campero" (field boss) system and the satellite brickfields are known as "campos." Only the largest artisanal enterprises, however, have the capital required to employ the "campero/campo" strategy.12 Reading B. Traven as an Economic Anthropologist Traven and Political Economy In reading Traven as an economic anthropologist, it is necessary to read him first as a political economist of capitalism. He came to Mexico fully prepared to view its economy as neocolonial capitalist and to view its rural peasant-Indian peoples as, at least, partial participants in capitalist markets for labor and its products. In everything Traven wrote about rural Mexico that significantly deals with economic themes, capital has a superordinate role. It is this understanding of capital, combined with a fascination with its multiple activities and relations in exotic hinterlands of provincial Mexico, that makes Traven's economic anthropology so unique for its time and still relevant today. That Traven was able to convey so effectively and sympathetically the participation of peasant-Indian villagers in this capitalist relational process, as well as in those domains of life where capitalism was peripheral or absent, with insights only mildly tainted by ethnocentrism, accentuates the uniqueness and relevance of his legacy. Traven was a severe critic of capitalism and statism. He sided ideologically with labor in its historic struggle against capital, and with civil society (the people) in its (their) struggle against the state. John Huston, who directed and wrote the screenplay for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, admitted being attracted to Traven's work because Traven was "above all a passionate defender of the victims of society, a man who hated injustice and had found a great battlefield in Mexico on which to join combat with it" (Wyatt 1980, 134; cf. Guthke 1991, 186). What Huston probably did not know was that in his pre-Mexico days Traven, as Ret Marut, had been a nonpartisan anarchist leader of the Bavarian Revolution of 1919 which established a short-lived populist, antibourgeois Council Republic in Munich that was crushed by the troops of the so-called Majority Socialist government, headed by Friedrich Ebert, in power
12. The"campero/campo" system, as well as other labor and related conditions in the border brick industry are discussed in Cook in press and Cook 1994. Although Traven did not write about it in his story, basket production in Oaxaca may be organized and controlled by merchant capital through a putting-out system as it is in the contemporary valley (see Cook and Binford 1990, 73-74).

88

Mexican Studies / Estudios Mexicanos

in Berlin at the time (Klein 1991, 160-67; R. Marut/B. Traven 1991). Marut/Traven was arrested for high treason, escaped, went underground, and resurfaced in England in 1923 where he was refused asylum and briefly imprisoned prior to departing for Mexico in 1924 (Guthke 1991, 128-65). Traven was critical of the Communist party (e.g., Stone 1977, 31-32, 47, 52-53) but, like many Marxists, viewed capitalism as a transnational class struggle in which capitalists' profit is derived from their exploitation of a proletarian class that embraces rural and urban workers in both the Old and New Worlds. For Traven, Mexican peasant-Indian ranch or forestry workers, like workers in all colonial and neocolonial countries, were as much a part of the proletariat as were European or U.S. factory workers (Guthke 1991, 186, 263-64 et passim). Raskin (1980, 179) makes this point succinctly: "For Traven the Indian is a proletarian, a worker. To understand the Indian, Traven says, we have to understand labor."As I will illustrate below from Traven's work, his labor-centered approach to capitalist production carries over to his approach to peasant-artisan production.13 The White Rose and Traven's Fascination with Capital Although many consider Traven to be a proletarian writer, he is perhaps less well appreciated as having an ambivalent fascination with capital and capitalists. The more I read Traven's work from his Tamaulipas period, the more I am convinced that he was intrigued by the strategies, tactics, and mechanisms of capital accumulation and by what makes capitalists tick, every bit as much as he was by the lives and activities of workers. In this sense, I think that Mr.
were a socialistor a communist 13. M. L.Baumann (1976, 39) writes:"IfTraven there would be no questionas to his positionin the class struggle,but...he is neither, and he does not regardthe worker'sstruggleas a class struggle." This judgmentis as an egocentric compatiblewith Baumann's projectthatessentially packagesTraven Stirneriteanarchist(1976, esp. chap. 3 and pp. 131-53). In my opinion Travenwas too eclectic and independenta radicalintellectualto be a true believerin any single ideology or systemof thought.In anycase, his labor-centered politicaleconomy and his interest in labormovementssuggestto me that he possessed a sufficientdegree of class consciousness, if not adherence to canons of systematicclass analysis,to of the impact negate Baumann's judgment.The latterrests upon an underestimation total immersion in postrevolutionary Mexico would have on a perceptive radical intellectuallike Traven,exiled from a failed revolutionary experience in Europe.In "looks short, my readingleads me to agreewith E Baumann (1987, 254) that Traven at the problems people had in makinga living from the perspectives of members of differentclasses"and with K. Guthke(1991, 272) that from a biographical point of view "Traven's experiences in his new land [i.e., Mexico] molded his theoretical outlook."

Cook: B. Traven

89

Winthrop in Traven's Oaxaca tale is a precursor or incipient model for Mr. Collins in The White Rose (Traven 1979), perhaps his most ambitious Mexican novel. Especially in the longer Spanish version of this novel (Traven 1969d), Traven develops Mr. C. C. Collins, the president of Condor Oil, as a multidimensional character-we learn a great deal about Collins's background and formation as a businessman and about how he thinks and acts about business, sex, love, politics, and life in general. Traven devotes many more pages to Mr. Collins than he does to his Indian protagonist Don Jacinto, the patriarch of the hacienda Rosa Blanca which is destined to be transformed into oil fields by Condor. Though ultimately a villain, Mr. Collins is more well-rounded-astute, instinctively knowledgeable, philosophical, ruthlessly calculating and manipulative, powerful and successful-than Mr. Winthrop. Much of what Traven understood about the political economy and culture of capitalism, as well as about interpersonal (including intergender) relations and other critical areas of private and public life in the twentieth century, seems to find expression through Mr. Collins. It is almost as if Traven harbored a grudging admiration for gringo capitalists! 14 While devoting quite a bit of attention to the battle of the sexes in The White Rose, Traven devotes even more to an exploration, again through Mr. Collins, of the class struggle in U.S. capitalism. He does this by means of a retrospective on Collins's formation as a businessman prior to his association with Condor Oil, focusing in considerable detail on his association with a coal-mining enterprise, Emmerlin Anthracite Company (1969d, 149-222; cf. 1979, 75-92). To make a long story short, Collins devised a complex, cynical, and risky plan to use the coal miners' union (especially the leadership), together with the workers' struggle for economic betterment, to accumulate a huge inventory of coal, then reduce wages and bonuses, slowdown production, force a strike, bust the union, comer
14. Forexample, afternoting that even the powerfulpresidentof an important oil companylacksthe power to controlnatural forces, includinghis own masculinity, Traven(1969d, 98-99) launches into a discussion of the relationshipbetween sex, "Withregardto women he love, and money that includes the following statement: [the Wall Street tycoon] was merely an ordinaryman, differentfrom others only because he can pay more without receiving in exchange more than any man can obtain from a woman, regardlessof her beauty and elegance"(1969d, 98). A few pages later,Traven(1969d, 102-03) introducesage into the equation, and he tells us that at Collins'srelativelyadvancedage he "didnot expect to be loved by any new woman attractedby his good looks or his lovemakingability.If any woman would have told him that she loved him for being himself, he would have laughed affablyand would have been flattered,but would have immediatelymade mental calculations to determine what her flattery would cost him."Given the facts of this passagemaybe autobiographical. Traven'sbiography,

90

MexicanStudies/ EstudiosMexicanos

the coal market to make a killing in a seller's market, and, finally, resume production under a less costly company union regime. Collins sold the plan to the board of directors, negotiated his terms, executed the plan to perfection, and became a millionaire. Traven uses this digression in his novel to present a short course on the political economy of capitalism, the central theme of which he expresses as follows (1969d, 165-66): "Workers do not work because they are stupid...but because they are so compelled by the iron laws of the capitalist system. No matter how much workers do and plan within this social and economic system to which they belong and of which they form part, the only result will be to strengthen capitalism. As long as the system lasts, labor will be inevitably coupled with capital, without possibility of escape. Unions are of greater value to capitalism than to the workers. Workers find themselves tied to the monster of capitalism, no matter whether its end represents death and disaster or life and the culmination of our culture....The active produce, the inactive suffer. Inside this system capitalists are active, workers are inactive because they must receive orders from those who are active. The capitalist knows what he is after. Money, and after money, power. Workers are after only their share, and if this turns out to be sufficient to more or less maintain them and permit them certain comforts, they are satisfied and appreciate the current system." [This and all subsequent quotations in English from the Spanish version of this novel are my translations.] This is a realistic assessment by an ambivalent anticapitalist who had come to the conclusion that, like it or not, the hegemony of capital will persist because "the Worker, in the present system...at heart is as capitalist as the proprietor of a bank" (Traven 1969d, 166). In short, this passage presents us with the gist of Traven's thinking about capitalist hegemony.15 Traven's Labor Theory of Value An important pillar in Traven's understanding of political economy, and in his economic anthropology, emerges clearly in another
15. Traven (1969d, 167) makes clear that Mr. Collins has learned the secret of capitalist hegemony without the help of formal study of economics, that "he was unfamiliar with anything that could help him to analyze the ups and downs of capitalism," and that he "came only by instinct to understand the laws according to which this very complicated system works." According to Traven, "That same instinct had led him [Collins] to discover the fact that presently no branch of the capitalist system has greater influence over public opinion than the struggle, or if you wish sporting event, commonly called capital against labor or labor against capital. Labor does not benefit much materially from its positive opportunities, nevertheless, it achieves something by impressing the conscience and opinion of the public."

Cook: B. Traven

91

of his Tamaulipas period novels, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Traven 1969a). Etched in my memory as dramatically associating Traven with the labor theory of value are lines from the movie version of this novel in a scene when the old prospector Howard (played by Walter Huston) explains to his audience of down-andouters in a Tampico flophouse his theory of the value of gold: "An ounce of gold, mister, is worth what it is because of the human labor that went into the findin' and gettin' of it. There is no other explanation, mister. Gold in itself ain't worth nothin' except for makin' jewelry with and gold teeth."16 I have searched in vain for this passage in the novel which suggests that it may represent one of John Huston's academy award-winning contributions to the screenplay (and also to the award-winning performance of his father as best supporting actor)-although it reads and sounds like vintage Traven. In any case, there are several passages in Treasure (e.g., Traven 1969a, 96, 236), and in another Tamaulipasperiod novel The CottonPickers (Traven 1969b, 22, 111), that directly invoke the labor theory. Admittedly, in Treasure when he writes about the value of gold, Traven (1969a, 56; cf. p. 210) emphasizes more than once the importance (and risk) of transporting it to market (e.g., "No gold has any value if it cannot be transported to a place where people need it."). Nevertheless, even in one version of this thesis, the role of labor is highlighted (1993, 19-20): "Oil, like gold, is worthless in its natural state. It obtains its value only by handling and being taken where it is needed." In short, my limited search of his Tamaulipas period publications yielded considerable textual evidence for Traven's belief in the labor theory of value but also for his appreciation of the importance of marketing in the realization of labor-created exchange value. Reading Traven on Peasant-Artisan Petty Commodity Production: Moral Economics, Unequal Exchange, and the "Assembly Line" Metaphor The Logic of Peasant-Indian Petty Commodity Production How does Traven's labor-centered approach carry over from his critique of capitalism to his representation of peasant-artisan production? The answer is through the linkage of cost-price to work- or
16. This is my direct transcriptionfrom the video version of the movie. Of course, even if Huston authoredthese words, it must be rememberedthat Traven, in the guise of Hal Croves,was a consultanton the movie and read and approved the script (Wyatt 1980, 135). Accordingto Guthke (1991, 331): "Hustoninitiated an intensive correspondencewith 'Croves,' who wrote interminably about the fine points of the screenplay. Though Huston authored the screenplay,Traven had meanwhile penned a script and sent it to Huston."

92

MexicanStudies/ EstudiosMexicanos

labor-time and -effort. This linkage emerges clearly in the haggle between Winthrop and the artisan basket maker but Traven, as the storyteller, makes the connection explicit earlier (1993, 75): "Each basket cost him between twenty and thirty hours of constant work, not counting the time spent gathering bast and fibers, preparing them, making dyes and coloring the bast. All this meant extra time and work." The same connection is explicitly made more than once by the basket maker when he explains to an incredulous Winthrop why the price has to jump so high if he buys more than a hundred baskets (1993, 84-85). Traven's emphasis on the relationship between the cost of artisanal commodities like baskets calculated in labor-time units and market price is paralleled and substantiated in my analysis of the Oaxaca valley metate industry (Cook 1976). This relationship in my judgment and, I think, Traven's as well is critical to the functioning of the peasant-artisanbranch of Mexico's commodity economy (cf. Cook and Binford 1990, 32-34). Together with his critical labor-centered view of capitalism and commodity economy in general, Traven also shared with many Marxists a tendency to view the underdeveloped rural sector of developing capitalist countries like Mexico as nurturing a process in which things are produced for their use value rather than for their exchange value; and where the allocation of labor-time is influenced more directly by sociocultural structure (e.g., community and kinship obligations) and the forces of nature (e.g., rainfall patterns and seasonality in general) than it is in metropolitan urban-industrial capitalism. Also, like many economists, political economists, and economic anthropologists who wrote before and after him (see Godelier 1972), Traven flirted with the view that underlying the perceived "backwardness" of economic life among peasant-artisans was their ignorance and illiteracy vis-a-vis the cost accounting rationality of capitalism. Hence, in his Oaxaca tale the Indian basket maker is portrayed as a slow and limited calculator in comparison to Mr.Winthrop. Fortunately, however, the overall thrust of Traven's story is to highlight the contextual appropriateness of the basket maker's rationality,leaving the reader with the impression that, given the conditions of life in a Mexican village at that time, including the lack of formal schooling, the villager's decision making was the same as the reader's would have been (cf. Cancian 1972; Beals 1975, 263-65). In the end, the substantive logic of the Indian peasantartisan situation wins out over Winthrop's formal capitalist logic.17
17. In modern social science discourse the issue of"formal" versus "substantive" rationality of economic action was first posed and addressed by Max Weber (1947, 184-86). It has been addressed in terms of its relevance for economic anthropology by Cook 1974 and, more recently, by Plattner (1989, 7-15). The most explicit statement in the tale illustrating Traven's posture is in a paragraph involving his voice directly as commentator and indirectly through the

Cook: B. Traven

93

This interpretation is sustained by the way in which Traven presents the haggle between Winthrop and the peasant-Indian basket maker as representing a commodity economy dialectic between an exchange value-driven advanced (or capitalist) form and a use valuedriven simple (or petty) form (cf. Cook 1981). For Traven, both are commodity forms of business, organized for producing wealth and related through markets; the difference between them lies in their scale, in the type and quantity of wealth they are organized to produce, and in how and why they produce it. In his view, gringo big business, motivated by greed and profit, mass produces commodities through machinofacture to generate money capital. Mexican peasant-Indian petty business, both its agricultural main branch and its subsidiary craft branch, soulfully produces commodities on a small scale without machinery for livelihood. Traven's Indian peasantartisan produces with his heart, as well as with his head and his hands. It is clear from Traven's text, nevertheless, that the basket maker did not lack the desire to increase his earnings by expanding his output of baskets, but that he was prevented from doing so by a variety of structural conditions. It bears mentioning that Traven did not fall into the "natural economy" trap that vitiated much European economic thought of his time. He did not assume that the peasant economy was autochthonous, marketless, and commodityless, and that its peasant-artisan agents blithely ignored material cost-benefit logic, the market-cash nexus, and exchange value as they went about satisfying their culturally circumscribed consumer wants (Cook 1984b, 5-15; Roseberry 1989, chap. 8). Traven did not mistake peasant-artisans in Oaxaca for exchange value-, money-, or market-naive participants in autochtonous primitive communes.18 Still, in contrast to his portrayal
"Thatfigurewas too high for the Indianto grasp.He became slightly basket maker: confused and for the first time since Mr.Winthrophad arrivedhe interruptedhis work and tried to think it out. Severaltimes he shook his head and looked vaguely aroundas if for help. Finallyhe said,"Excuseme, Jefecito...that is by far too much for me to count"(1993, 83; cf. 78, 82). Traven (1993, 86) laterreinforcesthis theme him as being of the Indian'sdeficiencies in quantitative reasoningby characterizing awestruck "as Mr. Winthrop wrote down...long figures, executing complicated multiplicationsand divisions and subtractionsso rapidlythat it seemed to him the greatestmiraclehe had ever seen. 18. Zogbaum(1992, esp. 34-36 and chap. 2) emphasizes that Traven'searly vision about Mexico and its Indianpeoples was distortedby a mistakenbelief that is part of the genetic heritageof the MexicanIndian" (1992, 36) and "anticapitalism that the "essence of Indiannesswas safeguardedin the genes" (1992, 80), as well small communitywhich colored his as by his anarchistideal of the self-regulating understandingof Indian communalismin ancient and contemporaryMexico. The absence of these views from his Oaxacatale may reflect the fact that Traven'sfirst was during his second or third trip to encounter with Oaxacan peasant-artisans Chiapasin 1927 and 1928, a period when he became awareof errorsin his earlier relationsthanks to course work at understandingof Indian life and Indian-Ladino

94

MexicanStudies/ EstudiosMexicanos

of peasant-Indian plantation workers in Tamaulipas and forestry workers in Chiapas who are heavily involved in the wage system, Traven (1993, 85; cf. 1956, 25) through the dialogue between Mr. Winthrop and the basket maker envisages the possibility of expanding basket output in terms of additional labor recruited through kinship duty not wage payment. To Traven's credit he accurately portrayed Oaxacan peasantartisans as petty commodity producers, combining subsistence agriculture with craft production for sale in the periodic town market to make and earn their livelihood. In his words (1993, 74-75): "His principal business...was not producing baskets. He was a peasant who lived on what the small property he possessed...would yield.... Baskets he made when there was nothing else for him to do in the fields...the sale of his baskets...added to the small income he received from his little farm....Whenever the Indian had finished about twenty of the baskets he took them to town on market day." Mestizo/Indian Relations and Unequal Exchange Traven (1993, 75-76; 1956, 11-12) realized that when the peasant-Indian basket maker came into town he was in hostile territory, both in the ethnocultural and economic sense. The town, both in and out of the marketplace, was mestizo turf where the peasant-Indian producer-seller was subjected to patronizing discrimination that robbed him of human dignity, as well as of a significant portion of the exchange value embodied (through the expenditure of his artisanal labor time and effort) in his baskets. In the marketplace haggle, the basket maker ended up receiving less than half of the eighty centavos (equivalent to ten U.S. cents) he originally quoted for a basket that embodied fifteen to twenty hours of his labor (not including procurement and preparation of the fibers and other raw materials)! Not only is the peasant-Indian basket maker compelled to, in effect, give away his embodied labor, but he also had to suffer the verbal abuse and belittlement from mestizo hagglers.19 The situation worsened when the peasant-Indian peddled his
the National University and additional thought and experience (Zogbaum 1992, 81 and chap. 4). 19. Traven (1956, 11; cf. 1993, 77) indicates knowledge of the periodicity of the marketplace system in Oaxaca when he writes, "Altener listas unas dos docenas de ellas [canastitas], el indio las llevaba al pueblo los sabados, que eran dias de tianguis." This bit of information also reinforces the hypothesis that the "pueblo" (as opposed to "pueblito") or "town" (as opposed to "village") is, indeed, Tlaxiaco in the Mixteca Alta where the "dia de plaza [tianguis]" is Saturday (Marroquin 1957,

168).

Cook:B. Traven

95

baskets outside of the marketplace. As Traven (1993, 76; cf. 1956, 12 and Marroquin 1957, 207-08) wrote: "Naturallyhe did not want to take those baskets which he could not sell at the marketplace home with him again if he could help it. In such a case he went peddling his products from door to door where he was treated partly as a beggar and partly as a vagrant apparently looking for an opportunity to steal, and he frequently had to swallow all sorts of insults and nasty remarks." This shabby, patronizing treatment is exemplified in the encounter between the basket maker and a mestiza town resident (Traven 1993, 76-77; 1956, 12-13): "In many instances he would actually get no more than just ten centavos, and the buyer, usually a woman, would grasp that little marvel and right before his eyes throw it carelessly upon the nearest table as if to say,'Well, I take that piece of nonsense only for charity's sake. I know my money is wasted. But then, after all, I'm a Christian and I can't see a poor Indian die of hunger since he has come such a long way from his village'." In short, when one contrasts Traven's depiction of the international cross-cultural encounter between the basket maker and Mr. Winthrop (a representative of the gringo branch of the global market) with his depiction of the intranational ethnocultural encounter between the basket maker and town mestiza buyers, the latter is portrayed in more extreme terms vis-a-vis the quality and magnitude of discrimination and exploitation. This provides a basis for inferring that if he could have started doing business with Mr.Winthrop, the basket maker probably would have experienced some improvement in his economic condition and, possibly, less exposure to ethnic discrimination in the market town. Maybe it is more significant that Traven's material lends itself to such an interpretation than it is to definitively determine that this is the interpretation Traven wanted the reader to make. The "Assembly Line" Metaphor and Traven's Moral Economics I have just interpreted Traven to have depicted the peasant basket maker as a market- and money-experienced petty commodity producer who hypothetically might earn more and suffer less by finding ways to expand output to participate in the export market. Why, then, do I also feel justified in proposing that during his own lifetime Traven was probably saddened or disappointed by Mexican peasant-artisans' accommodations to the commercial projects of hordes of real life Winthrops? My answer is because Traven's deeper concern was that the more that peasant-artisans play the market game, the faster the commodity economy dialectic moves away from the intimacy of household- and community-based petty commodity

96

Mexican Studies / Estudios Mexicanos

production toward the impersonality of market-dominated, moneymediated capitalist production. It was clearly Traven's belief that as capital penetrates peasant-artisan production, typically through a combination of credit and piece-rate payment from sources external to the local community, the artistic soul of that intimate production system dissipates.20 In the very title of his Oaxaca tale, Traven implicitly sets artisanal production in opposition to large scale capitalist mass production. His metaphor of the "assembly line" was employed ironically to expose Winthrop's ethnocentrism but, as the narrative unfolds, the metaphor serves to highlight that artisanal production is prevented from meeting the demand of a mass market for two reasons: (1) the artisans are also peasant agriculturists with a subsistence first and opportunity cost orientation who are culturally and emotionally tied to the soil; (2) (and here is where Traven succumbs to a romantic, nostalgic, essentialist, and utopian vision of bucolic, nonindustrial, small-scale production) each and every product of artisanal labor is unique, not only in design and appearance but also because it embodies a piece of the cultural soul or essence of the artisan.21 For Traven, artisans were artistic and, therefore, were artists. Regarding the basket maker, he wrote: "This craftsman had made in his life several hundreds of those exquisite baskets, but so far no two of them had he ever turned out alike in design. Each was an
of peasant-artisan 20. In more literalMarxistterms this subordination production by capital could occur during the stage of "formalsubsumption"without necessarily involving the subsequent stage of "realsubsumption"(see Cook and Binford1990, 23-24; also Marx1977; Foladori1981, 143-54; Chevalier1983). This discourse as a transitionfrom a useprocess may also be conceptualizedin Marxist value to an exchange-value regime(see Cook 1981). 21. The importanceof this bucolic,quasi-Thoreauian imageof the simple,closeto-naturelife of the independent tiller of the soil is highlighted in Judy Stone's interviews with Traven(as Hal Croves)(1977, 58-59) when he is quoted as saying, among other things, "Thisnearness to the soil...is the most frequent and most important element in Traven'sbooks" (p. 59). Nevertheless, E Baumann's(1987, Caoba (mahogany) Cycle 253-54) perceptive analysis of Traven'sChiapas-based works, including Land des Fruhlings, suggests that the author had "no romantic illusions about traditionalagrariansociety" and "in Land...warns readers against idealizingIndiancommunes,and...considersconditionseven in the worst industrial slums preferable-for everyone but the Indians themselves-to the harsh living In Land, continues Baumann, conditions in Indianvillages." Traven "alsoarguesthat not the agrarian reformbut only industrialization could offer a better futureto rural Mexicans. In the Caoba Cycle, Travenmakes us aware of how difficult it was in traditionalagrarian society to scrape together a living that would mean more than The contradictionhere between Traven's having the sheer necessities for survival." statementto Stoneand Baumann's of Traven's views in the CaobaCycle interpretation or probablyboils down to a fundamental split between Travenas observer/analyst amateurethnographerand Travenas imaginative writer and visionary.

Cook: B. Traven

97

individual piece of art and as different from the other as was a Murillo from a Velasquez" (1993, 76). And, speaking through the basket maker, Traven (1993, 87) waxes even more poetic regarding the nature of artisanal labor: "I've to make these canastitas my own way and with my song in them and with bits of my soul woven into them. If I were to make them in great numbers there would no longer be my soul in each, or my songs." From the standpoint of the ethnographic record, the voice of the Oaxaca basket maker here is probably not representative of most twentieth-century Mexican peasant-artisans who have found a way to reconcile their culturally embedded sense of artisanry with their commercial market participation.22 In taking this extreme position vis-a-visthe conflict of economics against morality, or technique against art, Traven placed himself in the company of cultural purists or essentialists who contend that systematic production for sale inevitably results in the debasement of the aesthetic or artistic quality of craft products. Also, he joined company with many radical intellectuals whose romantic, utopian vision leads them to see worker alienation as a necessary concomitant of mass production and capitalist development (cf. Sanciprian 1991, 10). These beliefs, together with Traven's special dislike of the U.S. brand of capitalist massification of production and consumption (i.e., his anti-Fordism), resonate in the moving and sardonic concluding lines of his Oaxaca tale (1993, 88): "And in this way it happened that American garbage cans escaped the fate of being turned into receptacles for empty, torn, and crumpled little multicolored canastitas into which an Indian of Mexico had woven dreams of his soul, throbs of his heart: his unsung poems."23
22. Traven'ssoulful vision of artisanalproduction (and even his wording) is paralleledin the following statementby my comadre TeodoraBlanco, a renowned potter fromSantaMaria Atzompain the Valleyof Oaxaca,recordedby representatives of the Fondo Nacionalparael Fomentode las Artesanias sometime prior (FONART) to her premature and tragicdeath:"Esnecesariotener,este, amoral trabajo y ponerle sentido y todo. Nuestro barroo nuestro trabajotienen un sentido y en ese sentido es el gusto que tenemos, ahi se queda un pedazo de nuestravida, o sea de nuestro coraz6n"(BecerrilStraffon and Rios Szalay1981, 77). This rings true in comparison with other statements I heard from Teodoraduring the years that I knew her as an inventive, imaginative,and even dream-inspired artisan.It is pertinent to note that during her own lifetime her imaginativeand dream-inspired images were and produced "en serie" by many other potters in her community.A "borrowed" sizeable portion of these TeodoraBlanco-inspired productswere (and still are) mass merchandisedby FONART and by privatesector intermediary capitalists. and "Techniqueand Art"were 23. The themes of "Economicsand Morality" provocativelydiscussed in a thoughtfullittle book by Godfreyand MonicaWilson (1945). They insightfullyargue that "allco-operativeactions must be both efficient in their use of materialresources-time, energy, tools, materialenvironment,and

98

MexicanStudies/ EstudiosMexicanos The Ethnographic Record versus Traven's Moral Economics

An anecdote from Panajachel (Guatemala) told by Sol Tax in a lecture at the University of Chicago attended by June Nash (1993, 18) in her student days to illustrate his concept of "penny capitalism" (Tax 1953) strikes me as more closely approximating the ethnographic reality (what Nash refers to as the "ingenuity of entrepreneurial artisans") of most twentieth-century Mexican peasant-artisansthan Traven's fictional statement: "He [Sol Tax] illustrated this in class with the story of a Panajacheleiio weaver-entrepreneur who had sold him and his wife Gertrude so many pieces that they had no need or desire left, but he continued to return with offerings, each time pegged so much lower in price that they felt forced to take advantage of the offer. Finally, Sol asked the man how he could sell at a price so much reduced from the first items he had sold. The man told him to bring those earlier sale items out, and then he pointed out the progressive reduction in size and complexity of design that made the lower price possible." In other words, the market orientation of peasant-artisan petty commodity producers in most branches of artisanal production usually conflicts with their practice of any form of aesthetic or artistic extremism in their craft (i.e., practices that result in the maintenance of high but costly quality standards). Their need for cash and their market experience encourages most peasant-artisansto look for ways to assure the competitiveness of their products through a measured sacrifice of artistic or aesthetic quality for economic gain. This does not mean that Mexican peasant-artisans are necessarily moneygrubbing philistines or cultural adulterators who knowingly deceive an aesthetically oriented but naive clientele, even though the principle of caveat emptor is very much operative in markets where peasant-artisans sell their own commodities. Rather, it simply highlights a cultural circuit in the system of commodity production and market economy: involvement in production for sale teaches that time is money, and money lost or time squandered will inevitably lead to reduced sales and income for the noblest and most moral of peasant-artisans. It is, I would contend, the same "entrepreneurial ingenuity"
objective social relations-and have moral value for the people concerned." In a similar vein they argue that technique which is "concerned with the overcoming of the inherent stubbornness of material, which resists human shaping" and art, the "expression of intrinsic quality" are always dependent upon each other. As they put it, "There is a certain intrinsic quality manifest in every product of craft" (1945, 76-78). Of course, it is necessary to operationalize this notion of"intrinsic quality" in order to avoid essentialism.

Cook: B. Traven

99

referred to above by June Nash that facilitates artisanal production for the mass market or enables small-scale, labor intensive producers to find ways to work more efficiently and, if necessary, to expand output well beyond levels conceived as possible by Traven and moral economists. Peasant-artisansmanage to do this as independent petty commodity producers by working harder, working longer hours, employing additional household members, working more efficiently by making technological innovations that do not involve mechanization, and so on. Or, they may do it in association with intermediary capital or small-scale industrial capital (e.g., hiring of pieceworkers)-still, it must be emphasized, without machinofacture or significant degrees of mechanization. Most typically, however, they achieve efficiency independently through the formulaic conception and execution of their work. Successful artisanal production for the market is predicated upon the routinization of effort and the standardization of form and style. In sum, artisans economize by producing as efficiently as they can one product after another in serial and replicated fashion. For Traven, by contrast, the "assembly line" metaphor represents mass production as an exclusively machine-driven large scale capitalist process in which artisans are absent.24 The ethnographic record in Mexican studies suggests that when output expansion is the goal in particular craft industries, productivity-enhancing processes inevitably lead to the recruitment of neophyte labor previously uninvolved in craft work. Two illustrative cases in the Valley of Oaxaca are the embroidery and the
is reinforcedby Guthke(1991, 243) who, in document24. This interpretation ing Traven's activityas a collectorof MexicanIndiancrafts,foundthat he "repeatedly sent [to his Germanpublishers]handmadeIndianart objects and articlesfrom the be replaced believed] would gradually dailylife of the Indians-objects that [Traven varietiesand that...would soon have'enormousvalue',...since the by mass-produced individuallycrafted items, made with 'patience and a sense of beauty', contained Traven'sinterest in MexicanIndian the'personality', the very'soul' of the artisan." crafts as art led him to write a manuscript(still unpublished)entitled "Artof the Indians"that incorporatestheoreticalspeculationsgenerallysupportiveof the idea of artisanal with massproduction(Guthke 1991, 269-72). of the incompatibility offers the following comments on my ErnstSchiirer(personalcommunication) view of artisanal production: "Mytheory is that B. Traven interpretationof Traven's in cooperation with his wife Rosa Elena clarified much of his original thinking between 1930 and 1952 alongthe lines of yourthesis.Butthe basicidea was outlined in the firstversion [i.e., 1930] in which Traven, however,stressedthe artisticquality of the work of the Indian against mass products made in Paris, Vienna, or Dresden....In [the 1930 Germanversion] the Indianalso gives as his reasons why he did not conclude the deal although he would have liked the money ('I could have bought the Jersey cow which I had in mind') that all the baskets would have been uniformand'I would not have liked that'. The story ends with the sentence: 'Anyhow,I have enough work and have no wish, whatsoever,to take on more'.

100

MexicanStudies/ EstudiosMexicanos

treadle loom weaving industries. In the case of embroidery, a sort of mushrooming spin-off process has occurred in which the industry leapfrogs from household to household and village to village under the sponsorship of merchant capital and a network of commission agents and outworkers. Embroidery units are replicated as nonembroiderers become embroiderers, embroiderers become commission agents, and commission agents become independent merchant engrossers. It is a competitive, market-driven cycle that seems to be capable of expanding up to the limits of the available labor supply. In treadle loom weaving, three processes occur: the establishment of new, independent weaver enterprises; the expansion of existing weaver enterprises by the exploitation of household and wage labor to develop multiloom workshops; and the intervention of intermediary capital to establish putting-out/buying-up systems in which outwork weavers are exploited through credit arrangements (Cook and Binford 1990, esp. chap. 4; Waterbury 1989). Many other examples of artisanal mass production could be given. Indeed, the Mexican artisanal brick industry located in the state of Tamaulipas along the banks of the Rio Bravo, which I am currently researching (see Cook in press), has managed since the 1960s to export billions of handmade bricks into the Texas construction market, in direct competition with the world's most highly mechanized, state-of-the-art brick factories located in Texas. The secret to this industry's capacity to produce for a rapidly expanding mass market lies in the "campero/campo" satellite brickfield system discussed earlier. ' There are, admittedly, branch-specific upper limits on the expandability of output in craft industries-ecological, technological, demographic, and economic in nature. What is true for treadle loom weaving is not necessarily true for embroidery or brickmaking, backstrap loom weaving, metate making, and so on (see Cook and Binford 1990). Nevertheless, it is the relative mass production capacity of artisanal industry to turn out relatively uniform products in sufficient quantities to meet market demand, and the ways in which they realize it, that is noteworthy from the standpoint of economic anthropology, in contrast to the estheticians' focus on the debasement of "authentic" crafts through the practice of artisanal mass production.25 Indeed, if artisans did not practice their version of mass production, then the entire Crafts in the World Market (Nash 1993) and
25. As I have pointed out elsewhere (Cook 1984b, 35-n18), Herman's (1956) argument that mass production, standardization, and assembly line organization are not only possible but characteristic of some branches of nonfactory industrial commodity production has unfortunately escaped the attention of many writers on craft production.

Cook: B. Traven

101

Ethnic and Tourist Arts (Graburn, ed., 1976) themes would most likely not exist, and craft scholars today would be debating more esoteric themes dealing entirely with high-priced, made-to-order, scarce, luxury crafts. In other words, the secret to the persistence, and especially to the growth, of craft production in the contemporary world market lies in the capacity of labor-intensive artisanal forms of production to flexibly adjust output to fluctuations in demand and, when necessary, to increase output geometrically through innovative labor organization and, perhaps, with appropriate technological improvisation. Despite the empirical support in the ethnographic record from contemporary Mexico for the decline in the quality of particular crafts for reasons of economic or market expediency (e.g., Stromberg 1976), it is by no means so overwhelming to warrant one-sided, alarmist, and elitist concerns about the proliferation of"ethno-kitsch" (Graburn 1976, 6). Indeed, there is sufficient contrary evidence of artistic creativity and improvement in product quality among capitalist-market-involved artisans to support the thesis that global market participation has been a boon to artisanalproduction in more than a narrow economic sense (e.g., the resuscitation of the use of vegetable and insect dyestuffs and the use of natural wool in the weavings of Teotitlan del Valle-Cook and Binford 1990, 89; cf. Stephen 1991, 131). Even in the case of the amate bark-painting industry of Xalitla, Guerrero, where Stromberg (1976, 162) points to a decline in artistic quality associated with competitive participation in a mass market, she concludes that "it is still possible to see...artistic forces at work." Furthermore, it should not be overlooked that this entire industry started only in 1959 as an innovative response to economic need and cash-earning possibilities generated by different branches of capitalism (Stromberg 1976, 149).26
26. Scholarslike Graburn(1976, 6 et passim) who accentuate the inevitable debasementof the artistic/aesthetic/cultural of so-calledtraditional qualityor integrity in the capitalistmarketseem to overlook the fact that crafts via "souvenirization" the commoditization of crafts long predates capitalism and also occurs under conditions of simple commodityproduction.Decisions by peasant-artisans and fulltime artisans,pittingeconomic considerations againstartisticor aestheticones, have been made about and affected craftslong before the emergence of a global touristand ethnic-segmented market.Incidentally, there is every reasonto believe that there was no community of shared meanings about craft commodities, either under precapitalist or underdeveloped capitalist market conditions, that crosscuts the dividing line between producers and consumers, makers and users, of craft commodities in a way that would negate the caveatemptor type of decision making implied above. Finally,the entire debasement argumentoverlooks the fluctuating and differentiatingnature and impact of capitalist intervention in commodity and cyclicality. In short,new marketniches economy,as well as its multidirectionality for high quality artistic artifacts are created along with those for varieties of souvenirs.

102

MexicanStudies/ EstudiosMexicanos

There is, undeniably, a human toll that may be exacted by craft commercialization, namely, the possible alienation of the artisan. For example, the typical artisans I (Cook 1982; Cook and Binford 1990) studied during my fieldwork in Oaxaca did not practice a particular craft out of some primordial or mystical love or attachment to it but simply because it was the least unrewarding alternative they had to make and earn a living. True, in many cases, their participation in a particular craft reflected how the cards were historically dealt to insert their village and family/household of orientation into the regional division of labor and specialization, thus, restricting their occupational choices. In any case, I found little evidence of craft loyalty unsupported by pecuniary reward. If a more remunerative job alternative became available tomorrow, many of the artisans I have studied in Oaxaca would probably be willing to give it a try. This applies equally to female embroiderers, weavers, and palm plaiters, as it does to male metate makers, weavers, wood carvers, and brickmakers. Of course, the older the artisan the less is the interest in changing jobs; and my impression is that artisans in households with high consumer/worker ratios are probably more open to change than others. Against Traven's romanticist positioning of the peasant-artisans' creative souls in a battle for survival against the juggernaut capitalist market, I would argue that, by the time he observed and wrote about them, most peasant-artisans had long since been preconditioned by participation in commodity production and market economy to willing, if calculated, collaboration with the capitalist project. It must be noted, nevertheless, that not all Mexican peasant-artisans today appear to display the degree of commercial participation, nor the lack of commitment to ethnified forms of cultural expression, as do those in Oaxaca (e.g., Nash 1993; Eber and Rosenbaum 1993; Carlsen 1993). Reading Traven on Ethnocultural and Ethnoclass Identity among Artisans and other Peasant-Indians One last issue that merits consideration regarding Traven's Oaxaca tale is the degree to which he viewed craft production and other types of petty commodity production as somehow representing specific ethnic identities. To rephrase this as a question: For Traven, did the practice of a craft or other "traditional"occupations necessarily involve, in addition to drawing upon and expressing a specific intergenerationally transmitted cultural repertory, the reinforcement or assertion of claims to a specific ethnic identity such as Zapotec, Mixtec, Nahuatl, Maya, and so on?

Cook:B. Traven

103

Interestingly enough, in his Oaxaca tale Traven does not raise the issue of ethnocultural identity beyond the level of Indian except by way of mentioning home village. He rarely,if at all, specifies Indian identity in terms of a particular non-Spanish language marker in any of his Tamaulipas period work. This contrasts with the practice in his writings about Chiapas of usually making such a specification early in the text (e.g., Traven 1969c, 7; 1969e, 7; 1969f, 10; 1994a, 1; 1994b, 1).27 In that sense, peasant-Indians in Oaxaca, and in other states (e.g., Veracruz) serving as settings in his Tamaulipas period writings, may have struck him as being more mestizoized or Mexicanized than the indigenous people of Chiapas and, consequently, less deserving of being assigned a more specific ethnic identity. There is also evidence from the Oaxaca tale that Traven was more concerned with ethnoclass identity and relations, that is, with problems of socioeconomic class structure, than he was with ethnocultural content and process per se. First we have his identification and depiction of the Oaxaca village Indian's situation as that of"just a plain peasant" (Traven 1993, 74), followed by a description of the social relations of exchange in the mestizo town marketplace on market day that illustrate the classic scenario of unequal exchange and patronizing, discriminatory treatment involving mestizo buyers and Indian sellers (ibid., 75-77). Traven's vivid description of the exploitative and discriminatory nature of ethnoclass relations in a provincial Mexican market town (probably Tlaxiaco as noted above), as illustrated through the peddling of baskets, anticipates later studies by economic anthropologists (e.g., Marroquin 1957, 202-05, 207-14; Malinowski and De la Fuente 1957, 117-18, 121; Stavenhagen 1975, esp. chap. 15). It is likely, then, that Traven's handling of ethnic identity was driven by his concentration on class relations. It is to his credit that he quickly perceived how in many regions of Mexico relations between capitalists and workers overlap and interpenetrate those between mestizos (or Ladinos or Mexicans) and peasant-Indiansthus transforming econoclass into ethnoclass. However, Traven's inconsistency regarding ethnocultural identity may also reflect the relative state of his knowledge about Mexican ethnology at the time he was writing a particular text (see Zogbaum 1992, esp. chaps. 3 and 4).
27. The opening sentence of March to the Monteria (Traven 1994b, 1) is illustrative: "The Chamula Indian, Celso Flores, of the Tsotsil nation, had a girl in Ishtacolcot, his native village." The language-marked method underlying Traven's attribution of ethnic identity is illustrated from a passage in The Carreta (Traven 1970, 135): "About a third of those present spoke only Spanish, a third Spanish and Indian, and of the remaining third perhaps half spoke Tseltal, the rest Tojolaval."

104

MexicanStudies/ EstudiosMexicanos

In the specific case of Oaxaca, at any rate, it is conceivable that Traven's Oaxaca basketmaking village was more mestizoized (e.g., more inclined to use Spanish) and, consequently, less ethnified visa-vis any specific language-marked nonmestizo identity (e.g., Mixtec, assuming the village was, indeed, in the Tlaxiaco district) in his day than were the Tzotsil/Tzeltal villages he knew in Chiapas-thus explaining the difference in the way he identified them. It is also surely the case that the ethnoclass struggle in the Oaxaca basketmaking village was more submerged and less violent than it was in the monterias of Chiapas. Whatever the reason for Traven'sdecision not to ethnify artisanal production in Oaxaca beyond a generic peasant-Indian ethnoclass identity, given his emphasis on the quasi-mystical bond between artisan and artifact, it is still reasonable to infer that he would agree with June Nash (1993, 19-20) that "by maintaining their craft the producers retain an important part of their identity" and "seek to preserve an autochthonous identity distinct from the commercialized identity." In my judgment, we can not go beyond this inference in characterizing Traven's thinking or practice regarding ethnocultural and ethnoclass identity among Mexican peasant-Indians. Conclusions: B. Traven's Legacy for Economic Anthropology in Mexican Studies From the perspective of economic anthropology in Mexican studies today, how does Traven's contribution to our understanding of artisanal production in capitalism measure up on the basis of an analysis of his Oaxaca tale and a selective survey of some of his other Tamaulipas period writings? In my judgment he certainly holds his own, especially considering that his contribution was made before World War II. I am hard pressed to identify any contribution to Mexican studies by an anthropologist from that period that contains anywhere near so many significant and researchable ideas about artisanal production, conceived as a peasant-Indian livelihood strategy, in capitalism. It is, in my opinion, Traven's implicit conceptualization of Mexican peasant-artisans as participants in a global commodity-producing, market-integratedeconomy in which capitalist businesses dominate petty businesses (including those of peasantartisans) that is his outstanding contribution. In retrospect, it is regrettable that Traven's conceptualization apparently had little or no impact in the social science branch of Mexican studies. The novelty of his approach becomes clearer if the best early contributions to economic anthropology in Mexican studies are examined. For example, in George Foster's study of Popolucan

Cook:B. Traven

105

peasant-artisans in Veracruz published in 1942, one finds a dualist conceptualization that inserts Mexican peasant-artisans in a "primitive" non-Western economy separate and distinct from what is referred to as "our own Western European economy" (Foster 1942, 2-3). In other anthropological studies completed in the 1940s or 1950s, one finds an indigenous regional economy conceived as separate and distinct from the national economy (e.g., Malinowski and De la Fuente 1957; Drucker-Brown 1982) or as precapitalist yet coexisting with an underdeveloped capitalist system (e.g., Marroquin 1957; cf. 1978, 41). In the 1960s and 1970s, a neoclassical approach emerged that had the merit of emphasizing a common logic of rational decision making which crosscuts all economic behavior without violating cultural specifics, but it still retained the residual notion of a separate "peasant economy" within the wider capitalist economy (e.g., Cancian 1972). Finally,during the 1970s and into the 1980s, an effort was made to address capitalist development in peasant-artisan regions. Whether or not the authors of these studies did (e.g., Cook and Diskin 1976, chaps. 1 and 12; Cook 1982, esp. chaps. 1 and 8) or did not (e.g., Greenberg 1981, chaps. 5 and 7) highlight the significance of petty (or simple) commodity production, they still clung to dualistic discourse by inserting the corporate peasant community into a pre- (or non-) capitalist mode of production articulated with the dominant capitalist mode. Only in the last decade or so has dualistic discourse been seriously challenged in the economic anthropological branch of Mexican studies. Presented as an alternative to the "peasant economyin-capitalist economy" concept is that of a single market-integrated commodity economy, comprised of multiple forms and scales of enterprises differentially located in the national economic space (e.g., Foladori 1981; Cook and Binford 1990, esp. chaps. 1 and 7). With regard to this fundamental conceptual problem, then, only recently is economic anthropology finally catching up with Traven. On the other hand, Traven's essentialist thesis linking artisan to artifact in a process of cultural transmission was not unique. In the context of Mexican studies, the same thesis was presented in the book Las artes populares en Mexico by Geraldo Murillo (Dr. Atl), first published in 1922 and by many other indigenistas during the 1920s and 1930s. The popularity of this thesis, of course, reflected the pursuit of a key strategy in the postrevolutionary nation-state project to build hegemony for the mestizo bourgeoisie. Flora Kaplan (e.g., 1993, 120) and Lynn Stephen (e.g., 1991; 1993), along with several others (e.g., Novelo 1976; Martinez Pefialoza 1978), have elaborated upon this political ethnification of Mexican crafts. Traven, as I have pointed out, did not address these issues but, rather, was

106

Mexican Studies / Estudios Mexicanos

more concerned with the moral economics of a global struggle between two different approaches to livelihood through commodity production.28 As previously noted, Traven showed considerable insight into ethnoclass relations in rural Mexico and gave us a description of the dynamics of asymmetrically discriminatory and exploitative peasantIndian/mestizo relations in market towns that anticipates later contributions in economic anthropology. At the same time, he presented the peasant-Indian artisan as also involved in the tourist market (Winthrop made his purchase of baskets as a tourist) and, potentially (through Winthrop's failed deal), in a global massmerchandising market for craft commodities, once again in anticipation of a direction economic anthropology would subsequently take (e.g., Nash 1993). Despite my criticism of his emphasis on the idea that mass production is incompatible with artisanal production, Traven deserves credit for exposing the role that ethnocentrism plays in
28. Traven'scircle of friends and associates.inMexico City included Frances D. A. Siqueiros, andAlbertoBeltrin Weston,TinaModotti,DiegoRivera, Toor,Edward with whom he undoubtedlyhad many substantivediscussions regardingartistic, cultural,and political themes. He also enrolled in severalMexicanstudies courses at the NationalUniversitythat would have covered the indigenistamovementfrom manyperspectives (Guthke 1991, 187-89). Zogbaum(1992, 76-81), largelyon her of introducing Land des Frihltngs, accuses Traven readingof his Chiapastravelogue "a racial element Into the indigenistadebate that was not part of the Mexican discussions"but admits that shortlyfollowing its publicationin 1928 he "became and saw that althoughmestizaje for him promised awareof his misunderstandings the beginning of a great future for an IndianMexico, for the federal government it signifiedthe completion of the Spanishconquest afterfour centuriesof tenacious Indianresistanceto Mexicanization" (p. 81). Withthe possible exception of its most sophisticatedanthropological practitioners influenced by Gamio(see AguirreBeltrin 1970, 131-32), Zogbaumis wrong that Mexicanindigenistadiscoursewas innocent of a conflationof race and culture or racialism(e.g., Knight 1990; Cook and Joo forthcoming).On the contrary,as Americo Paredes's (1993, 45-46) devastatingcritique of Octavio Paz's thought reminds us, the conflationof culture and biology continues to plague intellectual discourse about Mexicanidentity.Moreover, Zogbaum's(1992, 210-11; cf. p. xx) with the indigenistaproject (attributable to argumentthat Traven'sdisillusionment caused him to conclude his wrong perceptions of Indiancustoms and organization) was no longerworth writingabout"(1992, by the end of WorldWarII that"Mexico 210-11; cf. p. xx) and, therefore,ended his careeras a serious writer is unrealistic, unfair,and unconvincing.It is more likely that, as a man in his sixties, Travenin the last two decades of his long and eventful life had more than enough to keep his him occupied intellectuallybetween movie projectsand revisingand translating previous writings.It is also clear that duringthe 1950s, and until his death in 1969 at the age of eighty-seven, Traven alteredhis life style to enjoy the benefits deservedly of his fame and the companyof his attractive youngerwife and her daughtersfrom a previous marriage.

Cook: B. Traven

107

economic relations between representatives of developed and underdeveloped economies. Mr. E. L. Winthrop from the pages of his Oaxaca tale, along with Mr.C. C. Collins from the pages of The White Rose, should occupy permanent places in the literary museum of unsavory capitalists and "ugly Americans." Traven also presented an ethnographically grounded explanation of why peasant-artisansimple commodity producers and capitalist entrepreneurs often cannot do business together. There are, indeed, many such cases, and he recognized the importance of the problem and provided an explanation for it, long before any economic anthropologist did. By way of conclusion, I propose that the most convincing proof of B. Traven's status as a very special storyteller is this exegesis by an economic anthropologist about a Mexican ladrillero's explanation of why Traven's Oaxaca tale helps to understand artisanalproduction in petty capitalism on the banks of the Rio Bravo in the 1990s. My guess is that Traven would relish the irony of the serendipitous and unconventional way in which this project to "read" him as an economic anthropologist in Mexican studies was initiated, and it is my sincere hope that he would not be overly displeased by its results. References Cited
Aguirre Beltran, Gonzalo. 1970. "Los simbolos etnicos de la identidad nacional." Anuario indigenista 30 (diciembre):101-40. Bauer, Peter T., and Basil S. Yamey. 1957. The Economics of Underdeveloped Countries. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Baumann, Friederike. 1987. "B. Traven's Land des Friulings and the Caoba Cycle as a Source for the Study of Agrarian Society." In Schiirer and Jenkins, B. Traven, 245-59. Baumann, Michael L. 1976. B. Traven: An Introduction. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Beals, Ralph L. 1975. The Peasant Marketing System of Oaxaca, Mexico. Berkeley: University of California Press. Becerril Straffon, Rodolfo, and Adalberto Rios Szalay,eds. 1981. Los artesanos nos dijeron... Mexico City: Fondo Nacional para Actividades/Fondo Nacional para el Fomento de las Artesanias. Carlsen, Robert S. 1993. "Discontinuous Warps: Textile Production and Ethnicity in Contemporary Highland Guatemala."In Nash, Crafts in the WorldMarket, 199-224. Cancian, Frank. 1972. Change and Uncertainty in a Peasant Economy. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Chayanov, A. V 1966. The Theory of Peasant Economy. Homewood, Ill.: Irwin. Chevalier, Jacques. 1983. "There is Nothing Simple about Simple Commodity Production" Journal of Peasant Studies 10, no. 4:153-86.

108

Mexican Studies / Estudios Mexicanos

Cook, Scott. 1974. "Economic Anthropology: Problems in Theory, Method, and Analysis."In Handbook of Social and Cultural Anthropology, edited byJohnJ. Honigmann, 795-850. Chicago: Rand McNally. . 1976. "Value, Price and Simple Commodity Production: The Case of the Zapotec Stoneworkers." Journal of Peasant Studies 3, no. 4:395-427. . 1981. "Crafts,Capitalist Development, and CulturalProperty in Oaxaca, Mexico." Inter-American Economic Affairs 35, no. 3:53-68. ? 1982. Zapotec Stoneworkers: The Dynamics of Rural Simple Commodity Production in Modern Mexican Capitalism. Ianham, Md.: University Press of America. ._ 1984a. Peasant Capitalist Industry: Piecework and Enterprise in Southern Mexican Brickyards. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America. ? 1984b. "Peasant Economy, Rural Industry and Capitalist Development in the Oaxaca Valley, Mexico." Journal of Peasant Studies 12, no. 1:3-40. . 1994. "Labor Discourse in the Artisanal Brick Industry along the Mexico/Texas Border: The Issue of So-Called 'Cheap' Labor."Paper presented at the Seventeenth International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association, 10 March, Atlanta, Georgia. _. In press. "Bricks and Capitalism in the Lower Rio Grande Corridor: Issues in Theory and Analysis from Ongoing Research." In Economic Analysis Beyond the Local System, edited by Peter N. Peregrine. Society for Economic Anthropology Monograph Series. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America. Cook, Scott, and Leigh Binford. 1990. Obliging Need: Rural Petty Industry in Mexican Capitalism. Austin: University of Texas Press. Cook, Scott, and Martin Diskin, eds. 1976. Markets in Oaxaca. Austin: University of Texas Press. Cook, Scott, and Jong-Taick Joo. Forthcoming. "Ethnicity and Economy in Rural Mexico: A Critique of the Indigenista Approach through the Oaxaca Valley Case."Latin American Research Review 30, no. 2 (Spring 1995). Drucker-Brown, Susan, ed. 1982. Malinowski in Mexico: The Economics of a Mexican Market System. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Eber, Christine, and Brenda Rosenbaum. 1993. "'Thatwe may serve beneath your hands and feet': Women Weavers in Highland Chiapas, Mexico." In Nash, Crafts in the WorldMarket, 155-80. Foladori, Guillermo. 1981. Polemica en torno a las teorias del campesinado. Mexico City: Escuela Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia (INAH). Foster, George. [1942] 1966. A Primitive Mexican Economy. Reprint of American Ethnological Society Monograph no. 5. Seattle: University of Washington Press. Godelier, Maurice. 1972. Rationality and Irrationality in Economics. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Cook: B. Traven

109

Graburn, Nelson H. H. 1976. "Introduction: Arts of the Fourth World'" In Graburn, Ethnic and Tourist Arts, 1-32. Grabur, Nelson H. H., ed. 1976. Ethnic and Tourist Arts: Cultural Expressions from the Fourth World. Berkeley: University of California Press. Graham, Richard, ed. 1990. The Idea of Race in Latin America 1870-1940. Austin: University of Texas Press. Greenberg, James B. 1981. Santiago's Sword: Chatino Peasant Religion and Economics. Berkeley: University of California Press. Guthke, Karl S. 1991. B. Traven: The Life behind the Legends. Brooklyn: Lawrence Hill Books. Herman, Theodore. 1956. "The Role of Cottage and Smal-Scale Industries in Asian Economic Development." Economic Development and Cultural Change 4 (July):356-70. Higgins, Benjamin. 1959. Economic Development: Problems, Principles, and Policies. New York:W. W. Norton. Kaplan, Flora S. 1993. "Mexican Museums in the Creation of a National Image in World Tourism." In Nash, Crafts in the WorldMarket, 103-26. Klein, Mina C., and H. Arthur Klein. 1991. "Introduction to In the Freest State in the World."In Lujan, Klein, and Klein, B. Traven, 155-67. Knight, Alan. 1990. "Racism, Revolution, and Indigenismo: Mexico, 1910-1940.' In Graham, The Idea of Race, 71-113. Little, Daniel. 1986. The Scientific Marx. Minneapolis:University of Minnesota Press. .1993. "Evidence and Objectivity in the Social Sciences."Social Research 60, no. 2 (Summer):363-96. Lujan, Rosa Elena, M. C. Klein, and H. A. Klein, eds. 1991. B. Traven, the Kidnapped Saint and Other Stories. 2d ed. Brooklyn: Lawrence Hill Books. Malinowski, Bronislaw, and Julio de la Fuente. 1957. "La economia de un sistema de mercados en Mexico." Acta Anthropol6gica, epoca 2, vol. 1, no. 2. Mexico City: Escuela Nacional de Antropologia e Historia. Marin de Paalen, Isabel. 1974. Historia general del arte mexicano: Etnoartesantasy arte popular. Mexico City: Editorial Hermes, S.A. Marroquin, Alejandro. 1957. La ciudad mercado (Tiaxiaco). Mexico City: Imprenta Universitaria. . 1978. La ciudad mercado (TIaxiaco). Mexico City: Instituto Nacional Indigenista (INI). Martinez Peiialoza, Porfirio. 1978. Arte popular y artesanias artisticas en Mexico: Un acercamiento. Mexico City:Jus. Marut Ret/B. Traven. 1981. To the Honorable Miss S...and Other Stories. Westport, Conn.: Lawrence Hill & Co. and Sanday, Orkney: Cienfuegos Press. 1991. "In the Freest State in the World."In Lujan, Klein, and Klein, B. Traven, 169-87. Marx, Karl. 1977. "Resultsof the Immediate Process of Production."Appendix to Marx, Capital, 1:943-1084. New York: Random House.

110

Mexican Studies / Estudios Mexicanos

Murillo, Gerardo (Dr. Atl). [1922] 1980. Las artes populares en Mexico. Reprint. Mexico City: INI. Nash, June, ed. 1993. Crafts in the World Market: The Impact of Global Exchange on Middle American Artisans. Albany: SUNY Press. Novelo, Victoria. 1976. Artesanfas y capitalismo en Mexico. Tlalpan, D.E: Centro de Investigaciones Superiores, INAH. Paredes, Americo. 1993. Folklore and Culture on the Texas-Mexican Border. Austin: CMASBooks, Center for Mexican-American Studies, University of Texas at Austin. Plattner, Stuart. 1989. "Introduction."In Economic Anthropology, edited by Stuart Plattner, 1-20. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Raskin, Jonah. 1980. My Search for B. Traven. New York: Methuen. Roseberry, William. 1989. Anthropologies and Histories: Essays in Culture, History, and Political Economy. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. Sancipriain, Nancy. 1991. B. Traven en Mexico. Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes. Schneider, Jane, and Annette Weiner, eds. 1989. Cloth and Human Experience. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press. Schfirer, Ernst, and Philip Jenkins, eds. 1987. B. Traven: Life and Work. University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press. Scott, James C. 1976. The Moral Economy of the Peasant. New Haven: Yale University Press. Stavenhagen, Rodolfo. 1975. Social Classes in Agrarian Societies. Garden City, N.Y: Anchor Books. Stephen, Lynn. 1991. Zapotec Women. Austin: University of Texas Press. . 1993. "Weaving in the Fast Lane: Class, Ethnicity, and Gender in Zapotec Craft Commercialization" In Nash, Crafts in the WorldMarket, 25-58. Stone, Judy. 1977. The Mystery of B. Traven. Los Altos, Calif.: William Kaufmann, Inc. Stromberg, Gobi. 1976. "The Amate Bark-Paper Painting of Xalitla." In Graburn, Ethnic and Tourist Arts, 149-62. Tax, Sol. 1953. Penny Capitalism. Smithsonian Institution, Institute of Social Anthropology Publication no. 16. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. Traven, B. 1930. Der Busch. Berlin: Biichergilde Gutenberg. . 1956. Canasta de cuentos mexicanos. Translated from the English by R. E. Lujan. Mexico City: Cia. General de Ediciones, S.A. . 1966. The Night Visitor and Other Stories. Introduction by Charles Miller. New York: Hill and Wang. . 1969a. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. New York: The Modern Library. 1969b. The Cotton-Pickers. New York:Hill and Wang. . 1969c. La rebeli6n de los colgados. 7th ed. Mexico City: Cia. General de Ediciones, S.A. ? 1969d. La rosa blanca. 6th ed. Mexico City: Cia. General de Ediciones, S.A.

Cook: B. Traven
_

111

. 1969e. La carreta. 6th ed. Mexico City: Cia. General de Ediciones, S.A. ? 1969f. Gobierno. 4th ed. Mexico City: Cia. General de Ediciones, S.A. . 1970. The Carreta. New York: Hill and Wang. . 1979. The White Rose. Translator's note by Donald J. Davidson. Westport, Conn.: Lawrence Hill and Co. ._ 1993. The Night Visitor and Other Stories. Chicago: Elephant Paperbacks, Ivan R. Dee, Publisher. . 1994a. Trozas. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee. . 1994b. March to the Monteria. Chicago: Elephant Paperbacks, Ivan R. Dee, Publisher. Waterbury, Ronald. 1989. "Embroideryfor Tourists."In Schneider and Weiner, Cloth and Human Experience, 243-71. Weber, Max. 1947. The Theory of Social and Economic Organization. Translated by A. M. Henderson and Talcott Parsons. Edited with an introduction by Talcott Parsons. Glencoe, Ill.: The Free Press. Wilson, Godfrey, and Monica Wilson. 1945. The Analysis of Social Change Based on Observations in Central Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Wyatt, Will. 1980. The Secret of the Sierra Madre: The Man Who Was B. Traven. New York: Doubleday. . 1981. "Introduction" to Marut/Traven, To the Honorable Miss S, viixvi. Zogbaum, Heidi. 1992. B. Traven:A Vision of Mexico. Wilmington, Del.: SR Books.

Оценить