Ethnobotany of Mexican and northern Central American cycads (Zamiaceae)

Mark Andrew Bonta, María Teresa Pulido-Silva, Teresa Diego-Vargas, Aurelia Vite-Reyes, Andrew P. Vovides, Angélica Cibrián-Jaramillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Background: This study documents cycad-human relationships in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras over the last 6000 years. The impetus was acute need for a better understanding of previously undocumented uses of cycads in this region, and the need to improve cycad conservation strategies using ethnobotanical data. We hypothesized that cycads are significant dietary items with no long-term neurological effects, are important to religious practice, and contribute to cultural identity and sense of place, but that traditional knowledge and uses are rapidly eroding. Guiding questions focused on nomenclature, food and toxicity, relationships to palms and maize, land management issues, roles in religious ceremony, and medicinal uses, among others, and contributions of these to preservation of cycads. Methods: From 2000 to 2017, the authors conducted 411 semi-structured ethnographic interviews, engaged in participant-observation in Mexican and Honduran communities, and carried out archival research and literature surveys. Results: We documented 235 terms and associated uses that 28 ethnic groups have for 57 species in 19 languages across 21 Mexican states and 4 Central American nations. Carbohydrate-rich cycads have been both famine foods and staples for at least six millennia across the region and are still consumed in Mexico and Honduras. Certain parts are eaten without removing toxins, while seed and stem starches are detoxified via several complex processes. Leaves are incorporated into syncretic Roman Catholic-Mesoamerican religious ceremonies such as pilgrimages, Easter Week, and Day of the Dead. Cycads are often perceived as ancestors and protectors of maize, revealing a close relationship between both groups. Certain beliefs and practices give cycads prominent roles in conceptions of sense of place and cultural heritage. Conclusions: Cycads are still used as foods in many places. Though they do not appear to cause long-term neurological damage, their health effects are not fully understood. They are often important to religion and contribute to cultural identity and sense of place. However, because most traditional knowledge and uses are rapidly eroding, new community-based biocultural conservation efforts are needed. These should incorporate tradition where possible and seek inspiration from existing successful cases in Honduras and Mexico.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4
JournalJournal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine
Volume15
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 18 2019

Fingerprint

Zamiaceae
Ethnobotany
Honduras
ethnobotany
Cycadopsida
Mexico
food
cultural identity
Food
Zea mays
Belize
conservation
El Salvador
Guatemala
pilgrimage
Religion
Starvation
cultural heritage
participant observation
Ethnic Groups

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Cultural Studies
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Complementary and alternative medicine

Cite this

Bonta, M. A., Pulido-Silva, M. T., Diego-Vargas, T., Vite-Reyes, A., Vovides, A. P., & Cibrián-Jaramillo, A. (2019). Ethnobotany of Mexican and northern Central American cycads (Zamiaceae). Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, 15(1), [4]. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13002-018-0282-z
Bonta, Mark Andrew ; Pulido-Silva, María Teresa ; Diego-Vargas, Teresa ; Vite-Reyes, Aurelia ; Vovides, Andrew P. ; Cibrián-Jaramillo, Angélica. / Ethnobotany of Mexican and northern Central American cycads (Zamiaceae). In: Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine. 2019 ; Vol. 15, No. 1.
@article{c5505f775e544807a2e9c235f45efc92,
title = "Ethnobotany of Mexican and northern Central American cycads (Zamiaceae)",
abstract = "Background: This study documents cycad-human relationships in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras over the last 6000 years. The impetus was acute need for a better understanding of previously undocumented uses of cycads in this region, and the need to improve cycad conservation strategies using ethnobotanical data. We hypothesized that cycads are significant dietary items with no long-term neurological effects, are important to religious practice, and contribute to cultural identity and sense of place, but that traditional knowledge and uses are rapidly eroding. Guiding questions focused on nomenclature, food and toxicity, relationships to palms and maize, land management issues, roles in religious ceremony, and medicinal uses, among others, and contributions of these to preservation of cycads. Methods: From 2000 to 2017, the authors conducted 411 semi-structured ethnographic interviews, engaged in participant-observation in Mexican and Honduran communities, and carried out archival research and literature surveys. Results: We documented 235 terms and associated uses that 28 ethnic groups have for 57 species in 19 languages across 21 Mexican states and 4 Central American nations. Carbohydrate-rich cycads have been both famine foods and staples for at least six millennia across the region and are still consumed in Mexico and Honduras. Certain parts are eaten without removing toxins, while seed and stem starches are detoxified via several complex processes. Leaves are incorporated into syncretic Roman Catholic-Mesoamerican religious ceremonies such as pilgrimages, Easter Week, and Day of the Dead. Cycads are often perceived as ancestors and protectors of maize, revealing a close relationship between both groups. Certain beliefs and practices give cycads prominent roles in conceptions of sense of place and cultural heritage. Conclusions: Cycads are still used as foods in many places. Though they do not appear to cause long-term neurological damage, their health effects are not fully understood. They are often important to religion and contribute to cultural identity and sense of place. However, because most traditional knowledge and uses are rapidly eroding, new community-based biocultural conservation efforts are needed. These should incorporate tradition where possible and seek inspiration from existing successful cases in Honduras and Mexico.",
author = "Bonta, {Mark Andrew} and Pulido-Silva, {Mar{\'i}a Teresa} and Teresa Diego-Vargas and Aurelia Vite-Reyes and Vovides, {Andrew P.} and Ang{\'e}lica Cibri{\'a}n-Jaramillo",
year = "2019",
month = "1",
day = "18",
doi = "10.1186/s13002-018-0282-z",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "15",
journal = "Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine",
issn = "1746-4269",
publisher = "BioMed Central",
number = "1",

}

Bonta, MA, Pulido-Silva, MT, Diego-Vargas, T, Vite-Reyes, A, Vovides, AP & Cibrián-Jaramillo, A 2019, 'Ethnobotany of Mexican and northern Central American cycads (Zamiaceae)', Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, vol. 15, no. 1, 4. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13002-018-0282-z

Ethnobotany of Mexican and northern Central American cycads (Zamiaceae). / Bonta, Mark Andrew; Pulido-Silva, María Teresa; Diego-Vargas, Teresa; Vite-Reyes, Aurelia; Vovides, Andrew P.; Cibrián-Jaramillo, Angélica.

In: Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, Vol. 15, No. 1, 4, 18.01.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

TY - JOUR

T1 - Ethnobotany of Mexican and northern Central American cycads (Zamiaceae)

AU - Bonta, Mark Andrew

AU - Pulido-Silva, María Teresa

AU - Diego-Vargas, Teresa

AU - Vite-Reyes, Aurelia

AU - Vovides, Andrew P.

AU - Cibrián-Jaramillo, Angélica

PY - 2019/1/18

Y1 - 2019/1/18

N2 - Background: This study documents cycad-human relationships in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras over the last 6000 years. The impetus was acute need for a better understanding of previously undocumented uses of cycads in this region, and the need to improve cycad conservation strategies using ethnobotanical data. We hypothesized that cycads are significant dietary items with no long-term neurological effects, are important to religious practice, and contribute to cultural identity and sense of place, but that traditional knowledge and uses are rapidly eroding. Guiding questions focused on nomenclature, food and toxicity, relationships to palms and maize, land management issues, roles in religious ceremony, and medicinal uses, among others, and contributions of these to preservation of cycads. Methods: From 2000 to 2017, the authors conducted 411 semi-structured ethnographic interviews, engaged in participant-observation in Mexican and Honduran communities, and carried out archival research and literature surveys. Results: We documented 235 terms and associated uses that 28 ethnic groups have for 57 species in 19 languages across 21 Mexican states and 4 Central American nations. Carbohydrate-rich cycads have been both famine foods and staples for at least six millennia across the region and are still consumed in Mexico and Honduras. Certain parts are eaten without removing toxins, while seed and stem starches are detoxified via several complex processes. Leaves are incorporated into syncretic Roman Catholic-Mesoamerican religious ceremonies such as pilgrimages, Easter Week, and Day of the Dead. Cycads are often perceived as ancestors and protectors of maize, revealing a close relationship between both groups. Certain beliefs and practices give cycads prominent roles in conceptions of sense of place and cultural heritage. Conclusions: Cycads are still used as foods in many places. Though they do not appear to cause long-term neurological damage, their health effects are not fully understood. They are often important to religion and contribute to cultural identity and sense of place. However, because most traditional knowledge and uses are rapidly eroding, new community-based biocultural conservation efforts are needed. These should incorporate tradition where possible and seek inspiration from existing successful cases in Honduras and Mexico.

AB - Background: This study documents cycad-human relationships in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras over the last 6000 years. The impetus was acute need for a better understanding of previously undocumented uses of cycads in this region, and the need to improve cycad conservation strategies using ethnobotanical data. We hypothesized that cycads are significant dietary items with no long-term neurological effects, are important to religious practice, and contribute to cultural identity and sense of place, but that traditional knowledge and uses are rapidly eroding. Guiding questions focused on nomenclature, food and toxicity, relationships to palms and maize, land management issues, roles in religious ceremony, and medicinal uses, among others, and contributions of these to preservation of cycads. Methods: From 2000 to 2017, the authors conducted 411 semi-structured ethnographic interviews, engaged in participant-observation in Mexican and Honduran communities, and carried out archival research and literature surveys. Results: We documented 235 terms and associated uses that 28 ethnic groups have for 57 species in 19 languages across 21 Mexican states and 4 Central American nations. Carbohydrate-rich cycads have been both famine foods and staples for at least six millennia across the region and are still consumed in Mexico and Honduras. Certain parts are eaten without removing toxins, while seed and stem starches are detoxified via several complex processes. Leaves are incorporated into syncretic Roman Catholic-Mesoamerican religious ceremonies such as pilgrimages, Easter Week, and Day of the Dead. Cycads are often perceived as ancestors and protectors of maize, revealing a close relationship between both groups. Certain beliefs and practices give cycads prominent roles in conceptions of sense of place and cultural heritage. Conclusions: Cycads are still used as foods in many places. Though they do not appear to cause long-term neurological damage, their health effects are not fully understood. They are often important to religion and contribute to cultural identity and sense of place. However, because most traditional knowledge and uses are rapidly eroding, new community-based biocultural conservation efforts are needed. These should incorporate tradition where possible and seek inspiration from existing successful cases in Honduras and Mexico.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85060132084&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=85060132084&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1186/s13002-018-0282-z

DO - 10.1186/s13002-018-0282-z

M3 - Article

VL - 15

JO - Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine

JF - Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine

SN - 1746-4269

IS - 1

M1 - 4

ER -

Bonta MA, Pulido-Silva MT, Diego-Vargas T, Vite-Reyes A, Vovides AP, Cibrián-Jaramillo A. Ethnobotany of Mexican and northern Central American cycads (Zamiaceae). Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine. 2019 Jan 18;15(1). 4. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13002-018-0282-z