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      EXPLORING COMMODITIES : An Anthropologist on the Trails of Malinowski and Traven in Mexico 

      Malinowski and Metates in Four Oaxaca Communities, 1965–1974

      Peter Lang

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          My romance with metates began with my reading of Malinowki’s Oaxaca market system study, first published in 1957, where in two paragraphs he identified the “grinding-stone or metate” as “the principal pre-Columbian article which appears in the modern market” and noted a “seasonal variation in sales connected with the custom that at every marriage a metate painted and decorated in gaudy colors has to be presented ritually to the bride.” He also described how “When buying a metate on behalf of the donor, the woman – for grinding is women’s work – would examine the surface, assess the size, and carefully look for any defects…”, and that “A handful of maize is usually supplied by the vendor, so as to make a trial assessment possible. ” Finally he observed regarding bridal metates, that the “godfather of the bride, who is the usual donor, will dance ritually at a certain stage of the marriage ceremony with the metate held on his back” – a ritual actually observed by Malinowski himself at a marriage ceremony in the village of Abasolo (Malinowski and de la Fuente 1982:169–170). Information was also given about metate price determination through haggling, and how the size and decorative quality of metates influenced their pricing.

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