During the decades of 1960–1980, Richard S. Felger and Mary B. Moser researched the botanical knowledge of the Seris (Comcaac), a hunter-gatherer and fishing people living in the arid desert of northwestern Mexico. They recorded and published an extensive body of species-specific data so rich in biological and ethnographic detail that it is possible to reconstruct a quickly eroding, annual dietary cycle; such a comprehensive account is a precious resource to study transitions in the community diet. In this article, we focus on Seri sweets and sweeteners, represented by 16 fruits, four agave species, one perennial halophyte, pollen paste (beebread), and honey. We rely on archival research to explore various data sources, situating ethnobiological questions in a socio-historical context to provide information on the spatial distribution of resources and the community's livelihood, which can be correlated with specific political zeitgeist. We examine how the swift integration of the Seri society into the state-mediated market in the early-mid twentieth century introduced greater use of exogenous sweeteners and displaced local food items, resulting in culinary acculturation that affected the community's health and well-being. Through understanding the process, we aim to present local foods in ways that are comprehensible to younger Seris in order to foster efforts toward food sovereignty in their community.
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Vol. 40 • No. 3