The Habitat of Ranchera Culture in the Michoacán-Jalisco (JalMich) Sierra, Mexico: The Potential for Exploiting Biocultural Tourism

Rogelia Torres Villa, Esteban Barragán López

Abstract


The Sierra JalMich is a region straddling the border between the states of Michoacán and Jalisco in western Mexico. A mountainous area marked by rolling hills and valleys, it offers visitors marvelous views and landscapes. Lower elevations are covered in deciduous forests, while cool, mostly-pine, woodlands predominate in the higher reaches. A wide variety of fauna still populates this natural habitat, much of it pristine. Over the past four centuries an authentic ranchera culture has developed in this geographic area based on a land tenure system of private smallholders cultivating relatively small fields and a production dynamic that revolves around dual-purpose cattle-ranching –i.e., meat and dairy production– on extensive pasturelands that are rotated annually in association with seasonal deforestation of areas to permit rainfed maize cultivation employing the pre-Hispanic ‘slash-and-burn’ technique. During the rainy season (Julio-Octubre), much of the milk produced is used to make a cheese known as Queso Cotija Región de Origen (Cotija Cheese, Region of Origin), the first artisanal product in Mexico to receive the “Collective Brand” (Marca Colectiva) awarded by the Instituto Mexicano de la Propiedad Industrial (Mexican Institute of Industrial Property, 2005). The rancheros of this mountainous zone have been –and still are– the guardians not only of authentic Queso Cotija, but also of an imposing and admirable biocultural heritage, one worthy of study, promotion and recognition, and that merits institutional support. For these reasons, a territorial study focused on tourism is underway that will lead to the creation of a Biocultural Tourism Route called “Cotija Cheese in its Region of Origin” (Queso Cotija en su Región de Origen). 


Keywords


Sierra, culture, rancheros, biocultural tourism, route, Cotija Cheese

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