Journal article Open Access

Lacustrine culture and artisanal fishing in Lake Chapala, Mexico: food, income, and commercialization (in Spanish)

Sandoval Moreno, Adriana

This publication belongs to the WATERLAT-GOBACIT Network Working Papers Series Volume 6, No 1, “Artisanal fishing and cultural heritage: territorial conflicts, resistances, and social transformation in Colombia, Mexico and Spain” (in Spanish). (


The work aims to highlight the constituent elements of lacustrine culture as a living culture in artisanal fishing and in families and communities of Lake Chapala, in the State of Michoacán, Mexico. The article addresses: (1) the persistence and resistances of the lacustrine culture in fishing communities and in their relationship with the lake as a place of residence and source of food; (2) alternative income sources in fishermen’s families; and 3) commercialization channels: between dependence and autonomy. The methodology was based on semi-structured in-depth interviews, field observations and two gatherings with the communities. The findings suggest that fishermen’s families daily re-signify their ways of life in close relation to the lake and to natural goods, the lake being an integrative whole of their daily life as it is their common living space, where they recreate and celebrate, their source of food and income, and their working place.






This issue is part of the activities of the WATERLAT-GOBACIT Network’s Thematic Area 6 (TA6), Hydrosocial Basins, Territories, and Spaces ( TA6 carries out studies on the configuration of the hydrosocial space looking at different aspects and their transformations over time. These variables include, for example, political institutions, water infrastructure and technology, changes in the forms of ownership of land and water, beliefs and behaviours around the use of surface and underground waters, water commodification, and the pollution, care, and conservation of the water cycle. To understand this complexity we focus on exploring the historical transformations that have an impact on hydrosocial spaces. This includes changes in traditional productive activities, the difficulties they face to compete with the emergence of new activities driven by social groups with rival interests, changes in economic models and their subsystems, the changing flux inputs and products, the development of new water infrastructures, changes in the use of water and land, and transformations in the production of knowledge about these processes.


This issue addresses artisanal fishing as an ancestral cultural heritage that has become a territory of conflict and rapid social transformation. Artisanal fishing is one of the oldest trades in the world, a small-scale activity involving families and local communities, and developed in intimate interaction with marine or freshwater bodies. Artisanal fishermen and women depend on the activity for their family sustenance, both as a source of income to acquire necessary goods, but also because fish are a nutritious source of food that they can secure at a low cost. Artisanal fishing is also significant as an ancestral heritage that constitutes a way of life centered around the relationship between humans, water, and nature more generally, expressed in a range of maritime, riverine, lacustrine and other forms of hydrosocial identities.


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