Agave Cultivation in the Arid Pre-Hispanic, Villanueva Municipality, state of Zacatecas, northern Mexico

Resource System
Terrestrial land and associated watershed
Resource Units

Agave is a perennial plant that can be used for multiple purposes: as edible materials for yielding caloric values and as fiber materials for producing items like clothing, ropes, and baskets. Historical records indicate that the cultivation of agave was a common practice in pre-Hispanic Northern Mexico and the American Southwest. It is generally accepted among archeologists that the agave cultivation was linked to the strategy of ensuring food supply when maize cropping failed from droughts. That is, the cultivation of agave was an 'insurance' measure, the strategy that complemented for maize in times of maize production failures. Scholars hypothesize that this complementary effect was what enabled the pre-Hispanic settlers to withstand frequent droughts and maintain their inhabitance in the arid region for long periods.