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2 Milpa Mesoamerican Resistance to Agricultural Imperialism Analisa Taylor When the corn kernel sprouts, I feel that we prolong our days upon the earth. It is our heart that germinates and grows, it is the pozol, the tortilla, the world, life itself. Juan Gregorio Regino Primary Materials ● Food Chains, directed by Sanjay Rawal (film, 2014) ● Mesoamérica Resiste (Mesoamerica Resists) by the Beehive Design Collective (poster, 2014) ● México Profundo: Reclaiming a Civilization by Guillermo Bonfil Batalla (book, 2007) ● Migrar o morir/Paying the Price: Migrant Workers in the Toxic Fields of Sinaloa, directed by Alexandra Halkin (film, 2008) ● Our Sacred Maíz Is Our Mother: Indigeneity and Belonging in the Americas by Roberto Cintli Rodríguez (book, 2014) ● “Fin de fiesta: El espectro del hambre recorre el mundo”(End of the Party:The Specter of Hunger Roams the Earth) by Armando Bartra (article, 2008) ● Sin maíz no hay país: Las semillas de la dignidad (Without Corn There Is No Coun­ try: The Seeds of Dignity), directed by Jonathan Cadiot and Arthur Rifflet (film,2008) ● Sin maíz no hay país (Without Corn There Is No Country), edited by Gustavo Esteva and Catherine Marielle (print, 2007) Milpa 47 T o make milpa is to engage in an ancient yet dynamic agricultural practice central to the development of the diverse indigenous cultures of Mexico and of the greater Mesoamerican diaspora. The milpa is a cornfield, intercropped with beans, squash, and a wide variety of other useful plants. Most of corn’s biological diversity is still located in the heart of Mesoamerica , in the milpa. Yet today roughly one-third of the corn consumed in Mexico is imported from the United States; this imported corn is a relatively new creature in agricultural history, uniformly ultrahybridized, uniformly yellow, and much of it genetically modified (GM). The 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the introduction of GM corn since the early 2000s have allowed a few agribusiness giants to hoard crops in order to manipulate prices and monopolize the Mexican corn market. As of 2009, Archer Daniels Midland–Grupo Maseca (Gruma) had gained control of roughly 73 percent of Mexico’s corn flour market, while Minsa and Cargill gained control of virtually all the rest (Hussain 45).1 Smallholder maize producers have been forced to compete with these highly subsidized U.S.-based industrial-scale producers. Compounding the vulnerabilities that small-scale farmers (campesinos) have faced in this newly transnational corn market is the fact that they have historically been relegated to the least productive lands and often coerced into selling their crops to intermediaries under extremely disadvantageous terms. Millions of small and even midscale farmers have abandoned or partially abandoned milpa farming in search of wage labor outside their communities.As the documentary films Migrar o morir/Paying the Price: Migrant Workers in the Toxic Fields of Sinaloa (2008) and Food Chains (2014) illustrate, people who migrate to northern Mexico and points north of the U.S.-Mexico border to work in large agribusiness operations confront systematic human rights abuses, including enslavement, child labor, and dangerous exposure to toxic chemicals. This mass rural out-migration often entails other losses as well, such as that of indigenous linguistic and agricultural knowledge,kinship networks,land stewardship, and structures of self-governance.A central feature of NAFTA was the 1992 annulment of Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution, which dissolved the collective ejido land-use system and opened the door to the large-scale privat­ ization of lands that had previously been held in usufruct.The deregulation of national food markets beginning in 1994 resulted in further losses of food and labor sovereignty at national and local levels (Bartra 2002; Fitting; Otero; Richard 2008). 48 Analisa Taylor Elizabeth Fitting has shown that since the mid-twentieth century, the cultural narratives of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), or Institutional Revolutionary Party, have emphasized corn and campesinos as symbols of popular national identity, but its agricultural policies have consistently pe­ nalized and blamed them for the failures of the state on the grounds that they practice backward and inefficient farming methods (14). The Mexican govern­ ment’s response to destitute farmers who decry these losses has been to urge them to become more productive,to scale up and embrace genetically modified organisms (GMOs),to cultivate other crops—specifically export-oriented cash crops—or to find some other line of work. “Sin maíz no hay país” (“Without Corn There Is No Country...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780816537532
Related ISBN
9780816534265
MARC Record
OCLC
1001412342
Pages
320
Launched on MUSE
2017-08-23
Language
English
Open Access
No
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