I am Mayan from the Yucatan Peninsula. I was born in a community called Ticul, 80 km from Mérida. My path started with my maternal grandmother teaching us, her grandkids, about our culture. When I was 17, I dropped out of school and travelled to different Mayan communities in the Yucatan Peninsula, learning and exchanging knowledge with peers. For the past 5 years (2014-2019) I collaborated with the University of the Land (UniTierra) in Oaxaca.
While working with UniTierra in Oaxaca, I was part of the Native Corn Defense State Group in Oaxaca and the Corn Defense Network nationally. My partner Valiana and I share a passion for walking with different peers in rural communities, learning about the milpa and the ways in which Indigenous communities relate to the land. We are committed to collectively recuperating our ancestral ways of learning, healing, eating, living and speaking. In this path we have met others who share our concern like Doña Yolanda and Don Toño in San Agustín Etla or like Gustavo and Nicole in San Pablo Etla. We have built a small network in the Mixe Mountain Range, the Mixteca region and the Isthmus of Tehuantepec that has allowed us to learn more about the way of life of local Indigenous communities and how corn has been protected as central to that life.
We view food sovereignty as a way of life, even though we call it “reclaiming the art of eating”. During my childhood I watched my grandparents grow their milpa, keep vegetable gardens and raise animals for their own consumption. They told us that their life was with the land because that was the teaching that our oldest ancestors shared with us. Money was the least of their worries at that time. What would have been concerning was receiving visitors and not having a tortilla and tomato sauce with habanero that they could offer them, or not having pozol (corn soup) that they could take to work on the fields. What concerns current generations is having money so we can buy what our grandparents were rooted in: the caring for the land, the corn, the milpa. So how can we recover the art of eating without involving transnational corporations?
Producing our own foods, caring for seeds, watching our plants grow, facing the challenges of growing food, sharing our passion with others, that is what food sovereignty means to us.
When Deborah initially talked to us about the Legacies project, we directly related it with our current project: learning the ways and experience of our elders with relation to the milpa, their vegetable gardens and their relationship with the land.
One day while we were walking with Doña Yolanda in her milpa, she expressed her concern that “young people these days don’t want to grow food, so we don’t know what’s going to happen when we old folks are gone.” We responded that in us she could find two young people who want to learn from her experiences of working in the land. So we spent a year working with her in the milpa.
Throughout our short lives we have been able to relate directly to our elders (grandmothers and grandfathers). Through conversations with them, we have discussed different ways of relating with the land, the myths and stories of our communities, the rituals, the language. That is the legacy of our elders are leaving us. The Legacies Project is one more way in which we can share our experiences.