Valiana Alejandra Aguilar Hernández

My Place

I am Mayan from Sinanché, a community along Mexico’s Gulf coast, north of Yucatan. I grew up with my grandparents, rooted in their way of life and their way of perceiving the world. Food and its relationship to the land has a central role in our life as a community. For us, to sit and eat together is itself an act of resistance, which I learned from my grandparents.

As part of my own path, I decided to leave my community to study. There came a time when I realized that was not the right road for me to walk down, so instead I decided to try to regenerate and heal the roots that connect me to the soil and the land where I grew up.

Now my partner Ángel and I belong to a generation of young people from indigenous communities who decided to leave the academic path behind and return to growing food on the land, to our ways of life and our ways of understanding the world. For the past five years we have been in the University of the Land (UniTierra) in Oaxaca, studying different ways of learning so that we can make our own path in our community of Sinanché.

My Passion with Food

In our work with UniTierra in Oaxaca, Ángel and I have walked with, listened to and learned from different communities in Oaxaca. Of particular interest has been their models of self-organizing through assemblies, public meetings, tequio (contribution of labour to community projects) and the milpa (the fields). We have engaged with these teachings with our elders (grandmothers and grandfathers) by our side, who have shared their knowledge and lived experiences.

In 2019 we returned to the Yucatán, where we are walking the steps of our dream and hope of starting our own UniTierra in the Mayan town of Sinanché on land that my family has passed onto us.

My Perspective on Food Sovereignty

The word sovereignty doesn’t exist in our Mayan language, so we rather focus on Janaal, or eating, which is the broader act of recovering our traditional ancestral knowledge. As Indigenous peoples, we have held for thousands of years this wisdom about how to grow a milpa, about its ceremonies, about having a caring and loving relationship with the land. Our wisdom is not exclusively about food, but also about how to weave ourselves into a community, how to inhabit the land in its living forms as the woods, the winds, the ocean, and the fire around which we come together to eat, as a celebration of life. Without the act of eating, which encompasses all of life, assemblies, communal organization, and tequio cannot exist. Recovering our ways of growing and eating food is very important because it is also the way in which we are recovering who we are, who our grandparents were and who our ancestors were.

My Participation in the Legacies Project

In our current context, for us who reject all kinds of government, it is urgent to knit ourselves into this web of life where we can recover and regenerate the traditional ways of our community. This project represents an opportunity to build a collective that reaches beyond borders and creates spaces where we can share teachings, experiences and ways of organizing. It allows us to find joint paths on which we can walk together.