Celebrating a Local, Organic Oaxaca
Published on Monday, 09 April 2012 17:13
By Richard Kemp
Walking the streets of Oaxaca, it is not uncommon to come across tianguis (street markets) or local farmers’ markets that specialise in organic produce. While the ‘organic’ title assumes a certain element of quality that cannot always be found in the supermarket, more and more people are now choosing to buy from local, organic farmers as a way of investing in their community’s economy.
During the weekend of March 30th and 31st, the Primer Foro y Exposición Oaxaca Orgánico (First Forum and Exhibition: Organic Oaxaca) set up camp in Llano Park. Vendors from all over the state of Oaxaca arrived to give the city’s people the opportunity to meet organic producers and learn the benefits of buying and consuming organic products. Many stalls, from nut and coffee growers to makers of delicious fruit jams, also offered tastings and helpful advice on how to spot good quality produce.
Despite a few hours of heavy rain after lunch, the proceedings continued until the early evening with a traditional big band providing the soundtrack to the foodie heaven.
On the other side of the city, Viva La Milpa (Long Live the Cornfield), an art campaign to protect the indigenous corn varieties native to Mexico, occupied the Museo del Ferrocarril (Railroad Museum) from the 28th to the 31st of March. Inviting artists from all over Mexico and other parts of the world, Viva La Milpa hosted four days of film, music and art events to bring attention to the issue of transgenic corn varieties that contaminate the native crops that have grown in Mexico for generations.
Considered the heart and soul of Mexico, corn (or maize) is integral to the way of life for scores of indigenous populations. However, similar to current conditions in the US, genetically-modified (GM) corn crops have made their way across Mexico and are beginning to render many native varieties extinct. As the Viva La Milpa project explains on its website, farmers are forced to become dependent on GM corn varieties, buying new seeds every year, and subsequently losing vital elements of their heritage, language, tradition and cultural freedoms.
The main goal of the project looks to spread information to the campos (rural areas) regarding transgenic crop varieties. Since many indigenous communities do not speak nor read Spanish, members of Viva La Milpa have created artwork that clearly demonstrates the repercussions of native peoples allowing GM crops to infiltrate their lands and what to do about it.
Inside one of the museum’s old, abandoned train carriages, the project
constructed a makeshift cinema to show educational movies on Wednesday,
Thursday and Friday night. Other carriages were used as canvases to paint
murals that encouraged action in support of native food sovereignty. Art installations were scattered about the train platform and rail track itself, ranging from a giant monkey built from spray paint cans to an oversized female model made entirely of corn. On Saturday, a host of musicians played everything from traditional folk to reggae rock beats while artists and food vendors sold their wares on the train platform.
For more information on GM food and its effects, go to vivalamilpa.com or check out the film ‘The Future of Food.’