Human-maize relatedness in Oaxaca Higlands

Maize is the second most cultivated crop in the world, constituting 13 percent of worldwide primary crop production. In Oaxaca, where the crop was first domesticated over 9.000 years ago, maize has continued to be widely cultivated and consumed, mainly among indigenous peoples. Indigenous cultivators have developed valuable ways of knowing, engaging with, and caring for these seeds and plants, usually growing them in intercropping systems famously known as milpas. Despite being overlooked by partakers to the green revolution, such practices have been increasingly recognized as vital for the conservation of maize diversity and as an ecologically sound alternative to monocropping. In this research, the relationship between people and maize will be studied in the Ëyuujk (Mixe) community Tamazulapam del Espíritu Santo. Maize plays a central role in the Ëyuujk world, not only through their daily work in the milpas, but also in their diet, cosmology, and social activities (fiestas). Inspired by material semiotics, this research aims to explore maize as it comes into being through practices, and how it becomes meaningful for the interlocutors. Thinking with Ëyuujk maize growers can not only contribute to an appreciation of biodiverse and low input agricultural practices, but also unsettle hegemonic ways to relate to the environment, based on yield maximization and profit, which has generated ecologically and socially detrimental agricultural systems.

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