Human-maize relatedness in Oaxaca Lowlands

The state of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, is among the nation’s most ethnically diverse. The high concentration of Indigenous peoples in Oaxaca has powered a strong Indigenous rights movement, and the Oaxacan state has outpaced the Federal state in implementing policies which promote the rights of its First Peoples. In Oaxaca a framework of ‘cultural difference’ has at least nominally been applied in policy areas including mental health care, education, and agriculture.

In Oaxaca’s capital city, also called Oaxaca, and in the surrounding valleys there is a growing appreciation of native, biodiverse maize varieties, and a heightened awareness of the threats they face. State and federal institutions have begun to assist in native maize cultivation, as well as its commercialization. In cities and in rural communities throughout Mexico, community groups and NGOs have become active in highlighting issues associated with commercial hybrid varieties and proposed federal legislation they believe would impede the free exchange of seeds, concerns they are responding to by promoting the “recovery”, “rescue” or “revalorization” of diverse native corns. Working with agronomists, as well as farmers, community seed-banks, food activists, and people involved in the hospitality industry, this project investigates the relationship between conservation and commercialization, as well between notions of food sovereignty, cultural difference and state power.

Ethnographic vignette about maize-human relatedness in the Oaxaca Lowlands.

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View profilOwen McNamara