Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Agriculture’ Category

It’s good to be back in Oaxaca — land of mezcal.  Even the walls sing its praises.

P1240784

And, they are not alone — so does National Geographic, with their article, A Mezcal Boom Spurs Creativity.

Save

Save

Save

Read Full Post »

Remember the pineapple growing in my rooftop container garden?  Upon returning from a week-long magical mystery trip (more about that to come) last night, I discovered mi piña was more than ready to harvest.

P1190258

The fragrance beckons… breakfast tomorrow!!!

Read Full Post »

A year and a half ago, I cut off the top of a pineapple (piña, en español), stuck it in a ten inch pot in full sun, watered it very occasionally during the dry season, and it actually began to grow.  This member of the Bromeliaceae family is thought to have originated in the area between southern Brazil and Paraguay and spread throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.  Reaching Mexico, it was cultivated by the Mayas and Aztecs.  Spanish, Dutch, and Portuguese conquerors took it across the pond, and the rest is history.  No surprise, as the fruit (which resembles a pine cone — hence the name) is sweet, succulent, and ridiculously easy to grow!

P1150504crop

A symbol of home: warmth, welcome, friendship and hospitality.  The Welcoming Pineapple

Grown in the Papaloapan region of Oaxaca, the pineapple has inspired elaborate embroidery designs and the crowd-pleasing Flor de Piña dance.   What’s not to love?!

 

Read Full Post »

Before a “suspendida” order is slapped on this stunning piece by the Lapiztola collective celebrating the human face of agave cultivation, here is another moving work of art for the people, seen on Tinoco y Palacio on the wall of Piedra Lumbre, near the Sanchez Pascuas mercado.  It tells a story…

P1140381The wisdom of cultivation handed down from generation to generation.

P1140382From the agave comes mezcal.

P1140382lgThere are 199 “recognized” species of agave.  How many can be used to make mezcal?  The Mezcal PhD explores the answer.  And, for an illustrated guide to many of the more popular varietals, click The Many Varieties of Mezcal.

Read Full Post »

This morning’s sunshine (after days of gray) brought a visitor to my door…

Green grasshopper on screendoor

A Sphenarium purpurascens, also known as Chapulín de la milpa.  No cornfield nearby.  Hmmm… perhaps the recent storms blew it off course?

Read Full Post »

Several mornings ago, after a day and night of rain, I went out on the terrace to check on the garden and found…

Pitaya flower with rain drops

Yikes, one of my Pitahaya (Hylocereus undatus – aka, Dragon fruit) had bloomed overnight!  Must be a relative of my other Night Blooming Cereus.

Two years ago, the original cuttings had been laying in the campo of a friend in San Martín Tilcajete.  When Chris (Oaxaca-The Year After) asked if we could have some, the answer was, “¡Por supuesto!”  Loving the wall of Pitahaya at Centro Académico y Cultural San Pablo, six months later, with the original five cuttings becoming fifteen, I could use them to begin to screen the chain link fence at the new Casita Colibrí.  I kept pruning and sticking them in the planter boxes.

Pitahaya climbing chain link fence

June 2, 2014, 8:40 AM

And now, they have begun blooming.  Having missed the “night-blooming” of my first flower, I was determined not to miss the unfolding of the second blossom, seen above near the top of the pole, providing the weather cooperated.  It did!

Pitahaya blossom

June 2, 2014, 7:20 PM

Pitahaya flower

June 2, 2014, 8:40 PM

Pitahaya flower, side view

June 2, 2014, 11:00 PM

By the next day, it had closed, never to reopen again.

Pitahaya flower closed

June 2, 2014, 2:54 PM

However, there will be fruit…

Read Full Post »

According to the Indigenous Farmworker Study (IFS), there are approximately 165,000 indigenous Mexican farmworkers and their children living  in California — with a significant percentage coming from the state of Oaxaca.  Writer and photographer David Bacon has been photographing and interviewing indigenous Mexican migrants working in California’s agricultural fields for many years.  The following Truthout article is from his photo-documentary project, Living Under the Trees, sponsored by the California Council for the Humanities and California Rural Legal Assistance.

Young, at Work in the Fields

by David Bacon

(Photo: Bacon/After Image)

(Photo: Bacon/After Image)

Most young farm-workers in California are migrants from Mexico, especially the south of the country, where many people share an indigenous culture and language. Ricardo Lopez, living in a van with his grandfather in a store parking lot in Mecca, a tiny farmworker town in the Coachella Valley, says working as a migrant without a formal home was no surprise:

This is how I envisioned it would be working here with my grandpa and sleeping in the van. It’s hot at night, and hard to sleep well. There are a lot of mosquitoes, very few services, and the bathrooms are very dirty. At night there are a lot of people here coming and going. You never know what can happen; it’s a bit dangerous. But my grandfather has a lot of experience and knows how to handle himself. With the money I earn I’m going to help my mother and save the rest. I’ll be attending college in the fall at Arizona Western College—my first year. I want to have a good job, a career. I’m not thinking of working in the fields. Not at all. I look at how hard my grandfather has worked. I don’t want to do field work for the rest of my life because it’s so hard and the pay is so low.

Lopez describes the reality for farmworkers in California in a way that gives tangible meaning to the facts and numbers describing farmworker life. There are about 120,000 indigenous Mexican farmworkers in California. Counting the 45,000 children living with them, that is a total of 165,000 people. They are the most recent migrants from Mexico. They speak twenty-three languages, come from thirteen different Mexican states, and have rich cultures of language, music, dance, and food that bind their communities together.

<snip>  Click HERE to read full article.

This project is therefore a reality check. The idea is to give indigenous migrant communities a vehicle they can use to find support for dealing with the social problems they face, such as housing, low wages, and discrimination. This documentary work is not neutral. Its purpose is to help provide a means for people to organize and win support in a world that, at best, treats them as invisible, and at worst demonizes them. I used to be a union organizer, and this work is very similar. Social documentation not only has to have an engagement with reality, but should try to change it.

Click HERE to read full article.

Read Full Post »

I went to Teotitlán del Valle yesterday for the annual Virgen de Guadalupe performance of the Danza de la Pluma.  As many of you know, I’ve seen it many times, BUT I’ve never stayed until the end, as the dance lasts for eight hours.  Yes, 8 hours!  It would mean returning to the city late at night — and driving at night is something most try to avoid.  Thus, I decided to spend the night at Las Granadas, one of the few B&Bs in town.  However, the thought of waking to the sounds of roosters crowing, burros braying, sheep bleating, AND going for a morning walk in the country sealed the deal.

And so, a little before 9 AM today, I headed up (down?) Calle 2 de abril toward El Picacho.  The work day had long since begun…

IMG_0810

IMG_0806

Crossing the Arroyo Grande, I turned right to begin the trek up Revolución.  El Picacho kept a watchful eye as I kept pausing to snap photos and just take in the sights and sounds of being out in the country.

El Picacho

Black bull crossing dirt road

My destination was the presa (dam) and its precious reservoir.  Most of my life has been spent living five minutes from the San Francisco Bay and fifteen minutes from the Pacific Ocean — and now living in a landlocked city, I do miss bodies of water.

Dam, reservoir, and mountains

Reservoir

Crossing to the other side of the arroyo, I turned right on Avenida Benito Juárez for the return trip to the B&B.

Dirt crossroads

Houses on hillside

As I walked, the lyrics to Al Kooper’s, House in the Country kept playing in my mind.

No need to worry
Folks in a hurry
Leave them behind you
No one can find you
House in the country
House in the country

All the relaxin`
Will soon fill the cracks in
Good for your head too
If you are led to
House in the country
House in the country
Green surrounding
Love abounding
You won`t find a manhole there

A sublime morning in Teotitlán del Valle.  Ahhh…

Read Full Post »

I’ve always liked Thanksgiving — and not just because, after I turned 12, my aunt would pour a little red wine in a shot glass for my cousin and me.  It’s one of the least commercial US holidays, if one discounts the whole “black Friday” and, now, “brown Thursday” (eww!) phenomenon.  And, it isn’t wrapped in flag waving.

Multicolored corn in basket

It’s a day set aside for a communal sharing of Mother Nature’s bounty, counting our blessings, and acknowledging and giving thanks for the assistance of the dark-skinned original human inhabitants of the Americas.  What a novel idea!

Corn stalks in foreground, El Picacho mountain in background

Besides being thankful for my loving and supportive family, wonderful friends (both old and new), dedicated and encouraging blog readers (Yes, you!), I’m extremely grateful for having the privilege of living among people whose ancestors first cultivated corn in this beautiful valley.

2 turkeys

“love
iz
a
big
fat
turkey
and
every
day
iz
thanksgiving”
Charles Bukowski, What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire

Now off to the kitchen to make the stuffing.  ¡Feliz Día de Acción de Gracias!

Read Full Post »

Much like the Mark Twain line, “The report of my death was an exaggeration,” unfortunately, so too the news announcing the death of GMO corn in Mexico.

P1080309_crop

According to the post by Think Mexican, The Fight Continues: GMO Corn Not Yet Banned in Mexico:

Contrary to reports, genetically modified (GMO) corn has not been banned in Mexico. On October 10, a Mexican judge from the Twelfth Federal District Court for Civil Matters in Mexico City issued an injunction suspending field trails of GMO corn, however, a complete ban was not ordered.

Federal Judge Jaime Eduardo Verdugo’s ruling does order the halting of “all activities involving the planting of transgenic corn in [Mexico] and ends the granting of permissions for experimental and pilot commercial plantings.” [Read full article, HERE]

From a large mural on the wall outside the Comisión Nacional para el Desarrollo de los Pueblos Indígenas, Delegación Oaxaca

La lucha continúa…

Read Full Post »

Sometime around 8,000 years ago, corn was first domesticated in the valley where I have the privilege of living.  Botanists have determined that the valley of Oaxaca was the “cradle” of maize evolution.  Maíz became the lifeblood of the Mesoamerican diet and culture and it continues today.

On September 29, Oaxaca celebrated el Día Nacional del Maíz Nativo (National Native Corn Day).  On the zócalo, across from the Government Palace, there were displays showcasing the multiple hues of native corn…

There were tlayudas for sale…

IMG_5627

However, there were also warnings about the dangers of genetically modified corn and the products containing them…

Genetically modified corn is a major issue in Oaxaca.  There is a concern that native plants could become infected with GMOs, which would then contaminate and compromise the genetic diversity of native varieties.  Speakers, at the event, discussed the importance of the community seed banks that have been established to safeguard native varieties and be used in the wake of economic and ecological crisis.  Two weeks after the aforementioned event, there was good news, a Mexico judge has placed an indefinite ban on genetically engineered corn.

And so to celebrate, I am re-posting the Lila Downs video of her song “Palomo del Comalito,” paying homage to maíz, and its “granitos de cristal” (grains of crystal).

And to bring this post full circle, the video was filmed in Teotitlán del Valle, located here in the valley where corn was first cultivated.

Read Full Post »

A recent article from California’s Merced Sun-Star addresses an issue many in Oaxaca’s ex-pat community have been discussing.

Exchange student learns sustainable gardening

By RAMONA GIWARGIS – rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com

MERCED — In the small town of Mitla Oaxaca in Mexico, a little girl drew inspiration from her grandmother’s colorful garden more than 10 years ago.

Though the family wasn’t very wealthy, the dinner table was always filled with fresh and nutritious foods.

“When I was young, my grandma always had a garden,” said Xochitl Juarez, now 26. “She was really poor, but she always had fresh fruits and vegetables.”

(photo by BEA AHBECK - bahbeck@mercedsunstar.com) Xochitl Juarez of Mexico planted a 10,000-square-foot garden in the shape of a circle because 'everything in life is a cycle,' she said.

(photo by BEA AHBECK – bahbeck@mercedsunstar.com)  Xochitl Juarez of Mexico planted a 10,000-square-foot garden in the shape of a circle because ‘everything in life is a cycle,’ she said.

After falling in love with agriculture at a young age, Juarez sought to help her community learn new farming techniques to become more sustainable.

“A lot of people that come here are from small towns and they have to grow their own food,” she said. “If they have the opportunity to be sustainable, we’ll have a better life with more healthy foods and better nutrition.”

Juarez left her hometown of about 10,000 people and traveled to the United States for the first time as part of the Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture program.

[Click HERE for full article]

Read Full Post »

On this Earth Day, I thought I’d post photos of the Matria, Jardín Arterapéutico project.  These were taken 3 weeks after my previous visit.  Despite 90+° (F) temperatures since the garden was planted, it is thriving and very few plants have been lost.

The key to the garden’s success?  Megan Glore and her team of volunteers are listening to what the plants are telling them and responding accordingly — just as we should all be doing with Mother Earth.

Read Full Post »

A mile or two from the city are fields of corn; a recurring reminder of where the masa used to make tortillas, tamales, and other mealtime staples, comes from.  Livestock roam the hills and are often seen being herded down the streets of local villages.

Goats being herded down dirt road

And, at the foot of the stairs of my new apartment is a coyuche bush — the brown cotton plant that has been cultivated in this part of the world for thousands of years.

P1050618

The ripe buds of the coyuche have been harvested, cleaned, spun, and woven into huipiles and cotones (men’s shirts) by countless generations.  However, like many textile traditions, industrialization has taken its toll.  The cultivation and use of coyuche is literally hanging by a thread, mostly confined to the Mixteca and Costa Chica regions of Oaxaca.  As a result, besides just liking the design and color, I have a profound appreciation for and treasure this old huipil that was given to me a couple of years ago.

Embroidery detail of huipil made of coyuche

It’s in desperate need of repair.  My friend and Mexican textile collector and chronicler, Sheri Brautigam, advised me to take it to Odilon Merino Morales, who is from San Juan Amuzgo and leads an effort to revive the use of coyuche.  I will ask him if he knows of someone who could give my huipil some tender loving mending.

Living close to the source — there is something wonderful about the coyuche plant’s daily reminder of the origin of one of my favorite huipiles.

Read Full Post »

Sunny, warm, and dry, Oaxaca’s sidewalks, mercados, restaurants, and zócalo are filled with “snowbirds” (the human variety) escaping the bone-chilling and wet wintry weather of el norte.  Alas, almost immediately after the previously mentioned “big move” next week, I’m heading in the opposite direction — to the bleak gray north for several weeks to visit family and friends in California (it’s not all bikini beaches and blue sky) and then east to celebrate my first grandchild’s first birthday — the best and maybe only reason to visit upstate New York in the dead of winter!  And, if previous return trips to el norte are a predictor, I’ll be missing the warmth and color of Oaxaca almost from the minute I step off the plane.

The “snowbirds” and I have the luxury of coming and going.  Some people do not.  One of my favorite journalists interviews a young Oaxaqueña trying to support her young daughter by working the fields in Madera, California.  As the title suggests, it is a poignant story…

The Only Job I Can Do–A Young Mother’s Farm Work Story

Editor’s Note: Lorena Hernandez is a young farm worker and single mother from Oaxaca, Mexico. Today she lives in Madera, Calif., with her daughter and aunt. She told her story to David Bacon.

hernandez_blueberries.jpg
Lorena Hernandez picking blueberries   [photo by David Bacon]

MADERA, Calif.–To go pick blueberries I have to get up at four in the morning. First I make my lunch to take with me, and then I get dressed for work. For lunch I eat whatever there is in the house, mostly bean tacos. Then the ritero, the person who gives me a ride to work, picks me up at 20 minutes to five.

I work as long as my body can take it, usually until 2:30 in the afternoon. Then the ritero gives me a ride home, and I get there by 3:30 or 4 in the afternoon. By then I’m really tired.

Costs of Rides, Childcare on Little Pay

I pay $8 each way to get to work and back home. Right now they’re paying $6 for each bucket of blueberries you pick, so I have to fill almost three buckets just to cover my daily ride. The contractor I work for, Elias Hernandez, hooks us up with the riteros. He’s the contractor for 50 of us farm workers picking blueberries, and I met him when a friend of my aunt gave me his number.

<snip>

No Vision of My Future

I don’t have friends, just acquaintances from work. They don’t have responsibilities like I do, so they go out on the weekend. They share their stories with me because since I have a daughter, I don’t go out. I just stay at home.

I wash my daughter’s clothes on the weekends because during the week I’m so tired. There isn’t time to clean the house during the week either. That’s what we do on the weekends.

I don’t have a vision of my own future. I don’t really think about it. I know I want to work every day. I don’t think I’ll ever return to school because of my age. My job will be working in the fields. I’m at peace with my current situation. I would love to go back to school, but it’s too late for me. Perhaps one day.

Please read full story HERE.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: