No maize, no food?

Eulalia walking the path she has walked for years,

Eulalia has walked this path for years,

September 2014

It had been a year since I moved to the Netherlands. One of the first things I wanted to do as soon as I got into Mexico, it was to go to my hometown, Tamazulapam, in the Mixe mountains in Oaxaca to visit my beloved friend in life, my granny, Mrs. Eulalia.

I arrived on a Th to Mexico city, so I only had a weekend to go to Oaxaca and be back to Mexico city as I had some meetings already scheduled for my PhD.

My granny, as many times, gave me such a nice surprise.

She lives in Tamazulapam, 1.5 hours from Oaxaca city, she doesn´t like traveling but as soon as she knew I was back from the Netherlands, she said she had to go to Oaxaca city to meet me. I have never lived in Oaxaca city, I grew up in our town. However, my parents moved to Oaxaca city some years ago. Thus, when I visit my family, even when I prefer going to my hometown, I also have to spend some days in the city.

This story is about the maize and how is so embedded in our culture. My granny cannot imagine a life without maize.

My granny does not like traveling in general, the attachment to land/home is so strong that most old people do not like moving or traveling. We were born in a small village in the North side of Oaxaca, Mexico. Because she knew it would take me about 14 hours traveling from the Netherlands to Mexico city and other 7 hours from Mexico city to Oaxaca city, she decided to go to Oaxaca city  and wait for me coming from Mexico city. This traveling may seem short for some people, but for us/she, it means such a great/long journey (culturally, I mean).

She said she came to wait for me because she had had a nightmare the week before. We had this idea that we could visit each by dreaming, so we could get to know how we are. She was missing me, it had been a year since I visited her last time. Thus, she decided to visit me in the Netherlands. She said, she walked a huge valley, crossed a forest and even when it was green and beautiful, she did not see any corn field or milpa (maize intercropped with potatoes, beans, pumpkins, among others) . Hence, she was extremely worried about me, asking herself if I did find something to feed myself while I was in the Netherlands. She had to walk for hours looking for me. She only could see forests and grasslands. At some point she did find me, she asked me what I was eating while I was living there and how was my life. She said I was holding a book and a small bag with some seeds that I was eating. She was so sorry about me because she felt I was suffering and starving. This dreams broke her heart and she wanted to see me urgently.

My parents went to my town a couple of days later, they told her I was going to be back to Mexico and she intermediately asked them to take her to the city, so she could make sure I was fine.

After she told me her nightmare, I explained to her that yes, it was true that the landscape was different, the Dutch do not crop Milpas. I explained to her that even when I had no corn to make tortillas and eat, I had lots of bread, other vegetables, cheese and dairy products. She broke into tears and said “I´m relieved, I see you are fine and that makes me happy”.

Despite of my explanation, she tells that story to others trying to confirm how incredible is that people can survive without maize.

This is just one of the nice conversations I keep with my granny, she is a lovely woman of almost 100 years old.