Maya Seed Saving Indigenous Peoples Saving their Corn

The board members of the Chiapas School kneel in prayer for the survival of their mother seeds of corn and the success of their students who have just graduated. They are also asking for help from the creator to give them strength to continue their resistance.

Mother Seeds in Resistance from the Lands of Chiapas in Mexico is both educational and practical. The project encourages indigenous students to assume responsibility for learning the science and culture of their ancient corn, information passed down from their Mayan ancestors for thousands of years.

In addition to collecting and preserving these vital original seeds, students are researching, recording, and studying a vast amount of agricultural and cultural information from these farmers. This data includes the types of soils and mini-climate most suited to each seed type, recipes for preparing each type of corn, as well as ceremonies and stories associated with each variety of corn. The Zapatista Education System’s seed bank management is integrated as a continual relationship between the farming families and the schools; between the high-tech freezer and the traditional milpa. Collecting, learning and guarding their heritage is a learning process for all students. The entire community of adults and elders who plant and harvest corn to live, are therefore the principal teachers of the students and the education promoters who have replaced the government’s teachers in the autonomous schools.

Mother Seeds in Resistance from the Lands of Chiapas is also a response to the threat posed by the contamination and displacement of indigenous corn varieties by the genetically engineered and high input varieties from the industrialized north that are flooding rural Mexico in the wake of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Mexico, which is the center of origin of corn and carries the world’s greatest diversity of corn, banned cultivation of transgenic corn in 1998. However, the ban is only on the cultivation not on the import of corn seed. Five million tons of North American corn, almost all transgenic, is imported every year. Transgenic corn was found growing in Oaxaca in 2001. Then in 2002 Mexican scientists reported that 12 percent of the plants they sampled from Oaxaca and Puebla were contaminated or were transgenic varieties. The alarming situation forced the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico City to check all of its corn stocks for contamination.

The Zapatista spirit is made visible in Oventic. It is a spirit of autonomy. It is a spirit of resistance to the global system that sneers at them and wants them gone. It is a spirit of dignity as they resist, and as they walk, creating their own path before them.

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