Hope for a Beleaguered Planet....

Our book Milpa: From Seed to Salsa - Ancient Ingredients for a Sustainable Future explores through a blend of essays, recipes and documentary photography how the ancient agricultural knowledge and the wealth of 1000 year-old seeds and planting practices still in use among the Mixtec peoples of southern Mexico can help us to meet the ecological and food crises of today.

The essays, written in conjunction with campesino farmers, serve as a warning about the complicated dangerous effects inherent in the rapidly expanding distribution of GMO (genetically modified organism) seeds in Mexico, the birthplace of corn. Our documentary cookbook discusses alternatives for campesino farmers across the world and gardeners and consumers who care about food safety. Using the example of the Milpa planting system in the Mixteca Alta region of Southern Mexico just north of Oazaxa City, the book supports recent studies by UN investigators that show that small plots of land, heritage seeds and sustainable practices can in fact feed the world while enriching the soils on which we all depend for life…….

Milpa contains the traditional recipes lovingly shared by the local indigenous Mixtec women, allowing readers to re-create the culinary magic that flows from this ancient agricultural system. Recipes are painstakingly tested and photographed in traditional indigenous kitchens as well as in a professional modern test kitchen. Please purchase the book, below.....

All Rights Reserved: © Phil-Dahl Bredine, © Kathy Dahl-Bredine © Judith Cooper Haden Photography, © Susana Trilling SOMH.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Learning From Our Neighbors in The Mixteca

Life here in Yucuyoco is often an experience of being out of control. The neighbors’ bulls got into our corn and destroyed a good bit of the work of the spring, the electricity has been off and on… off principally when we needed power tools to make a door or internet to finish an important communication. Getting an electrical connection from the Electrical Commission has delayed the completion of the water system for the village.

Yet even though the consequences of lack of control in our societies of the North may not be as drastic as the hunger it can cause here, we tend to be a civilization obsessed with having power and control. Nationally and individually we struggle to defend ourselves from threats real and imagined with more arms, more insurance, greater production and consumption of goods and an ever faster race to secure more comfort and security. Paradoxically, our fixation on control seems to have made us more vulnerable in many ways.  

Laundry Day
Much in the way our efforts for control in the “war against terror” have made us less secure, our efforts to defend ourselves against the uncertainties of the world through a growing cycle of production and consumption and by ever greater energy use, have also made us more vulnerable. Prolonged power outages, which are a bother in San Isidro, cause major disasters in the highly artificial, energy-dependent urban centers of the North. Our growing consumption patterns threaten the very biological systems of the planet which provide us with clean air, fresh water, rich soils, diverse marine life, etc. Morover, the waste generated by our energy use is making the very planetary environment in which we live more dangerous. In most of the oceans of the earth the incidence of severe hurricanes has doubled in the last 20 years and increased 7-fold in the Indian Ocean. Severe floods have followed a similar pattern, all attested to by skyrocketing disaster payments by the world’s insurance industries.

Perhaps worst of all, the pace at which we work to build safe spaces through increased consumption of goods, energy, and information tends to deactivate the reflective side of our personalities. As indigenous activists from Bolivia put it, “disinformation by over-information deactivates the reflective modes by which we appropriate information and construct our world.”

Preparing the Soil for Planting

Yesterday Don Narciso, one of the wise ones of the pueblo, stopped us on the street and said:
“I have been watching how you interact in our pueblo and take part as representatives of your village of San Isidro. And I really appreciate the kind of sharing that is happening between our two cultures. “   Clearly he had been doing some reflecting, and so had we.
“And we have learned that you, the Mixtec people, have something important to teach us in the North about community and individualism and about how to live well,” we replied. 

Typical Home in the Mixteca Alta
What a privilege we enjoy to be able to 
reflect together with our indigenous neighbors! Perhaps if we are to save ourselves -- we the human family -- in this time of epic crises, we need to become reflective enough to hear the voices around us, the voices of the cultures which can still reveal to us that there are alternatives to our civilization of control that is in crisis.
In such a time of crisis perhaps we need to cultivate what we could call a “dialogue of knowings”, listening and sharing with the cultures that still have not internalized the fatal flaws of our civilization of control and with the ancestors of the human family who perhaps knew more than we thought about how to live well on the planet. Perhaps we could even reestablish a dialogue with the other species in this living planet to see if they have something to tell us …if we were to listen.

With your contributions we have been able to start a kind of revolving store of corn, which we buy locally and make available to the community to buy at a much-reduced price, thus protecting their dignity, and providing local residents with food, since virtually everyone’s stock of corn was destroyed, both by the erratic weather last fall and by the Great Storm this spring.  Thank you!!

September 2011

We thank you for your letters, your prayers, and your donations, which continue to help to make this work possible.   Our aim for these letters is to share our view from this vantage point of the world.  But if you do wish to contribute to this work, you can send a tax-deductible donation to: 

Instituto Paz en las AmĂ©ricas, 2645 Mountain View Rd. Silver City, NM 88061.                                      Please write on the memo of the check: “for Dahl-Bredine projects”.    

                                                  We thank you very much, and we always love hearing from you.                                                           

Peace and Blessings to you all.
Phil and Kathy    

Photos © Judith Cooper Haden                                                                                                                                      

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