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.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Fiesta Month in Oaxaca!

December is a month of fiesta in Oaxaca.  Traveling by bus recently I saw several groups of young people on bicycles traveling with a flower-bedecked truck, on bike pilgrimages to the various shrines, Guadalupe or Juquila.  Yesterday we took part in a pilgrimage from our village to the town center of Tilantongo for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Some walked down into the deep valley and up the other mountain side cross-country, while we drove our old pick-up truck for those who weren’t able to do the walk.  Then we all met outside Tilantongo and made the rest of the way all together on foot to the church, taking turns carrying the banners of our village, San Isidro, and the Virgin of Guadalupe.  There we were met by other groups arriving in pilgrimage from other, even more distant, villages across the mountains.

This Sunday will mark the beginning of the Posadas, the nine days before Christmas, with a gathering each night to reenact the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.  Families will assemble and walk with candles, singing the traditional songs as they journey each night to a different house up and down the mountainside.  Outside each house, according to custom, a group sings the verses requesting lodging for the night, then to be answered by a group inside whose song turns them away, until finally they agree to let them in, at which time all gather inside the house for prayers and then refreshments and a social time.  We will host the posada for one of the nights; other families on other nights, and on Christmas Eve, the final posada will end at the dirt-floor chapel, which will be decorated for the fiesta, with colorful streamers, balloons, plenty of fireworks, food and drink. 

These customs are an expression of faith and the joy of celebration in community, with all members young and old.  Also participating will be those extended family members who have migrated out to Mexico City or other urban centers and always love to return to their villages of origin and to the community life which is still important to them. Presents are generally not a part of the Christmas celebrations, but since most families in the village live without television, they don’t seem to feel they are missing anything.

There is much in the indigenous rural life and the values of a non-money based economy that we admire here and believe can provide some guideposts for our U.S. culture, now seemingly based on extreme consumerism. Yet at the same time there are many basic necessities here that we have been able to help with, through the generosity of many of you who have contributed to these efforts. 

We are happy to be able to report the success – finally – of the great water project which has taken nearly two years to complete.  All the labor has been done by local residents, and it has been enormous, but we now have water piped to every house in the village.  For the first time in the history of San Isidro, people will not have to make the trek with their donkeys to the spring – or some simply having to carry the heavy containers on their backs - to fill their water jugs.  Our oldest resident, 95 year-old Maria, who lives with her 94 year-old husband, Florentino, at the top of the mountain, joked recently, “Well, when are you going to get that water?  You know I don’t have much time left!”  So Maria was the first to get her water tap.

One of the needs in these communities is for some small, cooperative projects to create a modest income, needed for some of the things that people can’t grow or produce themselves.  One such project is the new nursery, started earlier this year, which will produce organic fruit trees and ornamentals.  To produce some start-up income, the participants decided to do a poinsettia project, with the first plants ready to sell for Christmas.  Poinsettias, which originated in Mexico, are always an important part of the Christmas celebrations here.  Everyone is excited that the first plants are now ready and will be on sale in the Tilantongo market this weekend! 

Another interesting project has been the carpentry training.  Some time ago, Phil started teaching one of the older boys in the neighborhood some basic carpentry skills, with his table saw and some basic tools.  That effort has now resulted in 3 older teenage boys who can make doors, tables, beds, cupboards, and book shelves, as well as complete bee boxes for starting honey projects, and the composting toilets that we’ve introduced here.  These three boys: Angel, Daniel, and Pedro are now launching into their own business, taking orders and delivering their finished projects on foot here in the village and the surrounding area.  Phil is helping them to get their own power saw and other equipment soon, so that they will be completely independent with this.  We are also making the contact with a couple of master woodworker friends in Oaxaca City, who will give some training at higher levels as well.

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