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.

Saturday, August 23, 2014


July-August 2014

We often talk about what living here in the ancient indigenous village of Yucuyoco has taught us about the good life.  Recently we have discovered that the pre-hispanic codices tell the fascinating story of Yucuyoco back to the 2nd century A.D.  The ancient symbol for Yucuyoco clearly indicates the Hill of the Wasp. But another ancient symbol for Yucuyoco found in the codices is puzzling. It seems to indicate the hill or plain that opens. To date we have found no one who has an explanation for this symbol.

But though Yucuyoco was a prominent village some 1800 years ago, today like many indigenous villages, it struggles economically for a number of historical and current reasons. So the projects that many of you have helped to fund are a welcome addition to village life. Now instead of hauling drinking water from the springs by burro, spring water arrives at each home twice a week through our new water system. The cisterns, pump, and transformers were paid for by your donations! This year we had to replace a transformer and import a new one from the U.S. to keep the system running. This, too, was due to your generosity. We will continue a small nursery project to increase cash income to participating families again this year. Next week we will be ordering the cuttings of Nochebuenas  (poinsettias) to begin preparing for sale during the Christmas season.

Our young neighbor, Daniel, one of the youth Phil has trained, has persevered with the carpentry work and has become quite good at windows, doors, tables, and beehives, and supplies the people in surrounding villages. Since he has no mode of transportation except a burro, Phil buys supplies and transports lumber from the nearest large town to help Daniel with the work. Tomorrow he will finish installing a new pair of windows in T
ía Nachas small adobe house down the hill.  Until Daniel can afford another form of transportation, your donations help him get his supplies.

As you have gathered from previous letters, in spite of the poverty of the villages of the Mixteca where we live and work, they have much to teach us and share with us about ways of living in community. They also share a rich heritage of seeds and agricultural knowledge, as well as great ancient wisdom about a healthy diet. But contact with the TV culture sometime sows doubts, and CEDICAM is now publishing the beautiful book you have heard about, Milpa: From Seed to Salsa to reinforce the culture locally and share it with the English-speaking world. Thanks in part to your contributions, we are only a few thousand dollars short of printing costs for this beautiful book of gorgeous photos and recipes. The book on the future of an ancient culture, agriculture, and cuisine should come out later this fall.

Of course, the great seed heritage that the indigenous villages of Oaxaca share and serve as guardians for is threatened by new seed laws and genetically modified crops. So we also work with the Collective for the Defense of the Territories of Indigenous Pueblos of Oaxaca, who are organizing to promote and defend native corn varieties in this center of origin of corn. Your generosity has helped sponsor international events of campesinos (the Permanent Peoples Tribunal), as well as fliers and visits to rural campesino communities to meet with communal authorities about these  threats to indigenous culture and biodiversity.  Recently we participated in a local radio program to spread needed information on the dangers of genetically modified seeds.

This past year CEDICAM has begun a process to establish farmers market type centers in the villages of Tilantongo and Nochixtlán.  A generous foundation grant helped stimulate production and set-up of market sites. We still struggle to match supply to the potential demand in the local market  in Tilantongo. Your donations have supplemented the foundation grant and will help us stimulate more vegetable production for marketing to increase village family income.

Recently the new conservative president of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, has been pushing through a momentous group of reforms, many clearly contradicting the Mexican constitution of 1917. One of the most potentially devastating is a provision in a new energy law which gives the government the right to expropriate indigenous communal lands if transnational corporations find evidence of gas or petroleum deposits there.  With the help of your donations, we are bringing in legal and political experts to help inform ourselves and the Oaxacan people about the details, limitations and potential reach of this battery of new laws.

We thank you for your letters, your prayers, and your donations, which continue to help make this work possible. Our principle aim for these letters is to share our view from this little corner of the planet. But if you wish to contribute to this work, you can send a much-appreciated tax-deductible donation to: Instituto Paz en las Americas, 2645 Mountain View Rd., Silver City, NM 88061. Please write on the memo of the check: for Dahl-Bredine projects.