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.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Energy Reforms and Effects on Indigenous Lands in Mexico

         September 15 was independence day for our adopted country. In the tiny plaza above our house the music and fireworks continued until midnight that night as our poor dog, Ita, cowered under the kitchen table. The independence Mexico achieved in 1810, though, did not benefit the indigenous people so much as those of the class of Spanish and mixed descent. These last, following a European mindset, ushered in a liberal attack on indigenous lands, culture, and languages in the name of progress and nation-building. 

          “Independence has become a chimera for us all in our days as the new liberalism (neoliberalism) has  chained us to binding free trade and austerity policies that have set us on the freeway to planetary and societal catastrophe with no exit signs in sight. Modern globalization has meant commitment to an impossible growth in consumption and contamination, while austerity policies enforce our domination by the super wealthy. 

And here in the indigenous communities of Oaxaca, the assault by these forces has become critical. As Naomi  Klein points out in her newly published book, This Changes Everything, “ many of the biggest pools of untapped carbon are on lands controlled by some of the poorest people on the planet, i.e. indigenous peoples. And so the newly liberal Mexican government has found a way to open those lands to the international petroleum cabal.  Under pressure from its previous commitments with NAFTA, (and no doubt from Barak Obama who has convinced Mexican private and public leaders to warmly embrace fracking, the conservative Mexican president and congress have ramrodded through Energy Reforms written in the U.S. under the Alliance for Prosperity and Security. The reforms proclaim that the priority use of any Mexican lands is the extraction of petroleum and natural gas. Applicable to previously protected indigenous communal and ejido farmlands, these unconstitutional  laws give national and international petroleum and gas conglomerates the right to require indigenous communities to negotiate terms for the use of any land where petroleum or gas are likely to be found.  If the communities decide not to accept the terms of negotiation, the reforms give the federal government the right to expropriate those lands in the name of the private industries.

              The fight has begun, and it is the same fight as the tar sands in Canada and the XL pipeline and anti-fracking fight in the U.S. And as Naomi  Klein points out, this gives us the opportunity to unite the struggle for a sustainable planet with the fight for a democracy that is more inclusive of the poor and open to alternative indigenous  visions for our future world.

              Our years in this small indigenous village have taught us a great deal. We have begun to feel at home in a different culture, a different civilization. And we have come to enjoy and value a different sense of what life is about.  Life here is a convivio, a living together while striving for harmony with the life-forms that surround us. We are learning how to live in community in a new way, and we hope to share what we learn and defend the culture that we are learning, in the small ways that are possible for us. But because of this, defending this civilization from  the violent attacks of an international financial and business community bent on extracting wealth at whatever cost, has become personal for us.

            It may well turn out to be that it is the vision of civilization of this small, indigenous community and the indigenous communities around the world, striking in their similarities,that will save the human family from the deviate civilization of greed and growth.

             Our new book, Milpa! From Seed to Salsa: Ancient Ingredients for a Sustainable Future from the Center for Integral Campesino Development of the Mixteca (CEDICAM) with whom we work tries to tell a bit of this civilizational story from within. It represents one of the very little things we can do to defend what we have come to love.

  If you would like to reserve a copy for when it comes out in December or January, send us a note and a check for $30.00 to cover the book and shipping (Instituto Paz, 2645 Mountain View Rd., Silver City, NM, 88061). Many thanks to those of you who donated toward the printing of the book! Of course well send your free copy as soon as it comes out. 

© Phil and Kathy Dahl-Bredine 2014
Photography © Judith Cooper Haden