Tag Archives: social justice

Locavores in Oaxaca: Eat Local and Who Makes Our Food

People in the Oaxaca valley have eaten locally grown corn, beans, squash, tomatoes, poultry and fruit for centuries, long before the term locavore came into existence. The farm-to-table movement in the United States is one example of eating fresh food produced within 100 miles.

Weighing beans, Teotitlan del Valle Market

Weighing beans, Teotitlan del Valle Market

During the years I lived on an organic farm in Pittsboro, North Carolina, and shopped at farmer’s markets (a habit I formed early in my adulthood), we learned to eat around the seasons. I read somewhere that this is one of the healthiest things we can do for our bodies.

One by-product of the CNTE Section 22 Teacher’s Union strike in Oaxaca is the intended or unintended consequences of returning to locally grown food. The blockades are preventing the big box, semi-trailers filled with imported goods from entering Oaxaca to deliver their loads to Walmart, Soriana and other giant retailers like Coca-Cola.

Magdalena with corn husks to prepare tamales

Magdalena with corn husks to prepare tamales

I’m reminded of the signs in Pittsboro, NC when I visit: Shop Local.  I’m sure you see this where you live, too.

In conversations around town, I’m hearing a mixed bag of blessings and complaints. Everyone loves Walmart, yes?, because of low prices. Others say local Oaxaca city markets like Benito Juarez, Abastos, Sanchez Pascuas, Merced stock everything they need and it’s important to support local merchants so they stay in business.

Organic corn, dried on the cob, ready for planting

Organic corn, dried on the cob, ready for planting

Yet others are inconvenienced because they can’t get a particular variety of yam, brand of toilet paper, or giant coca-cola bottles for less.

There has been a strong movement here against genetically modified corn promoted by Monsanto. I have wondered whether the blockades of the big retail semi-trailers aren’t just an extension of that.

Quesadillas with fresh corn tortillas hot off the comal

Quesadillas with fresh corn tortillas hot off the comal

I hear that by privatizing education, doors will open to international conglomerates to sell, at a profit, sugary drinks and snacks to school children, whose families are already at risk for diabetes and diet-influenced diseases.

Here in Teotitlan del Valle, I do all my food shopping locally at the daily market. Then, fill in what I need at the Sunday Tlacolula market. Yes, they sell toilet paper and paper towels there, along with all the cleaning supplies one needs.

I wonder if this blockade isn’t a good thing to help us raise our awareness for how much and what we need in comparison to who provides it for us. What we eat is important. We have asked the question: Who makes our clothes?

Now, it’s time to ask again here in Oaxaca: Who makes our food?

Yesterday, the fields next to me were plowed and planted with corn. Native indigenous corn, not genetically modified. I know that’s good.

Plowing the milpas to plant corn, squash, beans

Plowing the milpas to plant corn, squash, beans

Social Justice and Migrant Stories: I Have a Name

I Have a Name has a website.  Writer Robert Adler and photographer Tom Feher have embarked on a project to document and personalize the stories of people who seek a better life in the United States.

ed107cf648aa759d21b5d52c8b6240b1These are the invisible, the undocumented, the nameless, the ones who hide in the shadows, are fearful of discovery.  Some don’t make it across the border alive.  Others are brutalized and raped.  Most are afraid to tell their story.

They are statistics that distance us from their humanity and ours.  And hinder the United States from passing immigration reform legislation.

Robert and Tom’s project, with the help of  COMI, El Centro de Orientación de Migrantes de Oaxaca, connects us visually through the power of photography and personal narrative to come face-to-face with those who have made or attempted the journey.

More funding is needed to complete the project.  If you are part of or know about an organization that can help, or would like to host or help arrange an exhibition in your city, please contact Tom Feher. Gracias.

Mexican Immigration Heartbreak: Catch 22

Earlier this week I was visiting friends in Morganton and Valdese, NC, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Morganton is fortunate.  It has a chicken plant that is still operating.  Who are the workers?  Latino/a immigrants.  No one else wants the job.

Morganton is also the home of the deceased, venerable U.S. Senator Sam Ervin, Jr. chairman of the Watergate Committee, who claimed, “I’m just an ‘ole country lawyer from Dixie” as he brought his constitutional law prowess to bear on a presidency gone amok.  Ervin brought government jobs to Morganton. There is a vibrant downtown with galleries, shops, businesses, and cheap labor to clean homes, landscape yards and government school lawns and chickens. The local furniture and textile industry moved their plants off-shore to Asia years ago.  Their empty shells are a reminder of employment loss and the end of traditional prosperity.

Valdese has Hmong and Latino/a immigrants, lots of Asian restaurants, and a very multicultural feel to the very small town that was alive with furniture manufacturing.  The store fronts are empty.  The rails are silent. Latinos wait in the parking lot in front of one of the two town laundromats. The summer Waldensian festival the second weekend in August still draws people from far and wide.  There are great ceramic artists in these hills, too.

I had lunch with a local coach.  He told me, painfully, how some of his most talented students, both academically and athletically, are children of undocumented Mexican immigrants who, for the most part, crossed the border to escape drug war violence.  The children may have come here as infants or toddlers and will never be able to attend university unless they pay out-of-state tuition — which, of course, they can’t afford.  In-state tuition requires residency which requires a birth certificate or social security card.  The young people are working hard to get out from under fast food service jobs, the line up for chicken plant employment or at the day labor pool corner.  Their eyes are downcast, can see down the short stretch to the dead-end before they reach age 20.

He told me how his politics have changed.  He sees first hand how wrong it is for smart children with promise who have been in the U.S. for most of their lives not to have access to education.  We, as a society, keep them down and then complain that they can’t get up and take care of themselves.   Catch 22 comes to my mind.

We are a multicultural and blended society.  Soon, people of color will outnumber whites.  Bilingual signage is appearing everywhere, not just in bigger cities or airports. We are going to need to teach Spanish in our schools starting in early childhood if we are going to understand each other and communicate and problem-solve.

In the most rural areas of North Carolina immigrants are part of the labor pool and contributing to local economies.  We reward them with shame, fear, discrimination, and entrap and then incarcerate them as undocumented immigrants even when they try to return to Mexico.

I wonder what Senator Sam would say?

What would you say?