Let’s Get Corny!
One of our favorite treats in Puerto Vallarta, at festivals, or simply strolling along the Malecón on a Sunday evening, is a stick or cup of corn on the cob. The vendor will happily scrape the kernels off the cob for you so you can eat it out off a container, where all the milky ingredients mix together, easy to eat. Or eat it on the stick, spread with cheese and Salsa Huichol, a tasty spice from the region. Corn is a very reliable food source in the Mexican diet. Going back eight thousand years, evidence can be found of farming corn in Mexico. Teosinte, the origin of corn, was cultivated from wild grass by people living in central Mexico. Teosinte was more like a bean stalk before it was eventually developed into the corn you buy in Puerto Vallarta today. Scientific modification developed kernels more closely spaced. Colors ranged from the common yellow we eat today, to red brown, purple and many variations. We call this Indian corn north of the border and it’s used as a decoration, as well as ground into cornmeal.
Corn, maize in Spanish, was the subject of worship in Mexico and remains to this day to be revered as a mainstay. You will see corn included in Day of the Dead altars.
Mexico banned commercial planting of GMO corn in 1998 but still allows the importation of over six million tons a year, typically from the US. A huge portion of the imports are transgenic and Mexico’s most sacred product is now highly threatened and has been contaminated. Considering how deeply fundamental corn is to the Mexican culture, this is not an insignificant matter.
Corn is second only to rice as the world’s most essential harvest and has been regarded as miraculous in substantiate growth. Farmers have long made claims concerning the ability to hear corn grow, bursting as it does from the earth and leaning, twisting towards sunlight.
The art and architecture of Mexico rely heavily on the shape of this basic grain, which is found in every meal, dictates schedules of fiestas and significant events, and for centuries has provided the core source of sustainability and survival to the indigenous populace. Corn is considered a legacy in Mexico, a piece of the culture to leave to coming generations. With the introduction of GMO produce and disruption of contingent growth, Mexicans see their cultural paths going in the same direction as North American Indian tribes, at a slower, yet inevitable pace.
Groups in many Mexican states have formed to combat the destruction of such a central part of way of life, accompanied by education by elders of the youth on the topic of the importance and security of maize.