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MAIZ

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BRIEF ACCOUNT ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF MAIZE IN THE ECONOMY, THE HISTORY AND CULTURE OF MEXICO.
BREVE PRESENTACION EN INGLES SOBRE LA IMPORTANCIE DEL MAIZ EN LA HISTORIA, LA ECONOMIA Y LA CULTRURA DE MEXICO

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MAIZ

  1. 1. Centers of origin of crop plantsThe eight Vavilovian Centers of Origin for crop plants.
  2. 2. .
  3. 3. The evolution of maize• Indigenous farmers were and are partners with the maize, not its engineers. This is what is called “peasant improvement” or “native improvement” and the result of this process is one of the greatest human inventions: maize.
  4. 4. Maize diversity• This long human-plant coexistence made possible the development of a huge diversity.In Mexico today thereare more than fifty maize families of local varieties, each of which may have many cultivars or cultivated varieties.
  5. 5. As many as 5 thousand cultivars may exit in Mexico
  6. 6. The Mesoamerican civilization was strengthenedupon the field crop of maize; through harvesting it,its religious and spiritual importance and how itimpacted their diet. Maize formed the Mesoamericanpeople’s identity.
  7. 7. The oldestrepresentations of theGod of Maiz are relatedwith fertility,renaissance,abundance, wealth andthe incessant recreationof life. On the fields, inthe temples andpalaces, on their bigsteales or on thesimplest earthen vesselthe ancients carved orpainted the image of theseed, the cob or thewhole plant like one ofthe different incarnationsof fertility.
  8. 8. Corn meant so much forancient Mesoamericansthat this plant came to bethe “axis of their world”,the “cosmic tree” thatintegrates all the plainsand levels of the universe.This can be clearly seenon the Foliated Cross ofPalenque.
  9. 9. Rulers or governors areusually depicted withattributes of the God of Maiz.The kernels, the cob or thesymbols of maize appearedon the royal bands or theheaddresses of the rulersconveying them a divinenature. Rulers are anincarnation of the God ofMaiz, in their mortal bodies liethe regenerative forces ofnature thus the royal powerhad the eternal qualities ofNature cycles.
  10. 10. Maize is the single largest food crop in the world, andin spite of its enormous nutritious value, only 21% ofthis massive production goes to human consumption.
  11. 11. WORLD CORN PRODUCTION, 2009-2010 Other 29% U.S. 42%Mexico 3% Brasil 7% China 19%
  12. 12. US CORN USAGE BY SEGMENT, 2009 Exports 16% Feed and Residual 43% Ethanol 32% Other 5% HFCS 4%
  13. 13. MEXICAN CORN USAGE BY SECTOR, 2009 Feed 31% Tortilla 47% Otros 12% Industria 10%
  14. 14. On january 1st 1994 the corn sector was totally andimmediately opened to US producers. The rhetoricabout a fifteen year transition period for corn with atariff free quota system was only that, rhetoric.
  15. 15. Under Nafta, the US now sells between six and eight milliontonnes of maize to Mexico every year. The flooding of theMexican market with highly subsidised maize produced in theUS plummeted prices for Mexican producers. Although whitemaize is preferred because of quality and cultural reasons formaking tortillas, market prices are set by the international priceof the United States yellow corn grade 2
  16. 16. It is important to emphasize that tortilla prices increased by afactor of 5 since the NAFTA entered into force, while subsidiesto the industrial flour industries (specially the two largestfirms, MASECA and MINSA) increased and almost doubledduring NAFTA’s first five years.
  17. 17. The 3 million farmerswho grow maize inMexico have beendeemed inefficient incomparison with cornfarmers in the US.Multi-million subsidiesand technology make itimpossible tocompete, when 70%are small-scalefarmers endowed withvery small plots of land(averaging less than 2hectares),little or noaccess tocredit, limited orminimum use ofchemical inputs andusually no employmentof mechanical traction.
  18. 18. Mexico’s corn growers perform a critical and unrecognizedenvironmental service of vital importance as the curators ofthe rich genetic variability attained by corn in Mexico. Thisprecious germplasm has contributed in a decisive manner toglobal production of corn. Even the dented varieties of the U.S.Corn Belt are close descendants of the first Mexican landraces.
  19. 19. Over half of the maize area planted in the United States hasbeen genetically modified. The US currently uses transgenicseeds in 40% of the maize it exports to Mexico, which is aserious threat for the ability of Mexican growers to conserveand develop the diversity of maize.
  20. 20. Between 1995 and 2006, the US government paid out $56billion in corn subsidies. In terms of synthetic and minedfertilizers, the corn crop sucks in nearly 40% of all nitrogenfertilizer applied in the United States, and upwards of 30%of phosphorous and potash. Such voracious use offertilizers causes all manner of ecological trouble.
  21. 21. In ruralMexico, especiallycentral andsouthern regionswith predominantindigenouscommunities, maize is not only astaple; against allodds, it remains tobe the axismundi of theirculture.
  22. 22. The original milpa it’s notonly a maize field but anative agro-technology ruledby the principle of “harmoniccoexistence” between thetwo or three different plantsthat share the field in apremeditated way in order toimprove the crop and thesoil. The maize is plantedalong with beans and/orsquashes. The beans plantuses the maize plant forsupport and in turn this oneprovides nitrogen to thesoil, and squashes provideground cover to stop weedsand inhibit evaporation byproviding shade over the soil.
  23. 23. Family units ofsmall-scaleproduction andconsumptioncommonlygrowcorn, beans, vegetables andother cropsmainly for theirown, and whatthey have inexcess, theysell to thegovernment orlocal markets.
  24. 24. Corn’s cultural relevance can also be seen in thecare and storage of the crop, from the manualthreshing of the cob to the selection of seeds andtheir storage in the house or in cuescomates.
  25. 25. Thetraditionalprocess tomake tortillasrepresents aritual in itselffrom thepreparation ofnixtamal, tothe grindingof the doughand thecorrectcooking ofeach torilla onthe comal.
  26. 26. As the tortilla makingprocess wasindustrialised, tortilleríasstopped using the nixtamalprocess, a Mesoamericanculinary invention thattransforms the nutrientcontent of maize to enablenutrients to be betterabsorbed by the humandigestive system. Themaize is soaked with limeand then ground into masaor maize dough, which isused to make a variety ofdishes and drinks. Tortillaproduction, since the mid1970s, has replaced themasa with ground maizeflour, which is nutritionallyinferior.
  27. 27. Rural communitieshave an integraluse of the plant:from the roots andstumps forfertilizers orfuel, to the stalk incrafts and in theconstruction; fromthe leaves orfoliation to wraptamales orcigarrettes to thebare cob as fuel oranimal food, orthreshing tool, orwood polisher orbottle cork.
  28. 28. Traditional Mexican Food is based in corn:elotes,esquites, pozole, huitlacoche (Corn smut a fungaldisease known in Mexico as huitlacoche, which is prizedby some as a gourmet delicacy initself.), tostadas, tamales, atole, tejate, tejuino, quesadilla

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