"Corn is not a thing, it is a center of origin", is a phrase that emerged in the Network in Defense of Corn in Mexico, which tells of a compilation of collective knowledge of indigenous peoples and peasants in struggle for the defense of Creole corn seeds against transgenics. This essay reflects on the Costa Rican case, but does not lose sight of the greater Latin American sphere.
Corn is a center. The plateau
In the neighborhood, the houses are tight, dry, silent. People leave with their car, return with their car, enter the supermarket parking lot, walk through temperature-controlled corridors, take what they “need”, pay at the cash register, return to the car, go to the fast food restaurant, return To the car, to the traffic, back to the garage.
The kitchen of those houses, although it is still part of that ancestral meeting space where the conversation of stories and the mixing of food is magic, now becomes a pantry space for processed products, wrapped in plastic, refined, preserved. , canned, roasted, frozen. The food that we will eat, bought in that supermarket - or in the best case bought in the neighborhood grocery store - was pasteurized, sterilized, radicalized, radurized.
Salt, sugar, glycerol, monosodium glutamate, solutes, sulfites, nitrites, sorbates, benzoates, parabens, and even antibiotics were added.
At the breakfast, lunch, coffee or dinner table, part of the identity of "the Costa Rican central plateau" is served: a Dos Pinos juice, a Bimbo bread toast, an egg from Pipasa (a company bought by Cargill), rice and beans of the gallo pinto –imported from Central America–.
The cornfields that we once saw when we were children were converted into residential areas, shopping centers and roads. Corn, in the best of cases, is found in a planted tortilla, from commercial brands such as Tortirricas or in the Maseca bag to prepare year-end tamales.
Food is a center of doing, but it is also part of the imagined community that constitutes a national identity or nationalism.
As the Mexican researcher José Luis Juárez (2018) says, food is also a territory made up of meanings and symbols through which communities create and reproduce their identities.
National identities, as a concept that transmutes in time, produce and reproduce practices and ideologies. The eating patterns in the central plateau of Costa Rica represent part of that construction of nationalisms in a long history that includes the Spanish invasion, which later converged on liberal nation states and is now configured from neoliberal states.
Hegemonic nationalisms have to do with food systems, as they are also products of a construction in motion. According to the researcher Rafael Cuevas Molina (2005), the ethical nationalism that was built by liberal sectors was imposed from above, taking as reference Eurocentric models of a copy that could never be. Who are the Latin American peoples in the midst of the relationship between identity and food?
Well, just as they wanted to whiten the skin, the thought and the spiritualities of the indigenous, Afro-descendant and Oriental peoples –now diverse inhabiting the Latin American continent–; so it was also wanted to whiten food.
- Mural by José Manuel Montalvo.
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