Thursday, November 27, 2008

Wombyn and Colonization: Re-indigenizing and Remembering our Sacred Food Ways

by Claudia Serrato

Today, it is evident that fatal health diseases, decaying ecosystems, and cruel animal farming are results of the European colonizers' appetite. Food practices of indigenous societies living in the Americas prior to colonization contributed to the continual balance of nature. They understood, as it is today, that all life forms, big and small, were interconnected--a familia, relatives, an extended community.

Previous to colonization wombyn from the corn nation, referred today as the South-Western United States, Mexico, Central and South America ate a maize, centeotl or corn and plant based diet. These wombyn were strong, healthy and were the healers and nurturers of families and the community. It was their responsibility to feed the MesoAmerican@ body. La mujer indigena understood that land, flora and fauna and the human body were interconnected. There was no separation and if one was unhealthy the other was too. Ecological balance was necessary to maintain a healthy and a strong spiritual and cultural existence.

To compliment the 80% corn and plant based diet, las mujeres gathered and grew other vegetables and fruits. They ate squash, nopales, beans, avocados, cactus fruit, algae and many other hundreds of varieties. Too, they ate guzanos, larvae, lizards, fish and small gain as a light snack and untainted guajalotes in ceremonia

As a result of the occupation by the Spanish colonizers, indigenous bodies became suspect to the colonial diet--highly animal based in nature. The Spanish, with their superiority complexes, falsely believed that animal based diets signified prestige and that all other diets that were not carnivorous were examples of inferiority. Their meat choices were cows, chickens and pigs which were not indigenous to the invaded lands. Pozole de maize became pozole de puerco, tacos de nopal became tacos de carne asada and tamales de papa y chile became tamales de pollo.

As colonization expanded, many indigenous calpullis (working communities), no longer harvested their milpas (community gardens), but adopted a Spanish agricultural food system and diet that began to infect the interconnected communities health.

This conquest forced indigenous wombyn to flee to higher regions to protect themselves and their families but their communities--the indigenous who became enslaved in political food systems, lands which got exploited and small life forms, became commodities and therefore conquered. This was the beginning of the internal occupation of the indigenous body for food practices would never be the same. As for the wombyn in the higher regions they implemented their many years of indigenous knowledge and because of their strong spiritual connection to the land attempted in every way possible to maintain their spirituality and food traditions, to avoid loss of cultural and spiritual identity.

The colonizer attempted to eliminate the corn dependency and break the corn nation apart by imposing a diet high in wheat and animal-based. They were unsuccessful in eliminating corn but were successful in shifting the indigenous body away from their land and food ways. This dietary switch became part of the now mestiza identity and the communities were no longer healthy. The mothers, tias, sisters and grandmothers began to prepare meals that were not strictly from the land but slaughterhouses and cans due to economic enslavement by the colonial system. They no longer had the opportunity to grow milpas and be the healers and nurturers (cooks/xefs) to their families as they once were.

As the corn nation became the Mexican nation, dietary hierarchies began to exist. Those with power ate meat and those without ate tortillas. Whether deemed poor or peasant the indigena was healthier than the rich for her diet was still corn based, therefore managed to maintain spiritual strength and randomly became ill with infections caused by food. Unlike the rich Mexicans who died from dietary diseases. The rich were big bodied and engorged themselves in high animal based foods such as carne, milk, cheese and eggs.

The rise of diseases became very prevalent after 1910 for industrialization boomed and the idea of "mass production for mass consumption" flourished. Food industries built close working relationships with politicians and through the food lobbying practices, began to market an animal based diet to the common working-class people by promoting it as a diet for "civilized people." This was a political maneuver. As politicians and agricultural corporations began to profit, citizens throughout the Americas began to become infected with diseases only known to have affected the upper classes or the rich. Medical and Pharmaceutical professionals associated the rise of diseases to the new marketed food practices but did not advocate change. They were bought off. Their medical schools, trainings and educational opportunities were paid for. Today, these associations are interlinked. When one profits the other does too.

As a nation of sick people, our vulnerability is continually taken advantage of. We are told to take diet pills, drug lowering cholesterol and diabetic pills, to place our bodies under extreme radiation, and told to follow the food pyramid regulations. Guess what, these medical suggestions do not heal our bodies but stabilize them for a short period of time, while increasing economic gain for those industries whom control our food, drugs and medicine.

The political or colonial project and diet continues to infect or occupy the MesoAmericana/Xicana bodies. She is dying and becoming infected with cancer, obesity, heart disease and diabetes--this makes me question if culinary imperialism is a project of cultural femicide or genocide? Hmm?

The colonized, or Western diet, has debilitated our communities' health--body, animals and nature. It is time to reconnect with our roots, and honor the sacredness of the Maize, lands and original food traditions. It is now time for us to remember our food as sacred, or as our elders advocate, begin to "decolonize our diets." By this action we begin to strengthen our earthly relationships and reclaim our spirituality. In this form we begin to "re-indigenize" our food practices, in other words, begin to remember our food as a ceremonia: one heart, one mind, one spirit--working together to heal and create balance in our interconnected communities.

To liberate our earth and ourselves we must begin by changing our diets! It is time to re-indigenize our sacred food ways.

And on an important side note:

Native peoples through out the Americas did not consume meat on a daily basis as today. Native Americans and Vegetarianism has has always been the indigenous way of eating. Yes we consumed animal and fish products but minimally. AND when these food blessings were prepared to nourish the sacred body, it was honored and not prepared in an assembly line or injected with growth enlarging hormones, nor did preparing these foods cause ecological imbalances, or infect humans or other life forms with diseases.

Indigenous bodies did not become infected with colonial food related diseases due to active life styles. Indigenous bodies burned thousands of calories a day. However, I do not advocate any type of fish or animal based diet for the reasons just mentioned above.

In solidarity and fighting for liberation for all of my relations. Aha/o.


  1. Felicidades to both of you for what you do, who you are and what you are sharing. I became a veggie 18 years ago, i'm not a vegan nor do i know much about heating healthy - but I've always felt the basis of what you are saying here. Thanks and please keep putting it out there in our many circles and communities where this is so misunderstood and needed.

    tlazo y paz,