by Chris Xef Rodriguez
The Thanksgiving dinner is a symbolic feast that represents 516 years of culinary imperialism and internal colonization. The mass produced turkey stuffed with its own exploited inner body parts and smothered with its very essence mounted with butter-gravy. The turkey-huexolotl-el guajolote- was a culinary delight before the arrival of the colonizers. However it was a ceremonial food that was taken with pachamama's permission and prepared and served with a blessing by the native healers-los y las xefs-the cooks.
Today the masses eat the mass produced, feminized bird with out any knowledge of where it came from, who package it or even who prepared it at the restaurant. La Raza call this feast or so-called "holiday" thankstaking because of the violent genocide, rape and appropriation of native land, culture and ways of living. I call it thankstaking for those reasons too but also because they took our natural ways of eating.
In Que vivan los tamales: Food and the Making of Mexican Identity, Jeffrey M. Pilcher explores the connections between food, power and culture. He writes on Mexico during the colonial period and how the culinary imperialists-los conquistadores-replaced the indigenous people's corn-based diets with a European wheat-based diet. Arguing that corn made brown people lazy and weak, the culinary imperialists exploited indigenous peoples' health and labor to grow wheat instead of the sacred maize so that the elite back in Spain could have greater access to this imbalanced food. Because capitalism has to constantly revolutionize itself and seek new ways to maximize profit, the industrial revolution gave birth to agro-businesses which replaced local food systems with mass produced food, healthy diets with the bourgeoisie diet. These examples were methods of conquest used to globalize capitalism hence Pilcher's phrase "the conquest of wheat."
My fellow compañera and colleague, Claudia meXicatl Serrato, puts it like this, "heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity were sicknesses only common amongst the elite pre-industrialization. Our gente, everyday people, never suffered these illnesses until the mass production of processed foods (GMO's) and feminized meats."
Today,516 years later, some of our gente may be celebrating Thankstaking or saying "No Thanks!" while the colonizer- the IMF and the World Bank-along with their counterparts, the culinary imperialists-Monsanto-thank consumers for continuing to stuff over-grown, antibiotic infested birds with genetically modified vegetables that lack nutritional value.
P.S. Turkey, Food-coma and the un-seen costs of "Thanksgiving" left-overs
Perhaps its the sleep-inducing chemical, tryptophan, in turkey that clouds the minds of Thanksgiving left-over lovers from realizing the ecological footprint a colonial diet leaves on Mother Earth-Pachamama-and Indigenous peoples. For that I blame culinary imperialists like L.A. Times food writer S. Irene Virbila for promoting colonial diets as a way to experience "nirvana" in her article "Turkey pot pie, an easy second act" . What she considers "nirvana" I consider an apocalyptic diet linked to the mass starvation of children all over the global south. Just look at the home of the first mass slave uprising-Haiti. The Haitian people have since been stripped from their traditional and self-sustainable ways of living and eating like growing food for consumption. It is today's neoliberal policies and neocolonial powers, that so-called "under-developed" nations are faced with financial debt and starvation-world hunger.
Today I heard Pierre LaBossiere, founding member of Haiti Action Committee, discuss "The Real Reason Why Haitian Children Are Starving to Death" on Uprising. Haiti's financial debt actually goes back to the first French colonizer bank accounts that have essentially been replaced with and globalized by the IMF and World Bank. The starvation we currently see in Haiti is not because of a natural disaster but because of global economic policies-neoliberalism-that are best implemented during these disasters. Naomi Klein refers to this process as the Shock Doctrine and it was masterminded by the famous economist-neoliberalism's daddy-Milton Friedman.
Theses food policies, supposedly aimed towards "development and ending world hunger" are in fact, as Vandana Shiva explains, "robbing the poor of their wealth".