Monday, October 31, 2011

Decolonize The Occupations!

by Chris Rodriguez

The destructive face of globalization has reached all corners of the planet. While the land, water, air, animals and humanity are in need of a world-wide movement of liberation, most people continue to overindulge and over consume. The United States is of course the leading force behind this mass consumption and destruction. But, as a Mexican writer for the radical blog Desinformémonos said, “finally something begins to move in the belly of the beast.” Yes, I’m talking about the Occupy Wall Street movement. Writing from within the belly of the beast, however, implies a responsibility to challenge the language of empire and remind us that beyond occupying space, there is a deeper struggle, a five hundred plus year-old indigenous movement, to decolonize, recuperate and liberate occupied territory—physical and geographic. Perhaps the use of the term “occupy” is embedded in people’s consumption of the U.S. Empire’s mass media promoting endless war and domination of the world. I feel it is safe to say that this has normalized the idea of occupation, and as we are witnessing today, has also made it easy for the masses to reclaim the word “occupy” as a positive, progressive one. But did you ever stop to think about how your own physical mind and body are occupied? Do we really need to occupy more space? How will these questions reach a leaderless movement of occupation? Well for the folks who take the time to read this post my intention is to express solidarity with the those who are voicing their rage at the occupations. Perhaps some of you camping out at civic centers and wall streets across the U.S. Empire will have time to read this post and get inspired to praxis what you’re preaching.

Going back to decolonizing occupied spaces. If you consume a Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) then not only is your mind and body is occupied by patriarchal imperialist capitalist United States, but the land you stand on is too. You see, prior to colonization and industrialization the majority of people around the U.S. autonomously controlled their ancestral lands and thus were able to control their own bodies through eating very healthfully and ecologically. In other words, our ancestors understood the co-dependency our bodies have with the land, flora and fauna and therefore ate accordingly—seasonally, over 80 percent plant-based and locally. Yet with European colonization, not only did native land get occupied but so did native bodies. On the west coast for examples Spanish missionaries were ordered by the Pope to convert the souls of our ancestors to Christianity. This also meant converting their taste buds and diets to that of the European heavily meat-based gluttonous ways of eating and drinking. The most symbolic act of this besides the overt infiltration of indigenous kitchens by clergy chefs, was the Sacrament of Holy Communion. This act of symbolic cannibalism epitomizes the European elite desire for meat/bread aka “body of Christ” and wine/alcohol aka “blood of Christ.” 

At the same time, came the occupation of native land and displacement of the flora and fauna by cows, pigs, chicken and wheat. Animal protein occupied the land where plant-based protein was cultivated and wheat replaced corn. After observing the intricate work that indigenous communities put into the cultivation of corn, the European colonizers imposed the cultivation of wheat in order to meat, I mean meet, the increasing demand and desire for Christ’s body in the form of bread back in Europe. We can see that sugar production and export to Europe fits into this equation too. Did you know the first sugar mill in the Americas—Mexico specifically—was built in 1521? As Native American territory became occupied during the creation of the United States Empire, natives were deprived of their foodways and forced to prepare food with bleached flour and sugar (the birth of fry bread). The product of this occupation of Native foodways by European gluttony was colonial dis-eases like diabetes, cardiovascular, and obesity.  These did not exist as they do today prior to the Industrial Revolution when the mass-production of meat, dairy and processed foods concurrently began to destroy our water, land, air and animals.

Beyond the Native American experience of occupation we can see how these politics of food and occupation continue to affect everyone. Agribusinesses displace campesinos—rural indigenous and non-indigenous farmers; destroy ancestral seeds; and poison the people who produce, harvest, package, distribute, prepare and consume these foods. The factory farming of animals is also part of this ecologically destructive formula. All of this is related to occupation. The occupation of indigenous land and ways of eating and thinking. Everything is interconnected. It is time to liberate ourselves and our ecological community from this repressive food matrix and occupation. We must abandon these methods of food and meat production, distribution and consumption and return to and support Native communities who produce, harvest, hunt and fish wild, seasonally and locally. This is ecologically and economically sustainable and necessary. It is one step towards food sovereignty and liberation. But this cannot be done unless we change the way we eat. This is a matter of decolonizing our taste buds by returning to a plant-based way of eating. As we begin to decolonize ourselves—minds, bodies, souls—then we prepare to decolonize the land.

His/herstory has shown us that without land there is no freedom. More importantly though, we must look at where liberation and decolonization have truly manifested in post-modern ways. I’m thinking especially about the Zapatista Autonomous Communities of Chiapas, Mexico. Although a rural indigenous movement, we can still be inspired by their methods of radical non-violence and decentralization of government among many other autonomous projects. However, their success is related to the recuperation of ancestral territories. This is not to be confused with occupation since they—as all indigenous people—are the ancestral keepers of the land they work and protect. By recuperating ancestral territory they were once forced as slaves to work, autonomous health and food projects quickly emerged. Zapatista women are no longer losing their children to curable dis-eases. An entirely new generation of Zapatista youth are healthier than ever. And they will be the first to tell you “health is the most precious thing you can give to a movement.”

Speaking with the voice of our ancestors and Mother Earth I am asking the occupiers of Wall Street to shift this movement towards the decolonization of the land and our bodies from the imperialist, capitalist United States. The first and foremost effective step towards this process of decolonization begins with the everyday act of eating and speaking too. ¡Tóma conciencia! Decolonize the diet, re-indigenize our foodways!


  1. I completely agree with you, without land there is no freedom! the indigenous people deserve that too. Thank you for this small history lesson. It was great

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