Corn and Capitalism: How a Botanical Bastard Grew to Global Dominance

Corn and Capitalism: How a Botanical Bastard Grew to Global Dominance

Corn and Capitalism: How a Botanical Bastard Grew to Global Dominance

Corn and Capitalism: How a Botanical Bastard Grew to Global Dominance

Excerpt

There is a long story behind this book. I first began to methodically compile material on corn in the late 1970s. At that time, my intentions were quite open-ended and my interest in corn was more personal than programmatic. My original interest in corn was older still. Since I was a city dweller and, worse still, from Mexico City, corn was something I took for granted, something ubiquitous and constant, like the air we breathed or the water we drank. I discovered something in the rural countryside, if what millions already knew really could be deemed discovery: that peasants had created corn on a daily basis. They created corn by virtue of their hard work, their knowledge, and their respect and veneration of nature. Corn was a product of their passion, of their lives that revolved around that plant, and of their stubborn persistence. Their teachings made this book possible.

Shortly thereafter I discovered something more: that this same plant was a human invention, that nature could not propagate it without the participation of men, or more accurately of women, according to what archaeologists tell us. Bit by bit, it became clear that the story behind corn was far from the self-evident case I had originally thought it to be, and I began to delve into the mystery surrounding that plant. About twenty-five years ago, my curiosity, which had left me with a disordered array of papers and photocopies, became a methodical calling. I began to dig, to gather whatever information on corn I could to satisfy the hunger for pure knowledge. Perhaps this was my attempt to perform some sort of penance for my ignorance and urban arrogance, for paying so little attention to something that was at the center of the lives of millions of compatriots.

The accumulation of information inevitably became a sort of avarice. I intended to write a social history of corn in Mexico, that is to say, a history of the knowledge and the work needed to produce the material sustenance of an entire nation. That intention remains, and if life permits and I am afforded the time and opportunity, another book will follow this one. I will dedicate the sequel to analyzing Mexico's long social struggle for self-sufficiency and dietary self-determination. The very history of Mexico revolves around the . . .

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