It seems as though it was yesterday that we were walking down the streets of Saltillo and dreaming of crossing the continent. It was 6 years ago, though.
After all this time, which I spent hiding in Chiapas to avoid the violence that marked my years at the university, I don’t consider the capital of Coahuila to be “the same city,” I don’t see “the same crossroads, or the same street corners,” the way Little Zague does.
As Catón used to say, “Saltillo is something else.” It surely is not thanks to those “bridges for the people,” built with what money was left after the worst government in history robbed it for years, nor thanks to the feeling of insecurity. Those have left the inhabitants of Saltillo short of trust and vitality.
Saltillo has changed because there are some people who don’t want to give up and who believe it can be saved. It shows through an unusual activism to protect Human Rights, to fight for dignified childbirths and non-transgenic corn.
Saltillo has changed because people are waking up. We wanted to dedicate this article to them all.
Activist for life
In Chiapas, a Mexico with an indigenous heart, I got interested in 2 subjects intimately linked to life: the respect which should be given to childbirth and Mexican corn. Both subjects are threatened by the lack of education and the intensive publicity made by pharmaceutical and food lobbies.
This is why, when I arrived in Saltillo, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to contact Karla González. She is a young woman who, as she finishes her second-to-last semester at the Faculty of Medicine, is also the mother of a 3-year-old, prenatal educator and fervent activist of the respect of childbirth.
With the support of her family, she could found Naissance (“Birth” in French), a center of psychological prevention and childbirth activation. On top of giving classes of water therapy, the center organizes classes of parental awareness and workshops of breast-feeding and weaning.
Its mission: inform the women of Coahuila state of their right to give birth in full knowledge and safety as well as being the main center practicing placental medicine in north-west Mexico.
Her work is a wonderful example, specially in a state like Coahuila where the number of caesarians is much higher than the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Since the beginnings of the modern obstetrics and since the responsibility of childbirth has been transferred to the institutions, the percentage of caesarians has highly augmented, because the institutions and hospitals are made to answer situations at-risk. Thus, all patients who enter there are considered ill, since we teach doctors to cure diseases. Midwives have been driven out of the health department because they don’t make profits. What people don’t see is that they could be the solution and help decrease the number of caesarians,” says Karla.
Her pregnancy was the trigger that made her build her own dream. “I wanted to share with other women what I had learned during my pregnancy and all the knowledge I was given at the Faculty of Medicine. I couldn’t keep it all to myself,” she insists.
In the long term, she wishes to see the health center for women grow and even organize a program of childbirth at home, so that “the mothers and babies of Saltillo can live that moment better.”
Her story and the ones of many other women fighting for a more natural childbirth are part of a documentary we’re currently shooting on the subject.
The trail of corn
My interest in the future of corn led me to meet the agronomical engineer Gustavo Burciaga, director of the Mexican Institute of Corn at the Agrarian Autonomous University of Antonio (UAAAN).
He talked about a possible alternative which would allow self-sufficiency in corn producing, without the use of transgenics: a hybrid created in situ, which wouldn’t need any patent and would assure higher productivity.
“In the 70’s, UAAAN started a program to improve corn, following the research of students and teachers,” he says. Among them was one by the Doctor Mario Enrique Castro Gil who had succeeded in developing a corn plant named “dwarf corn,” which he then baptized Pancho Villa (AN-360).
Burciaga thinks that this name proves a strong feeling of nationalism of its creator. Indeed, Castro Gil thought very important that a crop of corn which could give up to 20 tons of grains per hectare in experimental conditions could be named after the one and only Mexican man who was able to invade the “gringos” during the famous battle of Columbus in 1916.
Even though Castro Gil’s researches were copied in China and in the then-Yugoslavia, his work stopped short when he passed away, with his entire research crew, in a tragic plane accident.
His plane crashed a few days only after he strongly criticized the food lobbies. It took place during a meeting they had with the then Agricultural and Hydrolic Ressources Agency (Secretaría de Agricultura y Recursos Hidráulicos – SARH), where he defended the production of national corn against the voracity of those big firms.
Nevertheless, as with every grain well-planted, the one left by Castro Gil grew stronger and continued to evolve. Research has proven that the cross-breeding of the “dwarf corn” with other Mexican varieties can produce hybrid corns, “ultra resilient” against harder climates, against plagues and diseases, in places like the Bajío and in the north, as well as in the humid or dry tropics.
The following research have been extended to forage corn for the poultry industry and the development of polyembryonic seeds, able to grow 2 or 3 plants for each sowed seed.
“Contrary to the transgenic which transfers a gene from a different species, the hybrid corn preserves the genome of the plant that has evolved alone for more than 10.000 years and still presents new forms,” he says.
“The conditions exist in the Mexican fields for self-sufficiency, at least when it comes to corn. But, we are in Saltillo, Coahuila… Here, if a farmer starts growing corn, who will he sell it to? No one! Because the Maseca tortilla fabrics use Maseca flour,” explains the researcher.
Maseca, from the Gruma group, imports over-produced corn from the United States to make its own flour. Research directed by Greenpeace in 2006 proved the presence of transgenic corn in 4 out of 9 samples taken at Maseca.
“I don’t know if our government is thinking about it, but we can’t rely on only 2 transnational firms to feed a whole people. Their seeds are quoted at the Chicago stock exchange so, if there’s over-production, prices go down; if there is no production, prices go up. We are able to distribute high quality seeds to farmers and peasants so they can use them well. It’s not much but it is important because it is the result of the research and the knowledge of many people. It is also what the Professor Castro had foreseen.
Catching a dream: the cabaret
While we were in Chiapas, we got into another adventure that has later been made a pillar of Polo a Polo: the social circus.
When Roberto’s office life ended from one day to another, we went from Guadalajara to San Cristóbal de Las Casas, “the most magical of all magical villages,” where it is said that “you find here what you need, not necessarily what you came looking for.”
There, we were invited by Casa Plena, a school of human ecology where, for 2 years, we discovered art as an instrument for the development and practice of human conscience, which can be “learned by teaching” and “taught while learning” since “all of us are mutual teachers.”
We used aerial dance as a means to introspection, to know our body and mind better since they are intimately linked, to give importance to the smallest step and to try – even though it can result very difficult – to follow the flow of life.
We decided then to “be the end for the means” – as the Zapatists say – of every action we would undertake during our trip. That’s how, while Pato Che went to his mechanics conferences every morning with Pancho, the inspiration befell us and, in no time, we created Atrapasueños Cabaret. It won’t be Cirque du Soleil, but, with all its imperfections, we’re trying to show that everyone holds inside them what it takes to achieve a dream.
“The building,” the famous house in which Mother Mihit wanted to organize a geriatric gym, was transformed into the perfect theater house to present audiovisual productions, music by Eddy Calderón, for the “Antonymous,” for aerial dance shows, juggling, Chai “the circus dog” and her friend, Mihi, the world’s best clown ever!
At night, neighbors, family and friends came to see the show, as well as the governor’s official photographer, Alberto Puente, to immortalize the event.
Tadeo and Issa improvised themselves light technicians with the LED and aluminum paper artistically spread around the scene.
Mihi won the heart of all since, with his natural grace as a clown, he made the public laugh their hearts out. Chavalic even said he hadn’t laughed that much in ages. And, in spite of Roberto and I literally getting tangled during our aerial dance act, the whole show was a success and the round of applause helped erase all the exhaustion.
To finish on a good note, Roberto and Mihi gave a fiery show that illuminated the majestic peaks of Zapalinamé in our backs. We all ended up celebrating together; the assistants even tried some juggling and acrobatics. Children were running everywhere, glasses were refilled and our hearts filled with joy.
With Atrapasueños came the possibility of organizing a workshop of intensive aerial dance; our collective Pies que Vuelan would be in charge and would propose it to El Shala Saltillo, a yogi sanctuary where we were wrapped in love torand positive energy.
We also presented our little show to the Migrant Home of Saltillo and went through a large spectrum of emotions. But, this is a complete different… chronicle.
to Casa Plena, in particuliar to Vani and Paty to watch out for us when flying.
to El Shala Saltillo, Pamela Álvarez and her wonderwomen for all their friendship.
to friends and family who supported Atrapasueños Cabaret and the workshop by Pies que Vuelan.
to Óscar Aguillón for lending us the projector.
to Eddy Calderón for his friendship and for the pleasure of being on stage together again.
to Daniela Aguirre for her everlasting support.
to Beto Puente and his family for the beautiful pictures of the Cabaret.
to the Mihit family.
to Pancho and Myrna.
to Karla González and Naissance for her activism in favor of dignified childbirth in Saltillo.
to the engineer Gustavo Burciaga of the Mexican Institute of Corn at UAAAN.