Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Corn is Mexico's foundational food, its primordial sustenance. Ground into masa and formed into tortillas, it was a meal for humble and high. Outside the city, cinderblock slums fade into rolling cornfields; within its asphalt moat whirring machines spit out warm, even disks to wrap as tacos or fry as chips. Tamales are hawked on corners, grilled or steamed cobs are slathered in mayonnaise, chile, and cheese and sold whole. Elsewhere, cornmeal is spread thin for Oaxacantlayudas, or fattened into Queretaro's gorditas or Tepoztlan's itacates.

A blur of weathered hands flatten balls of dough into thin patties, the lime turning metal comals white. According to the Mayan origin myth, the gods had formed people from maize. In Chiapas, green shoots spring from small plots of dark, humid earth, bringing the promise of a harvest in the fall.

Agroindustry corn and cheap ramen noodles have slowly eroded traditional subsistence agriculture in Mexico. Tastes change slowly but economics race past the ancient rhythms of the milpa.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

People 4: Juanito

Juanito wove nimbly amid the chaos of the fruit stand, rearranging piles of mangoes and replacing papayas as fast as customers picked them off. Don Isidro's right-hand man, he was an energetic yang to his patrón's fatigued yin, all infectious smile and easy laugh. As I said goodbye, his eyes compulsively darted back along the stall, and, with a hearty handshake and a "cuidate mucho güero", he was gone, reabsorbed into the chaos.