Maize, Identity & Culture
I spent the afternoon in the library of the Ethnobotanic Garden in the City of Oaxaca, Mexico. Among the tomes of botany in the library were a handful of titles dedicated to corn, some cultural, others agricultural and yet others simple catalogues of varieties and where they grow. The library is small, but well organized and inviting. Natural light fills the room and complements the wooden shelves and tables. A few employees of the garden quietly worked as I scanned the titles and turned the pages.
The Ethnobotanic Garden focuses on plants native to the state of Oaxaca - both wild and agricultural. My interest is agricultural and primarily with corn. The garden unfolds over the four-acre 16th century Santo Domingo monastery. Native varieties of corn in stone garden beds grow along side gourds, amaranth, squash, and beans - all native to the new world and in particular to Mexico. There are also rows, dots, patches, and tunnels of palms, ferns, agave, cacti, and cycads.