The Inaugural festival of Corn, San Lucas Parish, Loja, Equador - April 2017

Between March and April 2017 the inaugurative Festival of Corn took place in the parish of San Lucas, Loja. This festival saw the coming together of different ayllus (families) and  communities, the “Urcos-Sayta” organisation and other  provinces represented by ECUARUNARI.

The Festival’s objective is to revalue and preserve both seeds and ancestral territory of the Kichwa Saragura community and Kichwa nation in the Andean region of Ecuador.

Hommage is paid to Pachamama, Mother Earth, with whom we share this terrestrial world, through the mythical figure of Mamazupalata and thanks are given to  her for having born the first fruits.

This Festival is a time to be at one with spiritual, ceremonial, energetic, emboldening  forces, to share with the sacred corn, just as our ancestors did hundreds of years ago.

Objectives / Agreements / Conclusions

Continue to defend our Abya-Yala territory. Conserve and preserve the diversity and variety of corn seeds in the Saraguro people and other peoples.

Prohibit the contamination of ancestral seeds with transgenic seeds from multinational companies imported to guarantee sustenance on the basis that these companies are violating collective rights, international treaties and the Ecuadorian constitution.

Set up programmes through which experiences regarding the conservation of ancient seeds can be shared amongst andean communities and other peoples.

Strengthen organisation within the community so that our agriculture forms a key part of our children’s education.

Revisiting our own methods of agriculture, architecture, textiles, medicine,  gastronomy (each community with its own dish), amongst other ancestral practices.

Carry out a ‘route of ancestral seeds’ along Qhapaq Nan, in which families and communities share and preserve ancestral knowledge and taste different Andean stews.

Forge networks  amongst families, communities and countries of all those fighting to protect corn.

Activities:

  • Tour of the farms
  • Dramatisation of the Mama Supalata (figure in Saraguro tradition)
  • Lunch prepared with young grains grown on site in an Andean farm, with no chemicals and organic compost.
  • Meeting with community members participating in the ‘Chacra Andina’ (Andean Farm) project and the agroecology network.
  • Transfer to the Bucashi community; workshops.
  • Festival of Corn; stands and opportunities for exchange and dialogue.
  • Ceremony of thanks to Pacha Mamas delivered by community elders and wisemen/women.
  • “Voces del maíz” discussion forum.

Exhibitors:

  • Gloria Guayllas, leader of the UCORS-SAYTA women’s organisation “ Soapalta and the  Saraguro tradition”
  • Luz Namicela, leader of the CORPUKI women’s organisation “Indigenous food sovereignty”
  • Carmen Lozano, leader of Women and Family of ECUARUNARI “Experiences in defending the law and seeds: a regional, national and international perspective”.
  • Benjamin Macas, Acroecology network “GM-free agroecological products”/
  • Patricio Lozano, President of the Parish council, San Lucas.

Gloria Guayllas:

“The Saraguro people have their own identity and culture. We have our own traditional celebrations passed down to us from our grandparents. Tonight we are going to celebrate the Sopalata: our mothers told us that in days gone by, a very old lady, accompanied by all her children,  was going around different houses asking for food just at the time when young grains are being harvested. The houses that let her in shared what they had prepared she would wish them a good harvest the following year. Where they didn’t let her in she wished that the “shiran” plant would grown in their fields, instead of corn, saying that what Pachamama has given to us she gives to us that it be shared.” The Sopalata sees corn being made into sweet and savoury dishes. It is a very important celebration for us. A group of young people dressed as ‘Taytas’ go to look for the Sopalata between 10-12pm. Every house that they go to they dance and sing because when the grains appear it is a source of joy for the town and its inhabitants”.

Carmen Lozano:

“We should value our production. At this moment in time we are losing the value of food, we are forgetting about our farms and we are not truly living in accordance with “Sumak Kaway” ( wholesome or mindful way.)  State policies are eradicating our communities.  We live from the land and depend on it for subsistence, we are  the children of corn, (Ñucanchi runa kuna Sara churimi kami). Yet, the extractivist, imperialist aggression of the state is exterminating our culture, ideology, medicine and forms of subsistence. These are the areas where we should go back to raising our children according to the values of our own rich culture. We are not museums, we are are a people with its own wisdom, culture and identity. Our school  lies in our community. Our children should learn to revalue what we have, who we are, to respect our festivals. I stand by my commitment to continue working so as to ensure that next year  we can once  again mark this important event. We must appreciate our Mother Earth, for it is she she feeds and sustains us and we must show our gratitude to her with a magnificent event like this”.

“We have experience working with communities  in relation to the defence of the indigenous seeds.  We carry out plantings,  workshops, conservation workshops and exchanges of both ideas and seeds with other towns.  We undertake this work with the support of each community in order to protect indigenous seeds . Here, at regional level, the entirety of the Ecuadorian sierra is is a member of ECUARANI. In addition, at an international level, Ecuador, Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Colombia and Bolivia, are affected by transnational mining companies and other forms of natural resource exploration  that the governments impose on communities They have also managed to devise ways of distorting information given out by  heads and leaders of  indigenous communities.  Yet our continued struggle has produced very important results in some countries and the partners are beginning to value local seeds . Let’s go back to our farms !”

“Another objective of this festival is for us to restore what we are losing: our diet. Few families eat corn and other maize derivatives. Within Ecuaruni we’ve formed the women’s defence movement. We are also working in collaboration with other countries through the organisation, ‘The voice of the Corn’ as well as other organisations who are persecuted by transnational companies and the current governments. I call on the organisation to join in this fight. They want to do away with our culture, do away with our seeds and with our knowledge and forms of cultivation and they want to issue patents and later collect taxes, tariffs and above all to control the way to sow our own seeds”.

Nowadays, governments  look to impose their policies on us, persecute us, imprison us, but during our visits to communities and exchange of our experiences we have agreed that ‘they will NOT silence us, we are going to defend our seeds, we are not going to allow them to patent our knowledge! We must continue to be united and ensure that our children take part in the activities of the community. The only way for us to have healthy, GM-free  food is if our children value our farms, respect the land, appreciate the way in which we sow what we have and respect the knowledge of our forefathers and the phases of the moon”.  

Benjamín Macas:

“Agroecology represents an alternative source for families to work whilst valuing Mother Earth, the farm is also a way for families to generate income so as to survive. We have a good relationship with the networks here at this festival and I hope it won’t be the last  time, and  that we will be able to keep running it. Only in this way can we resist the impositions of the multinational corporations. There are networks of Chaski Warmikuna and us from the agricultural sector.  I suggest we work more collaboratively so that together, we can fight and maybe put together a proposal for the state and other bodies as well as finding other ways of protecting our communities’ native seeds”.

Patricio Lozano:

“We should value our agricultural production as it forms an important part of our life. To eat healthy food is to live well. Today we must value our land, our production forms part of our daily life. We are losing the wisdom of our elders, the community work they carried out. We are becoming genetically modified industries. This is why we are experiencing diseases like cancer and other illnesses which are caused by malnutrition. We are also experiencing acculturation amongst our youth, we are losing our ancestral knowledge of our forefathers. This morning I call upon young people to take part in these festivities given that Saint Lucas still lives on (in some way) in our tradition”.

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