Our Mother Corn
Many communities around the world share staple foods. These foods are not only the central to the nutritional needs of the people but also, very often, play a integral role in their social lives- dictating the rhythms of daily activities and ritual practices. This social role is often as important to health and wellness in a community as the nutritional role. In Maya communities throughout Central America, corn is the dietary staple. These photos give a brief glimpse into some of the ways in which corn is part of life in the Mopan Maya village of Santa Cruz in southern Belize.
many families store their corn in small houses in their fields called ranchos- boys start at a young age to help carry the dried corn from the farm to the house for processing
when the husk is removed in anticipating of removing the dried corn from the cob, sometimes you find a unique arrangement of corn kernels
dried corn kernels are boiled with “white lime” to remove the tough husks and release proteins before being washed and ground for the preparation of tortillas and tamales- this bucket of corn was washed in the river and will be prepared for wedding guests
The dried corn is removed from the cobs and either boiled for grinding and eating, selected for seed or sold, usually within the village-the can holds 1lb which is sold for $0.50US.
the whole family helps in shelling the corn- or removing the dried corn kernels from the cob- corn cobs are used for many things…including toys!
the importance of a good harvest is stressed as the sack of corn seed is blessed for the morning’s planting- with cooperation from the rain and potential pests, this seed will become the family’s food for half a year
twice a year, patches of the forest are cleared for planting corn, peppering the landscape with the distinctive, tall plants
the first harvest when the corn is matured is known as the “green corn”- this is the last (hand-woven) bag of “green corn” to be enjoyed before the ears are left to dry
freshly boiled ears of “green corn”- a twice yearly treat- fresh corn is typically prepared 3 ways: boiled, as a drink and ground and steamed in the husk and is usually available for about 2 weeks, twice a year at the beginning of each harvest
Kristina Baines is our resident cool anthropologist. She’s been formally trained in applied, sociocultural, ecological and medical anthropology at Florida Atlantic University (BA, MA), the University of Oxford (MSc) and the University of South Florida (PhD). She has a strong interest in corn, how what we do in our environment makes us well, and using innovative methods to make anthropology relevant and accessible to a wide audience. You can find out more about how these interests translate into projects and pursuits by perusing the rest of our site, or you can contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org