June 18, 2010

Zapatista Milpa vandalized, will be replanted

By La Prensa San Diego

By Pablo Jaime Sáinz

The Milpa, symbol of hope and life.

    A milpa (corn field) located in Balboa Park symbolizing the struggle of the Chiapas Indigenous Zapatista population against discrimination and genetically modified (GMO) corn was recently vandalized and destroyed.

    The act of vandalism of The Zapatista Milpa is a clear sign of the anti-Mexican sentiment throughout the United States, but especially in border states, states a press release by Schools for Chiapas, the local group that planted the milpa and that supports Zapatista communities in Chiapas.

    “We believe this attack to be a hate crime motivated by the same anti-immigrant and anti-Mexico hysteria which is sweeping the country,” reads the release.

    The milpa, which had been planted earlier this year, during Earth Day 2010, was made from corn seeds donated by Mayan farming families to publicize their resistance to genetically modified (GMO) corn and to seek sanctuary for their heritage corn seed which is now threatened with GMO contamination.

    “As a symbol of hope and life, this tiny GMO-free corn field must be replanted to provide continued sanctuary to corn from Chiapas, Mexico,” the group states.

    The replant will be on Sunday, June 27, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at The Zapatista Milpa on Park Avenue near the World Beat Center, Balboa Park

    “It might be too late to have a good harvest of the corn will be replanting, but it will be a symbol of hope and to send a positive message that we need to save the planet,” said Peter Brown, public school teacher and a coordinator for School of Chiapas. “We want to replant to underline that the struggle goes on.”

    Brown adds that “these types of vandalisms will not stop us. We will continue in our way. The movement will not be derailed by these kinds of actions.”

    In the press release, School for Chiapas extends an invitation to the vandals to come and help in the replant, so that they can learn about the struggles of the Zapatistas groups in Chiapas.

    “We hope those who stomped and uprooted the living garden of Mayan corn in Balboa Park can find a way to heal. Specifically we invite them to join us at the replanting celebration on June 27,” the statement reads.

            Brown said that this response, extending an invitation to the vandals, is something group members have learnt from Indigenous people in Chiapas.

   “Although they have suffered horrific violence and oppression, they have never responded in violence or anger,” he said. “Instead, they always reach out help people to understand them. It’s a message we learn from Zapatistas.”

   Although for many people in San Diego the word “Zapat-ista” represents violence, an isolated event that occurred in the 1990s and that is now gone, Brown said the Zapatista Movement, struggle and principles are alive and very relevant today.

   “The message of Zapata that the land belongs to those who work it is still true,” he said.

   School for Chiapas will have monthly gatherings at the Zapatista Milpa on the third Sunday of each month.

            To obtain Zapatista corn seeds for planting or to learn more about the Zapatista Milpa in Balboa Park, visit www.schoolsforchiapas.org.