What is the relationship between justice, culture, and sovereignty and an ancestral variety of Sonoran wheat?
SFA is collaborating with the traditional authorities of Pueblo Vicam in Yaqui Ancestral Homeland, Rio Yaqui, Sonora; the Yoem Pueblo in Marana, AZ and Guadalupe, AZ, to uncover and share stories of Yaqui resiliency with the goal of increasing social equity, honoring traditions, and building sustainable economic models.
The project uses oral histories, test planting sites, and artisanal cooking workshops to explore a variety of ancestral wheat in Yoeme/Yaqui culture and develop a strategic plan for its economic recovery. It involves high school aged youth, women, farmers, community leaders, and scholars.
Project Background and Context
Sonora is the largest wheat-growing region of Mexico and home of the much-lauded Green Revolution, which increased agricultural production through new technologies. Alternative economies to big industrial wheat conglomerates are rare. Over the decades, land-use decisions prioritizing industrial agriculture have resulted in biodiversity loss as well as the marginalization of heritage food and cultural practices in Sonora.
The Yaqui, indigenous to Sonora and southern Arizona, are often considered one of the most resistant indigenous communities in Mexico. In the 1940s, they received rights to their ancestral lands and water source, the Rio Yaqui. But in the decades since, those gains have been eroded by federal and state “development” projects that have undermined to Yaqui self-determination. In many Yaqui communities today, many people feel a sense of resignation. Youth in particular have little access to employment opportunities.
This project seeks to address these issues. It views traditional knowledge and skills practiced everyday within marginalized communities as vital assets—assets that can be mobilized to reverse historically detrimental land-use patterns, biodiversity loss, and culture and heritage practices.
Main objectives are:
- To document and affirm social memory in the Yaqui communities of Vicam, Mexico, Yoem Pueblo Marana, and the Town of Guadalupe.
- To engage youth and elders in an intergenerational economic development project focused on traditional foodways.
- To recover ancestral grain cereals and support food justice/security in Rio Yaqui and Arizona.
The collaboration builds upon research conducted by Dr. Maribel Alvarez in 2009-2011 around the role of wheat in the formation of Sonoran economy and society. The project also draws upon work by Gary Nabhan and Native Seeds/SEARCH to revive interest in and commercial viability for the 300-year old Sonora White wheat variety.
This project is funded by a grant from the Agnese Haury Program in Environment and Social Justice and the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture.