This year, much of my art work has tackled the topic of food because it is an issue that tremendously affects la Raza. Latinos compose a large majority of the workforce in the agricultural sector as well as the meat and poultry industries. The sheer numbers of Latino workers shows us that we essentially feed this country. Meanwhile, Latinos are getting bigger and unhealthier at alarming rates, facing a host of food related diseases, including malnutrition and obesity. On a global level, the WTO’s food policies are affecting farmers back in our homelands. The domination of genetically modified seeds, along with unfair trade agreements such as NAFTA, are destroying the way of life for farmers all over Latin America as well as strangling bio-diversity. The U.S. model of big agribusiness is hitting our people hard from many angles, from how we work to what we eat to how we grow it. Meanwhile, back home, Latino youth grow up in urban food deserts, where access to clean, healthy and whole food is rare. This unsustainable food situation is beyond craziness!. The dominant model of globalized, industrialized food is costly for the earth, for the farmers, and for ourselves.
Vandana Shiva writes that one of the most divisive issues around food is the myth of “cheap” food, the concept that industrialized food systems produce more food, and thus, should be favored over small, biodiverse farms. Latino worers are particularly affected in this area because industrialized food consistently translates into more accelerated modes of production, an increase in more stressful conditions for the workers, the use of pesticides and chemicals to accelerate the growth and size of the end product, and an emphasis on profits. It also can mean the use of GMO’s, which indeed use a lot more chemicals and also obligate farmers to buy the seeds from the corporations each year. In other words, “cheap” food is not cheap, not for the workers who participate in the production, not for the earth that absorbs the waste, and not for the health of the consumer.
A new paradigm for food that considers the Latino worker, grower, and consumer is what is needed. As Latinos, we must understand how much is at stake for us as a community when we are affected not only in the production of the food, but in the ripples that are felt throughout our native lands that can be linked directly to our consumption patterns. In other words, the Latino food consumer must be informed about the global implications of the U.S. current food policies and practice. Food activist Vandana Shiva writes, “Eaters have a critical role in creating a sustainable, just, and healthy food system. By eating organic, we are saying no to toxins and supporting the organic farmer. By rejecting GMO’s, we are voting for people’s right to information and health. By eating local, we are taking power away from global agribusiness and strengthening our local food economy.”
Our gente needs to be educated about a more a sustainable and healthy diet. "Latinos and their children have been particularly affected by the growing prevalence of overweight and obesity. In 2005, at leastone in four Latino adults living in the U.S. was obese. More than one in six (16.8%) Hispanic high school students is overweight. Hispanics’ rates of being overweight are significantly higher than White high schoolers (11.8%) and about the same as Blacks (16.0%) of the same age. Even at the preschool level, Mexican-Americans are more likely to be overweight (11%) than their non-Hispanic Black (8%) and White (10%) counterparts. As the largest racial and ethnic minority population in the United States, Latinos are also the youngest; more than 34% of the U.S. Latino population in 2004 were under the age of 18." (From ObesityDiscussion.com)As Latino children are a major segment of the Latino population and make up a significant portion of obese or overweight children in the U.S., this problem needs to become a major focus for all of us organizers.
The poster I did about Maiz will be on exhibit in the group show, "El Maiz es Nuestra Vida" (the Maiz is Our Life). The planting of transgenic maize in Mexico is a historic crime against the peoples of maize, against biodiversity and food sovereignty, against ten thousand years of indigenous and peasant agriculture that bequeathed this seed for the well being f all the peoples of the world. Corn Farmers are the keepers of tradition. Corn Farmers are the protectors of biodiversity. The fact that the Mexican government, along with the NAFTA administration, willfully designed an economic policy to drastically reduce the number of small farmers who are the keepers and original developers of such a valuable resource, is unconscionable.
The other two pieces I did deal with the fight against the privatization of water. This piece below was done for the 2009 Swarthmore College Intercultural Center Awards.
You can see photos from the process for the "Water is a Weapon" piece. Scroll to bottom.