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“It is through intuition that we sense our intrinsic and spiritual relationship to the flow of Nature. It is through science that we attempt to understand the relationship of the microcosm to the macrocosm.”

–Jack Loeffler

La guerra de los Chiles: A Poetic Defense of Biodiversity, Seed Sovereignty, and Chile

-Enrique Lamadrid

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Chile Chimayoso

También, soy el Chimayoso I am also from Chimayó,
y aquí te hago la guerra.
here I take you on in battle.
¡Qué bien mantengo a mi gente
How well I maintain my people
con solo labrar la tierra!
for cultivating the land!
Número Diez presumido,
And you, haughty Number Ten,
qué sepa el mundo entero,
may the whole world know,
tu semilla no se guarda.
your seeds cannot be saved.
Sacrificas a mi gente,
You sacrifice my people,
tu semilla no se halla
your seed cannot be found
sólo si andas con dinero…
if not bought with money…

Chile Número 10

Aúnque sea el “Number Ten,” Even though I am Number Ten,
Chimayoso ya te digo, friend of Chimayó I tell you,
no me estés avergozando. do not embarrass me.
Soy hijo de pocas madres I am the son of few mothers
y a mi padre no conozco and I never knew my father,
también mis hijos son vanos. and my children are sterile.
Necesito tu amistad, I need your friendship,
quiero que seas mi amigo. I want you for my friend…

Chile Número 10

No, no me doy por vencido, No, I still won’t give up,
¿quién dice que has ganado? who says that you have won?

Chile Chimayoso

Es el pueblo que en su juicio The people in their wisdom
de mi sabor han apreciado. have appreciated my taste.

The idea

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of personified chiles debating each other seems cartoonish at first, until you realize the gravity of their poetic arguments. At stake in these (agri)cultural wars is seed sovereignty, a millennial genetic legacy, and the food security of the planet. The grand prize in the contest is public opinion, the sympathy of the people.

In celebration of the New Mexico visit of Vandana Shiva, the great advocate of traditional agriculture and the future of food, Estevan Arellano, Cipriano Vigil, and Enrique Lamadrid have composed, recited, and sung traditional poetry to honor her and the agricultural heritage of Nuevo México, manifest and symbolized in our beloved Chiles.

In one corner of the slam ring is El Chimayoso, the famous chile of Chimayó, New Mexico, thin-skinned, short, and sun-stressed, who offers the best flavors of the land from which he is born. His opponent, “El Number Ten” as we have named him, is a novelty of agricultural science, born in a laboratory, supported by the 2008 New Mexico Legislature, the motherless child of so-called “genetic engineering.”

“Number Ten’s” predecessor, Chile Number Nine was of more honorable stock. He was developed through selective breeding and the tireless work of horticulturalist Fabián García, who introduced him in 1921. The staple of the chile revolution of the twentieth century, Chile Number Nine gave birth to all the modern varieties such as Big Jim. But as connoisseurs can attest, complexity and flavor were sacrificed to achieve size, uniformity, and dependability.

A stepchild of the Second Green Revolution, “Number Ten” is unnaturally resistant to herbicides (aka. Roundup Ready, TM). With insecticidal toxins grafted into his leaves and fruit, he is ready for mass production in fields and factories. He comes on like a rock star, but his children are sterile (vanos in Spanish), and he dispossesses the people who will mortgage their farms to pay for his seed and chemicals. In the end he doesn’t even taste good. He falls ill, panics, and tries to make friends, then is vanquished and banished for good in El Trovo de los Chiles.

In this ancient tradition of the Controversia trovada with roots in the mountains of the Alpujarras in Andalucía and the irrigated gardens of Murcia and Nuevo México, the fortunes of the people are debated with humor and satire in an improvised poetic duel. The Corrido or narrative ballad form of Greater Mexico is more directly combative. Cipriano Vigil takes off the gloves and charges that “genetic engineering” is surely the devil’s work:

El chile y sus semillas The chile and its seeds

pertenecen a nuestro estado, belongs to our state,

si las perdemos del todo if we lose them completely

seguro nos mandan al diablo. we’ll be sent to hell.

Sure enough, traditional agriculture and its stewards are under attack across the planet. Thousands of crop varieties cultivated over many centuries are in danger. Genetic research in itself is not the problem. The draconian marketing strategies of multi-national companies and the global monopolies they seek are the Frankenstein’s monster that would destroy the agricultural legacy of humanity and endanger the food supply of the world. Monoculture – the reliance on fewer and fewer crop varieties, and the dependence on hybrids and “genetically engineered” seeds are the goals of both Green Revolutions. But it is the Second which actively punishes the ancient practice of seed saving and prosecutes farmers whose crops

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are wind contaminated by company patented gene pollen. Greater crop yields are promised and achieved, but at such great social, biological, and environmental cost.

Vandana Shiva tells us that one of the most cynical strategies of the Second Green Revolutions is to desensitize people by targeting their most culturally iconic plants, such as Eggplants in India and Chiles in New Mexico. If people accept the “genetic engineering” of their signature cultural crops, then they will not notice or complain when the Big Four move in – corn, soybeans, cotton, and canola.

Join us, and the people of the world in celebrating and defending the agricultural legacy of the planet. ¡Que viva el Chile Chimayoso! ¡Que viva la biodiversidad! ¡Que viva la agricultura tradicional! ¡Que viva la comida nativa! ¡Y al infierno con los vanos!

One Response to “ La guerra de los Chiles: A Poetic Defense of Biodiversity, Seed Sovereignty, and Chile ”

  1. davide says:

    I liked your post. Cheers

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