Somos de Maiz (2013)

Melanie Cervantes
13″ x 19″
5 – Color, Handmade Screenprint on Heavyweight White Archival Paper, Printed in San Leandro, 2013

In 2003 during my final year studying at UC Berkeley a Professor in the Microbial Ecology in the Department of Environmental Science, Ignacio Chapela,  was denied tenure. David Quist, a graduate student at the time and Chapela had co-authored an article, two years earlier,  about how genetically modified corn from the U.S. was being dumped into the Mexican market and contaminating native maíz crops. During the “final” days of his contract he held office hours, day and night, outside the doors of California Hall (which houses the university administration’s offices). My roommate cooked Chapela dinner and we came out to support his struggle.

Chapela talked about how the contamination of the maíz would impact indigenous peoples, Mayas, because maíz is not only a staple food but a fundamental physical and spiritual aspect of Mayan culture and of the Mayan people themselves.  Maya cosmology holds that the Creator made the first humans from an ear of maíz. The other negative impact of the GMO corn is that it makes all other species of corn it comes into contact with sterile. The contagion spreads, like a virus around the country and the world. Corporations like Monsanto do this so that the only corn available is that which the company owns the patent on.

In 2005 Chapela sued the university because he strongly opposed a $25 million campus deal with the giant Novartis drug and agri-business corporation. Shortly after the suit was filed Chapela’s tenure denial was reversed by UC Berkeley. He dropped the suit and said “I look forward to continue challenging, in the best forums that I can find, what I believe is a corrupt and illegitimate takeover of the public university away from its public mandate.”

In 2012 Monsanto wins California and defeats the ballot initiative which would require GMOs to be labeled. Indigenous and other peoples throughout Mexico and the Americas continue to battle against the devastating effects GMOS have on current and future generations.