The carnival of Corn in Mexico attended by 2000 particpants celebrated Mexico’s rich diversity of native corn and protested Monsant’s intent to introduce a genetically modified variety of corn. The fact that Mexico’s manifestation of the global March Against Monsanto took the form of a carnival is no coincidence. The current generation of Mexican activists is looking for new strategies to fight for social justice, which include mass protest against the company based on the March against Monsanto movement which originanted from Thalía Güido.
I started to see [actions] in Africa, in Boston, and I said to myself, how can it be that Mexico isn’t listed?” she remembered thinking. After the organizers confirmed that there was nothing yet planned for Mexico, she decided it was time to start planning. She started by contacting student-activists who had belonged to her university’s chapter of Yo Soy 132, a movement that opposes Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and the nation’s corporate media conglomerate. They liked the idea, so she began reaching out to other organizations.
Monsanto’s presence is particularly threatening in Mexico, where much of the rural culture centers on corn production. “It affects everything because our culture revolves around corn,” said farmer and activist Héctor Mendoza Rosas. “And with GMOs what you would have to do is, you wouldn’t be selecting seed, you would be buying it. You wouldn’t be saving seed. You’d have to by all of their stuff.”
This threat to Mexico’s rural agricultural economy and sustainability isn’t new. Since the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect in 1994, cheap corn from the United States has undercut small Mexican farmers’ ability to make a living while maintaining the traditional practices that preserve Mexico’s cultural and biological diversity. But today’s plans to introduce a genetically modified crop threatens the very global future of the crop’s genetic diversity because Mexico is, organizers explained, “the center of origin and diversification of corn.”
The idea of organizing a carnival instead of a traditional political march was also a strategic decision.
“Something I’ve realized since getting more involved in Yo Soy 132 is that protest is now seen as something obsolete,” explained Güido. “So it really has to do with a redefinition, with a change in concept. We’re going to put on a march, but we’re going to do it with a playful theme instead of making it combative… We’re going to have creative spaces for artists.”
The day also attracted people from activist organizations, such as Guillermo Rizo Ornelas, who works with Ecos del Buen Vivir, an organization dedicated to environmental justice, human rights, education and health issues. He called on the government to practice the precautionary principle — the idea that precautionary measures should be taken with potentially harmful activities even if the harmful effects have not yet been clearly proven.
After marching to the Monument to the Revolution in downtown Mexico City, the local Food Not Bombs chapters collaborated to nourish the hungry protesters, who continued talking, laughing and performing as they shared what the March Against Monsanto is finally all about: a meal. Presentations by various organizations followed, as well as music by artists including Roco, from one of Mexico City’s most famous urban bands, Maldita Vecindad.
At the end of the day, Thalía Güido’s speech echoed what she had expressed throughout the planning process.
“This isn’t just a crossroads here in Mexico,” she told journalists. “We’ve created a worldwide network of communication between movements, organizations, people — between everyone who is in favor of the freedom of food and food sovereignty. So we believe that this is really part of a food revolution.”
Organizers have not yet planned their next action, but they have their eyes on even more symbolic date: September 29, Mexico’s National Day of Corn.