(Decolonization is the act of disrupting the various systems of oppression and repression. It is the dismantling not only of the legal and physical barriers that limit colonized peoples, but also it is the radical process of removing those ideological and mental barricades that continue to colonize our thoughts. Mental decolonial praxis demands that individuals and whole groups of people participate in the reclamation of history and cultural traditions. It necessitates the disruption of historical and cultural colonization, which has displaced peoples from knowing their ancestry. This post is in honor of those who cry out, “¡Ya Basta!” as they seek the knowledge, wisdom, and practices of their elders.)
“The recovery of the people is tied to the recovery of food, since food itself is medicine: not only for the body, but for the soul, for the spiritual connection to history, ancestors, and the land.”
-Winona La Duke
I recently stumbled upon Luz Calvo and Catriona R. Esquibel’s “Decolonize Your Diet,” on Mujeres Talk. They believe there is a need for radical decolonization in the way in which we think about food. According to Calvo and Esquibel, “personal food choices…[are] political acts” and as such, we must “[r]esist cultural imperialism by reclaiming ancestral foods.” This is imperative due to the historically exploitative practices of the American agriculture industry, the cancerous chemicals that migrant farm workers are exposed to (many of which are Mexican@), the reality of GMO’s and the diseases perpetuated by the American food industry, as well as the displacement of cultural knowledge by depending upon corporations for growing and supplying food. What’s more, Calvo and Esquibel problematize the argument that health is linked to income by stating:
there is one notable exception to the equation of poverty = poor health—public health scholars have found that recent immigrants from Mexico have very low rates of mortality, infant mortality, and illness compared to other groups. Public health scholars have dubbed this phenomenon “The Latino/a Paradox.”(1) Recent Latino/a immigrants, mainly from Mexico and Central America, have better health than Latinos and Latinas who were born in the US. The health of recent immigrants rivals the health of the [w]healthiest Americans!
This presents a rather perplexing issue within our health care system, as the United States views health through a capitalist lens wherein wealth equates to a healthier lifestyle as well as the ability to afford better health care. But what the above quote truly reveals is the way in which indigenous and decolonized diets work as preventive care. It also underscores how the Mexican@s/Chican@s/ Xican@s/Latin@s living in the United States have a larger chance of having health issues stemming from colonized food industries.
For instance, people of color are transformed into diabetics through the food industry in the United States, not through pure genetics. Ameliamontes.com has a pretty concise summary of Michael Montoya’s Making the Mexican Diabetic: Race, Science, and the Genetics of Inequality.
This book is a phenomenal read that explores how diabetes is constructed through other factors rather than simple genetics.
Accordimg to Ameliamontes:
“Genes do not cause chronic disease,” Montoya writes. “Genes in certain bodies under certain conditions contribute to disease susceptibility” (187). This may explain why in a family of 3 children, two have diabetes and one will not develop the disease. It is not simply about blood but about a number of other factors (diet, exercise, living conditions, etc.) having to do with societal and political constructions.
Montoya’s book which was just published (University of California Press) is an excellent study in how our society is creating a population highly susceptible to chronic disease– whether or not you are of Mexican or Indian descent!
Making the Mexican Diabetic provides excellent arguments that point towards decolonizing our diets for our own health, but also in understanding how colonization has clearly led to the creation of health problems in our people. By returning to diets that do not contain high-fructose corn syrup, GMO’s, and heavy pesticides (among other things) we can begin to unravel the dependence upon a food system that does not have health in mind. It is also the first step in reclaiming our peoples health by participating in traditional food preparation–a holistic approach to decolonizing our minds, bodies, and souls.