Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
Oral Presentation Session
Agriculture takes many forms. Many unexpected species accompanied the spread of maize in a form of agriculture commonly known as milpa. How maize farmers responded to the unexpected proliferation of species can help explain different ways that humans mediate the emergence of unintentional non-human companion species. One example of this is the proliferation of grasshoppers (chapulines (pl.)) in maize agriculture. Chapulines are edible grasshoppers that have great appeal to both the smallholder farmers that collect them for food and recently urban foodies and chefs in Mexico City and beyond. With the spread of the green revolution, scientists -and the chemical companies that sponsored them- brought to the region a new vision of agriculture, that used uniform seeds, and pesticides, and in doing so, converted the chapulín (sing.) from a food to a pest. The practice of collecting grasshoppers and planting heirlooms seeds was replaced by the application of pesticides and the planting of hybrid seeds. This resulted in a reduction of the diversity of many maize’s companions, including its locally adapted kin. The paper is based on close observation, participation, and conversation with chefs, scientists, farmers, chapulín collectors (chapulineros), and food activists in Mexico City, Oaxaca City, the Puebla/Tlaxcala Valley, the Central Valleys of Oaxaca and the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca between from June – August 2017 and March 2018 – August 2019. It explores the unique ways that these groups are creating new alliances with maize and grasshoppers, and in doing so, attempting to reshape food production.