JUNTOS has worked with community members from San Mateo de Ozolco, a small community in the Mexican Sierra Nevada in the state of Puebla, since 2004. By working directly with leaders from Ozolco, both in Mexico and those currently residing in Philadelphia, we strive to strengthen community ties between Mexico and Philadelphia and prevent the further emigration of farmers and their families from their homelands. This project, generously funded by Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP) through the “Building Transnational Bridges” program, has led to the establishment of a small business cooperative named “Blue Corn Alianza”.
The importation of transgenic corn to Mexico in 2008 created a serious threat to the livelihood of farmers in the rural Sierra Nevada who have traditionally relied on ancient corn varieties for their sustenance. Transgenic corn, which is genetically inferior but cheaper than local corn varieties, has replaced traditional strains in local markets across Mexico. As the market for organic, home-grown corn has disappeared, farmers have seem their competitive advantage plummet and their livelihood destroyed. The importation of transgenic corn has been linked in study after study to the emigration of rural families to large cities in search of work- both within Mexico and the United States.
One very important objective of this project is to conserve the genetic information of the traditional blue corn grown in San Mateo de Ozolco. We also wish to diversify the products that can be derived from it- such as pinole and blue corn chips. The object of the project is to increase job opportunities available to people in their native towns and country, and spur economic growth within the immigrant community in Philadelphia. Through the Blue Corn Alianza, we wish to conserve the knowledge of organic farmers and create alternative sources of income through export to the US of organic corn-based products. We hope to foment equal and just working conditions on both sides of the border and provide opportunities for small-scale entreprenuership in Mexico and the US.
We wanted to specifically difuse pinole in the community of South Philly among the community of Ozolco; but throuh this product we have also connected with the African-American community as well as the Asian- American community and by doing this have given our culture the respect and value it deserves. – Pedro Soto, representative for Blue Corn Alianza