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The Milpa
Wise Indigenous Agriculture
Mar. 12, 2023

by José Luis Mendoza Aubert

The milpa is an agricultural system based on the cultivation of several related and symbiotic species together. Originated during pre-Hispanic times, it is high agricultural technology that represents the wisdom of our indigenous peoples, and is much friendlier than today's monoculture systems.

What is the Milpa?

The word "milpa" has its roots in the Nahuatl word, milpan, that means sowing.

This fabulous agricultural system was created in Mesoamerica, long before the conquest. It arose thanks to the high knowledge that indigenous peoples had about agriculture. In the same plot or space, they planted different species of plants each enriching the other. At the same time these plants fed back, symbiotically fertilizing the soil in which they were planted.

The native peoples created this multi-crop environment, generating small ecosystems where the species used natural resources together: light, water and nutrients from the earth. In this way, the various indigenous groups harvested a wide range of products, at the same time, without tiring the land, as happened in Europe, such that the European farmland had to rest so that it could recover.

In the milpa they planted a very wide variety of products. Up to 60 different ones have been counted. These plots were surrounded by magueys, which in addition to protecting the land from landslides and erosion, provided more food and the nutritious pulque.

The basic, chief plant of the milpa is corn, which along with beans and zucchini is called the "Mesoamerican triad". This triad was often complemented with chilies, tomatoes, quelites, huauzontle, purslane, romeritos, zucchini flower etc.

With the overwhelming emergence of capitalism monocultures emerged. This planting of a single plant variety, although apparently more productive, is extremely aggressive. Monocultures deplete the land and make "necessary" the application of fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides and a long list of other products and practices that have significantly affected our health and aided desertification.

"Not all modern technology is better."
"Let's go back to our roots and reasonable procedures."


José Luis Mendoza Aubert: actor, director and theater technician; teacher and writer of Theater and Plastic Arts; founder and director of the Comedia del Universo theater company and school, operating in San Miguel for the last 20 years; musicologist and cinephile, judge of the En Corto Film Festival now GIFF for 8 years; Director of Art and Culture of the Public Library for 15 years; member of the board of directors of El Sindicato Centro Cultural Comunitario.

José Luis gives talks and workshops on environmental awareness in schools and communities. He is a founding member of the Allende la Cultura Collective. He plays Veracruz music and writes poetry and is a founding member of the music group Jarocha "Soledad".


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