Sunday, November 24, 2013

Join "La Comida" Revolution! Are You Ready?

by Amelia M.L. Montes (

Join the food revolution!  Change is happening.  Gente are waking up and saying “no more” to processed foods, to the high carbohydrate levels (aka sugar) in sodas. I’ve been noticing more articles/conversations about alternative lifestyle nutrition, recipes galore that are delicious and lower in carbohydrates.  

Healthy eating.  YES!
In the past, there were more articles warning us about the dangers of a high, fast food diet.  Now I see more hands-on, grass-roots efforts at offering answers, not just warnings.  There are alternatives. Such efforts are not only happening in the U.S.  The Mexican government is being much more pro-active in their efforts to say “enough” to soda companies. 

If you are in Arizona December 5th and 6th, don't miss the 2013 Native American Culinary Association (NACA) Indigenous Food Symposium.  NACA is partnering with Tohono O’odham Community Action (TOCA) for this event that takes place at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.  “Celebrating People, Land, and Food” is the theme. (Click here for information)

In Mexico City:  Last week the Tribunal Permanente de los Pueblos Capítulo México held a symposium entitled, “Violencia Contra el Maíz, la Soberanía alimentaria y la Autonomía.”  This symposium is one of many talks (charlas), conferences, efforts to help Mexicans take back their agriculture and nutrition. (see flyer below.)

 Also in Mexico, last month, the Mexican government proposed a steep tax onto soda drinks.  Coca-cola, PepsiCo and other companies (Femsa and Cultiba) are worried because if this proposal passes, the rest of Latin America may follow.  “The government’s argument is simple.  Mexicans consume too many fizzy drinks (on average 40% more per person than people in the United States) . . . Mexico’s mortality rates from diabetes are staggeringly high.”  But the soda companies, worried about their profits, are waging a huge lobbying effort to stop this tax.  (Click here for article.)

The month of November is “Diabetes Awareness Month.”  I’ve given two lectures in college classrooms and last week I was at The Society for the Study of Gloria Anzaldúa (SSGA) in San Antonio, Texas, and participated in the panel:  “Diabetes and Healing:  Poetry, Creative Non-Fiction, and Decolonizing Your Diet.”

In the two lectures I gave, I first asked the students if they knew someone (family member or friend) who has Diabetes.  In both classes (about 25-30 in each class), every person except one or two raised her or his hand.  In my presentation in San Antonio, I said:  “The latest CDC (Center for Disease Control) statistics reveal that for babies born in the year 2000, 1 in 3 will develop Diabetes in their lifetime and for U.S. Latinas/Latinos, the number is even higher.”

“These numbers are so alarming, and scary,” one participant told me, after our presentation.  Yes, at first it all sounds overwhelming and scary, but we can do something about it. The next step after receiving this information is to "act."  

At the panel, comida activists Luz Calvo and Catriona Esquibel showed how they are indeed doing something about it.  They have been researching and experimenting with the foods of our ancestors.  They have created a Facebook page they call:  “Decolonize Your Diet.”  Their page offers all kinds of information:  recipes, information on plant-based, MesoAmerican diets, ancestral knowledge.  (click here to view “Decolonize Your Diet”) Their Facebook page is colorful, packed with information, and also delightful-- fun!  

Left to Right:  Luz Calvo, Catriona Esquibel, Amelia Montes, Ire'ne Lara Silva
Panel for SSGA:  "Diabetes and Healing:  Poetry, Creative Non-Fiction, and Decolonizing Your Diet"

After the conference, another participant sent me an interesting article by Savannah Johnson (click here for article) which critiques the American Diabetes Association (ADA).  She writes:  “[I]t’s important to point out that no part of the ADA’s Strategic Plan includes proposals intended to help diabetics with self-acceptance or confidence.”

Self-acceptance and confidence is indeed an important component to living a healthy life WITH Diabetes.  Often, people ask me if Diabetes can be cured.  The truth can be hard to swallow:  No.  There is no cure at this time for Diabetes.  Then they tell me, with pity in their voice, “I’m so sorry.”  I usually answer, “I’m not sorry.”  And I’m not.  Diabetes has, in many ways, saved my life. 

With Diabetes, my life has changed for the better. With Diabetes, I have arrived at a more self-actualized, contented space.  The key is to embrace it.  Johnson critiques the idea that we must “fight” with Diabetes.  As she says, “’[F]ighting diabetes’ seems counterproductive.  First, there is no cure for diabetes, so it doesn’t seem useful to fight something that quite literally cannot be fought.  Second, it seems that ‘fighting diabetes’ shifts focus away from more productive efforts, such as raising awareness and supporting diabetics.” 

This brings to mind Tai Chi and methods in meditation:  slow, careful body motions that do not force “against” something, but move in harmony “with.”  I believe we are moving more harmoniously with Diabetes in order to educate and offer ways to live with the disease.

Kudos to organizations such as NACA (The Native American Culinary Association) and Chicana activists like Luz Calvo and Catriona Esquibel for their research in our ancestral foods.  Kudos for Michael Sedano who also offers us great recipes on La Bloga for healthy eating (click here).  Kudos for the poets and writers such as Ire’ne Lara Silva who are bringing awareness to us with their poetry.  (Click here for interview with Ire'ne Lara Silva.)  Also-- check out Ire'ne Lara Silva's latest publications, flesh to bone and furia (click here)!  I am also including poet, Verónica Reyes here. 

Veronica Reyes’ book of poetry, Chopper! Chopper! just came out (click here for her La Bloga “Spotlight”).  The last poem in her book is entitled, “East L.A. Poet.”  It’s a beautiful poem that highlights our ancestral foods.  She begins the poem: 

“The Mexican lime tree towers in the desert backyard blooming flowered lives”

Later in the poem, she describes “homemade nopalitos” and “100 tunas, sweet prickly pears nesting.” 

Lime agriculture was greatly reduced as sugar cane agriculture expanded in Mexico, and soon after, the first incidence of diabetes diagnosis was recorded.  Why?  Limes lower glucose levels. Cane sugar elevates glucose levels. In Veronica Reye’s poem, she places a focus not only on the lime but also the nopal.  The nopal, as well, is another ancestral plant whose properties are rich in nutrients.  Veronica Reye’s “East L.A. Poet” is nostalgic in tone.  It is also a reminder, an invitation to return to The Mexican lime tree, to the nopal—to our ancestral comidas.

I end with Ire’ne Lara Silva’s poem, “there will be singing in the morning”

there will be singing in the morning
and singing in the night singing in the days
of want and singing in the days of plenty
singing alone and singing with the ghosts
singing old songs and singing new songs we
will remember songs we haven’t heard yet
songs that haven’t been dreamt yet songs no
one has found the words for songs sung on
the road and songs sung in bed songs sung
while weeping and songs sung while waiting
songs for breath and sun and light and
moon and earth and water songs for
sustenance we will sing impossible songs
indecipherable songs songs that cannot be
heard and songs that cannot be shared
we will sing songs without words silent songs
and screaming songs songs that tremble and
songs we can embrace
song and I live in
each other’s skins song and i breathe each
other’s breath take refuge in each other
passing silver fire light between each other’s
lips hot and cold at once naming and un-
naming freeing ourselves taking wing song
and i spiraling in the sky i would like to die
singing let there be song in my throat
spilling out let my last breath be song

(first published in the online journal, Rabbit and Rose, Issue 02. Also published
in the San Antonio "Current"-- click here!)


1 comment:

Deborah A. Miranda said...

Thank you, Amelia. For my 52nd birthday this year, I sat in a neurologist's office with my infant granddaughter as she was diagnosed with a severe kind of epilepsy; a month later, my doctor handed me a blood sugar diary and "one touch mini" glucose tester. Stress and diet. Your writing on these topics is, as always, urgent and profound, and I (among many) am grateful.