Sep 10, 2012

Who Stole Mexico’s Corn — and Jobs?

by Cathryn Wellner - September 10, 2012

As the two presidential candidates square off over immigration reform and Romney touts measures like Arizona’s draconian “papers please” law as models, it might be a good time to examine one of the major reasons for illegal immigration: U.S. trade policy.

People of the Corn

Mexicans have long been the people of the corn. Festivals revolve around maize. A meal without corn is like an Asian meal without rice – incomplete.

With 10,000 years of experience breeding different maize varieties, Mexican farmers know corn. They have developed varieties that are nutritious, flavorful and suited for the country’s many different environments.

Some varieties of maize make better meal for tortillas and tamales. The kernels of others add flavor to salsas and soups. Some are bright yellow, while others are red, blue, orange or multi-colored. Some are short and stubby. Others are long and tapered.

Corn and cultural identity are inseparable for Mexico. A fascinating study published in 2004 even links ethnolinguistic diversity with crop diversity.

Along Came Free Trade

Free trade has had a devastating impact on that culture. First came the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1987. In 1994, Mexico joined the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The same year it became an equal partner in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Read more. 

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