Laa’in aj q’eqchi’ naqatzeka li qe (I am Q’eqchi’ and I consume locally)
MAÍZ DE VIDA
TRANSLATED BY Emma Porter
We believe that the economy is made up of people like us, as well as all the knowledge and practices that have allowed our parents, grandparents, and elders to survive, nourish themselves, heal, thrive, and promote life and well-being in our communities.
The Q’eqchi’ people are one of the most numerous and culturally, historically, and politically relevant nations in Abya Yala. Their territory covers more than 30,000 square kilometers and is inhabited by more than two million people who make up the Q’eqchi’ Nation. As aj’ral’choch (children of the land), spirituality is intimately connected with Mother Earth. For the Q’eqchi’, the hills, valleys, rivers, forests, and all the beings that are part of the territory hold special significance and give material and spiritual form to the web of life.
The life of the Q’eqchi’ people depends on the vast diversity of Mother Earth. They have lived with it ancestrally, benefiting from the abundance and wealth of natural elements in the territory, especially water, land, and the diversity of native plant and animal species in the area. This entire ecosystem and the relationships that people have with it make the Q’eqchi’ people unique and characterize their food, style of dressing, livelihoods, and knowledge.
The cultural food traditions of the Q’eqchi’ people are perhaps where the diversity of knowledge about production, transformation, and consumption is most evident; they are embedded in communal values and dynamics. These practices sustain collective life without transforming or altering the natural environment. People commonly integrate a variety of crops, mostly native, in their backyard gardens, covering different strata of the earth. In the lower stratum, you can find species like chili, bottle gourds, coffee, pepper, cardamom, bananas, plantains, and cassava, followed by fruit trees, apples, plums, citrus fruits, annatto, soursop, peaches, papayas, and, in the highest stratum, there are sapodilla, ramón, and mahogany.
Corn also plays a fundamental role and is traditionally grown under the milpa system, which involves growing corn alongside other species, such as beans and squash. It is common to have backyard animals roaming freely, feeding on the variety of plants, insects, worms, and animals in the garden, sharing with families and the community. These animals are also part of the web of life, establishing age-old relationships with other species, such as native bees, chuntos, chickens, pigs, fish, snails, and others.
Giving thanks for the cycle of life
In the process of caring for, harvesting, and collecting these foods, the entire community has historically participated: children, youths, parents, and entire families. Eating habits are seasonal, and perfectly established production cycles are the result of hundreds of years of observing the stars, nature, and timekeeping. Based on this, symbolic dates have been defined that mark the calendar and call on families to offer gratitude to Mother Earth for her generosity and abundance.
These elements combine with wood fire cooking, smoking, grinding using stones, fermentation, and other techniques to process food and extract textures, flavors, and scents that mark and distinguish the life of the Q’eqchi’ people.
In this process, the role of young people has become emblematic in the quest to preserve the knowledge and dynamics that give life to the economies of the communities in the territory. Today, they have begun to perceive the deterioration of their livelihoods and are at a crossroads that forces them to defend the territory, knowledge, and bio-social relationships, or to migrate, mainly to the north, forcing them to leave behind the legacy of their grandparents and seek new ways of life.
Currently, local economies as well as the practices and knowledge of elders are at risk. We are being invaded by products that lack nutritional, cultural, and health value, coming from distant territories that impoverish us and deplete our resources. To support the promotion of local consumption, the Maíz de Vida Association and the consortium of organizations Camino Verde launched the campaign “Laa’in aj Q’eqchi’ Naqatzeka Li Qe,” or “I Am Q’eqchi’ and I Consume Our Own,” a call to the people to support their local economy– a greener, more local, more autonomous, and overall healthier economy.
The “Laa’in aj Q’eqchi’ Naqatzeka Li Qe” campaign aired for a month and a half in the northern territory of the country. It was carried out in the markets of Cobán, Chisec, Chamelco, Carchá, and Lanquín in Alta Verapaz, with raffles, contests, ecological smoothies using pedal-powered blenders, radio programs, social media posts, street interventions through mupis, interventions in tuk-tuks, and other local media.
In addition, different local producers’ initiatives were interviewed, including producers of stingless bee honey and honeybee honey, weavers, cacao producers, midwives, cooks of local gastronomic dishes such as “bachá” and “kak’ iq,” farmers, and poultry keepers, among others.
We appreciate your help in sharing this local consumption initiative and spreading a message of pride and defense of local production and consumption to all corners of Guatemalan territory and the world.
Our Commitment Maíz de Vida is a multi-territorial association that seeks to contribute to the regeneration of the web of life, with a particular emphasis on water, land, cultural wealth, and the knowledge of indigenous peoples.
Our work focuses on promoting actions that contribute to reversing the climate crisis that the planet is facing. To achieve this, we propose to contribute to the regeneration of the knowledge and practices of indigenous peoples as a fundamental basis for thinking about political, economic, technological, and environmental solutions.
We believe in the importance of sustaining hope, the conviction that life will be better in the future if we can dismantle racism, bad governments, and inequalities that support the exploitation of large amounts of natural resources as a state policy. We want to tell a story of resistance, abundance, and well-being connected to the strength of Mother Earth.
We work alongside communities, local and ancestral authorities, artists, activists, defenders of the territory, spiritual guides, women, organized youth, and territories in resistance in the development of activities that strengthen the connections between identity and territory. The care of water, forests, rivers, and land is directly linked to the lives of people who are spiritually, emotionally, and materially connected to the territory. “People’s lives are directly integrated into the territory.”
We believe it is urgent to contribute to regenerating the knowledge that has historically allowed these harmonious relationships between natural life and human life.
In response to the severity of inequality, discrimination, and exclusion of indigenous women and youth in the department of Alta Verapaz, the Economic Empowerment of Q’eqchi’ Women and Youth in Alta Verapaz Project, Camino Verde, has been implemented. This project is funded by Global Affairs Canada, administered by OXFAM, in consortium with five organizations: the Pro Well-being Association in Action Sahaq Aach’ool Nimla K’aleb’aal APROBASANK, the New Horizon Association ANH, the Articulation of Women Weaving Forces for Buen Vivir ASOMTEVI, Maíz de Vida Association, and the Research, Training, and Support Center for Women CICAM.
The project strengthens the implementation and practices of innovative, clean, and sustainable business models developed by small enterprises led and driven by indigenous young women and young men, strengthening their capacities, access to resources, and links to markets. It also creates a conducive environment in which these enterprises can grow and prosper, increasing the social, economic, and political participation of a wide range of sectors around issues of rights, participation, and leadership of indigenous women and youth, particularly in relation to economic empowerment, social justice, and the prevention of gender violence.