As part of our series of global vocabulary, we would like to start a cheer for the milpa.
Zapoteco: guela or cue
Milpa is a crop-growing system used throughout Mesoamerica. It has been most extensively described in the Yucatán peninsula area of Mexico. The word milpa is derived from the Nahuatl word phrase mil-pa, which translates into “maize field.”The concept of milpa is a sociocultural construct rather than simply a system of agriculture. It involves complex interactions and relationships between farmers, as well as distinct personal relationships with both the crops and land. For example, it has been noted that “the making of milpa is the central, most sacred act, one which binds together the family, the community, the universe…[it] forms the core institution of Indian society in Mesoamerica and its religious and social importance often appear to exceed its nutritional and economic importance.” – Wikipedia
The milpa’s primary species is maize , accompanied by various species of beans, pumpkins, chilies, tomatoes, and many others depending on the region, for example the corn-bean-squash combination is known as “the mesoamerican triad.” In this agricultural system plants that grow in a natural way, mainly herbaceous species known as “quelites ” (for example, purslane, quintoniles, huazontle, turnips, romeritos, among others) are used. At the same time they take advantage of the shrubs and trees that live there, by providing fruits, fibers or seeds of local or regional interest. In this system, there are also species that can affect crops, such as some insects (elote worm) or the fungus known as ” huitlacoche ” that proliferates in the corn grain. The milpa can also be just the corn. Because of the above, the milpa is a temporary agricultural system with maize and other species that are harvested or tolerated. – Biodiversidad.gob.mx
The word milpa in different Indigenous languages. The Tsiri Network is a citizen effort that seeks to rescue the gastronomic, cultural and agronomic wealth represented by the local varieties of organic maize and the peasant lifestyle that sustains them in the Pátzcuaro-Zirahuén region.