Raquel Diego

“We help to conserve Mexican agrobiodiversity.”

Mexico

Raquel Diego Díaz is an anthropologist and farmer and a member of the Mixe or Ayuujk ethnic group. Raquel, 38, has made it her mission to help promote native varieties of corn and indigenous farming knowledge while helping local women to thrive.

For the Ayuujk people, the milpa system, a traditional, Mexican agricultural method, is a fundamental part of their cultural heritage. People like Raquel have learned from their elders, who have followed a long tradition of combining the cultivation of corn with other species.

Over many generations, Mixe farmers have experimented repeatedly, developing nutritious foods which have adapted to environmental, social, economic and political transformations over the years.

"The milpa system is a trigger, I would say sacred, of a whole millennial process, but also of a rootedness towards life, in this case towards Ayuujk life,” Raquel says. “By consuming corn, we not only satisfy hunger but also spiritual and cultural needs, ” explains Raquel.

Raquel has helped to develop a monograph on the uses of native cultivars and, in 2017, decided to join other Mixe women in the production of a line of tostadas under the brand name MoojkKaaky, working with partners Rufina Gutiérrez Martínez and Catalina Vásquez Díaz. The name comes from their language’s terms for cornfield system (Moojk) and corn-based food (Kaaky).

The small company in Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec produces around 600 tostadas a week with native corn of different varieties, colors and flavors, mixed together with vegetables, seeds and spices, all rooted in the efforts of rural women and their families who work in the region’s fields.

The women have participated in a wide range of initiatives focused on agrobiodiversity and traditional agroecosystems, including those organized by the National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO), through the Mexican Agrobiodiversity Project--funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and implemented by FAO in collaboration with Mexican government institutions and civil associations.

This food hero is helping to honor and transfer vital knowledge from one generation to another.

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