I was struck by the display of community. Both mothers and fathers arrived first thing in the morning, and were served breakfast before beginning to work. Just like during harvesting when the women brought their own baskets for collecting corn, this time the men brought their own coa, a tool for digging. It was clear that this was a task that they had all done countless times; at Casa Hogar, in their own homes and the homes of their families and neighbors. The boys from Casa Hogar and their fathers formed a line and worked their way down the field and back up. The women drew water from the natural spring wells on the property and watered the individual seeds. It was a little comical to see the variety of carrying utensils, 5 gallon paint buckets, pitchers, buckets of all sizes, and cream containers. I listened to the women and girls slip effortlessly between Spanish and Mixteco and was reminded again, that this process of planting and harvesting is old, and these people have been planting corn for a very long time.
As nice as all that sounds, it is definitely hard work. There’s not much shade in a corn field and the sun is hot! Don’t be fooled by the people wearing sweaters, they are for protection from the sun, not warmth! The men worked hard digging the holes with one end of their coa, and using the other end to make a hole for the seeds. Although watering may not sound like hard work, those 5 gallon buckets seem to get heavier the farther you have to carry them. When I asked one of the girls if her family planted corn, the answer was the kind of yes that you only get from a teenager…. Yes, we plant corn… (and I’m tired of it). I think some of the adults were entertained by the idea of me, a gringa, being there. In the US, they don’t work like this, do they?, they asked, already knowing the answer. And then they asked if I was going to drink some pulque with them. (Pulque is an alcoholic beverage made from the magey plant) I thought it was a joke until someone handed me a glass! The day ended with a delicious chicken dinner, which tasted even better after hard work.
For me, the best part was the realization that more than just seeing this tradition, I was a part of it. Yes, I helped carry water, but not just that. These are the boys and girls that I’ve lived with and worked with for the last 6 months. Many of their parents I’d met before. I have had the privilege of being a part of their community, even if just for a short time.