↪ Wor(l)ds

Original Contribution: Natalia Chaves López1


The purpose <-->of the following text is to present <-->and preserve the concept <-->of ATATA : it is a composition <-->of two ideograms (fig.1)ata ta <-->in the Mhuysqa dead language . ATATA can be defined <-->as I give myself <-->and you give yourself , where giving is an act <-->of receiving , <-->because what you do <-->for others O is also affecting yourself . This exercise <-->of reciprocity is a very important vibration <-->of life <-->because nobody can live <-->without others , this includes all living creatures <-->with whom we share the Earth . <-->As a Colombian student <-->of ancient history , I have experience <-->with this concept <-->for many years <-->through learning <-->about the wholesome ways <-->of living <-->with the indigenous people <-->in both Colombia <-->and Mexico .

It was <-->through my PhD research <-->that I experienced <-->and looked further <-->into the Mhuysqa <-->and Mayan legacy . It was then <-->that I realized the devastating reality that is currently affecting the quality <-->of food . There is a systematic problem caused <-->by the ‘green revolution <--> ; <-->from radical changes to the local ways <-->of cultivation to the use <-->of inputs made <-->and sold <-->by big global corporations which are creating dependency as well <-->as poisoning the seeds , the soil , the water <-->and therefore our own bodies . Meanwhile , <-->as a response to this , an undercurrent is developing everywhere people are living <-->and cultivating according to new <-->or past principles <-->outside global corporations , recovering solidarity , hope H , life , food , <-->and bio-diversifying forms <-->of being .

I have based my writings <-->on the perspective <-->of Heart´s Epistemology. What I mean is <-->that heart <-->and brain come together <-->into my proposal <-->of bringing to light my feel-thoughts <-->about how to keep <-->on living <-->and how to make collective decisions <-->about territory (fig.2) heart E. The intention <-->of this essay is to find ourselves <-->and others O heart to heart . <-->In fact , the heart is the place where you keep dreams , hope , joy , <-->and pain , according to the Mayan culture . You need to have all these clear to know what is the kind <-->of living knowledge you want to go over . 2 <-->In the Mhuysqa´s worldview , the human heart is named * puyky * , an onomatopoeia <-->of the heartbeat , that is said to be connected <-->with the beating <-->of the cosmos itself , representing the frequency where one can find answers <-->in the path <-->of protecting life . The questions <-->that this essay aims to answer are : How to feel-think the future <-->of food <-->and water <-->from a perspective <-->of reciprocity ? Why is ATATA a fruitful principle <-->for the future survival <-->of the human kind ?

Mhuysqas are an ancient indigenous culture who live <-->in Cundinamarca <-->and Boyacá regions <-->of Colombia . They lost their language <-->in the eighteenth century , which consisted <-->of compact ideograms <-->and hieroglyphics representing complex ideas <-->about their understanding <-->of nature . <-->Today the Mhuysqas speak Spanish <-->because <-->of persecution <-->since the colonial period <-->and the banning <-->of their language , <-->but they kept some <-->of their ancestral ways <-->of living . I have studied their language , named Mhuysqhubun , <-->and I propose here to bring back to life the dead word ATATA , <-->so <-->that it is not forgotten . ATATA is a palindrome unity made <-->by two ideograms <-->and hieroglyphics <-->of the moon calendar : Ata <-->and Ta . Mariana Escribano , 3 a linguist who writes <-->about the Mhuysqa language <-->and worldview , explains <-->that Ata refers to the number 1 , which <-->in cosmogony is relative to the beginning <-->of times . <-->From the eighteenth-century grammar <-->of the priest Jose Domingo Duquesne , we can translate the ideogram <-->as follows : the goods <-->and something else. This means common goods <-->or everything <-->that exists . It also refers to the primordial pond , which links it to water as well . Ta , the second sound <-->in the unity , is the number 6 <-->and represents a new beginning that is showing the comprehension <-->of time <-->in sequences <-->of 5 <-->and 20 . The priest Duquesne wrote <-->that Ta means tillage , harvest. The Ta ideogram also means the bearing <-->of fruits , the giving <-->of yourself freely , <-->as <-->in agriculture labor . <-->In this perspective the act <-->of giving is an act <-->of receiving ; it also implies the responsibility <-->of taking care <-->of what you are receiving .

One <-->of the most important acts <-->in Mhuysqa culture was the offering <-->in some holy lagoons L. The main offering happened <-->in Guatavita lagoon(fig.3) guatavita . This lagoon held the gold , offered <-->by Mhuysqas <-->and sought <-->after <-->by the Spanish conquers who heard <-->about it <-->and tried to dry the lagoon up . The leader <-->of the town <-->of Guatavita , covered <-->in gold , would be introduced <-->on a raft , adorned <-->with more gold <-->and emeralds . The raft would be then given to the lagoon followed <-->by the leader who would introduce himself <-->into the water <-->as an offering <-->of the gold that was covering him <-->and receive a purification bath . This astonishing ritual U R ATATA was done <-->as a reminder <-->of gratitude to water <-->as one <-->of the most important living beings . <-->In reciprocity some <-->of the few sacred female entities living <-->in the water , representing the lagoon itself , would hold the abundance <-->of Mhuysqa people . One <-->of the ways water supplied life to the people was <-->through rain , which provided corn to feed everybody . <-->In order to understand this reciprocal interaction/cycle <-->of humans-lagoons-rain-corn I refer to Tseltal Mayan people , who live <-->in the Highlands <-->of Chiapas <-->and the Lacandona jungle <-->in Mexico , who keep alive very ancient knowledge <-->and have the belief <-->that corn spirit is living <-->inside the mountains <-->and lakes . It is given to the humans <-->as result <-->of offerings asking <-->for maintenance <-->of people . ATATA can be related <-->with the Mayan Tseltal concept <-->of * Ich´el ta muk´ * translated <-->as respect <-->and recognition <-->for all living things <-->in nature. 4 The corn cycle is Tseltal life itself <-->and requires a permanent compromise , the way they explain this is <-->by referring to corn <-->as a double being . Seen <-->on one side <-->as a baby <-->and <-->on the other <-->as a woman supporting her family . When someone wastes corn , they can hear it crying even <-->if a single seed is left <-->in the soil <-->or a piece <-->of tortilla lies <-->on the kitchen floor . When seen <-->as the woman supporting her family , it appears <-->in the harvest when the corncobs have smaller corns sticks . These are signals <-->that it is the mother <-->of the plant <-->and they do not eat it <-->because they prefer to hang it up <-->in the house <-->as a gesture <-->towards keeping abundance present <-->in the home <-->and community . This double reciprocal relation <-->with corn <-->as demanding care <-->on one hand <-->while <-->at the same time protecting its own people , is a meaningful trait <-->in understanding the power <-->of this spirit .

<-->In Tenejapa , a Tseltal town , they traditionally make an offering <-->in an important lagoon named * Ts´ajalsul * to show * ich´el ta muk´ * . <-->In the ceremony authorities deposit a traditional handmade dress to the female being that is living <-->in water L <-->and is representing the lagoon itself who provides corn , <-->because she happens to be also the mother <-->of red corn . Red corn is now hard to find <-->in the Highlands <-->of Chiapas , it represents the strongest spirits <-->and connection <-->with ancestors <-->through woman´s blood . Some families are aware <-->of the high value <-->of these <-->and other varieties <-->of corn (fig.4) maiz , <-->but diversity becomes a challenge <-->for this communities .


<-->Despite these cultures that live <-->in a reciprocal cycle <-->with the land they inhabit , we have arrived to latent <-->and urgent conflicts surrounding food . <-->Since <-->in the 1950s , Mexican <-->and United States politicians started an alliance to increase productivity <-->of the most consumed cereals : wheat , corn , <-->and rice . Even <-->if the pioneers <-->of this project said so , this was not to fight off hunger , <-->because there was an inequality <-->in the availability <-->of food . That inequality is still growing . The 'green revolution ' began <-->as a movement <-->of engineers George Harrar , Edwin J. Wellhausen , <-->and the Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman E. Borlaug . They worked together <-->in Sonora , Mexico <-->through the Office <-->of Special Studies which later was called the International Maize <-->and Wheat Improvement Center ( CIMMYT ) financed mainly <-->by the Rockefeller Foundation . They developed a biochemical 'technological package ' <-->for pest control that started affecting natural interdependence L <-->and agricultural cycles <-->by achieving full biocontrol <-->over the process . Most <-->of these substances were created <-->during the Second World War <-->as biological weapons to kill populations , such <-->as the Japanese , <-->through starvation <-->by the spraying <-->of fulminate herbicides . When the war was over , they needed to sell the products , <-->but theses herbicides were killing the traditional locally adapted seeds <-->so they worked <-->in two steps : First they collected a bank <-->of germplasm to study the varieties <-->of corn <-->in Mexico , <-->and second they chose <-->and separated only two varieties <-->of the approximately 64 types <-->and adapted them to the chemicals <-->above mentioned , producing a dependency <-->in the seed which could not grow <-->without pesticides . Then , <-->with a major commitment <-->of the governments <-->through credits <-->and funding , publicized this alleged progress <-->as a need <-->for peasants . They could then sell these 'packages ' to the farmers , who only realized their negative effects <-->after spoiling their soil <-->and water <-->with nitrates <-->and phosphates <-->among other toxic elements that produced soil erosion <-->and broke the biological equilibrium . Nowadays 'technological packages ' <-->in Mexico include hybrid seeds <-->of white <-->and yellow corn , chemical fertilizers , herbicides , <-->and pest controllers . All <-->of them come <-->with a negative impact <-->in health proved this year <-->in the United States <-->by the court case <-->of Dewayne Johnson vs. Monsanto regarding Roundup Ready , a pesticide that contains glyphosate . 5 When a community loses their traditional seeds <-->[ highly adapted to their territories <-->through the work <-->of the generations <-->before ) <-->because <-->of a new hybrid , the damage is difficult to undo . <-->Once they want to go back to the organic ones they will need years <-->of adaptation , recovering the soil again that will <-->in consequence provoke a low production . An unbearable lost <-->for peasants . <-->In the nineties , genetic engineers modified the hybrid seeds <-->and created new ones <-->by mixing animal <-->and bacteria genes such <-->as bacterium 'Bacillus thuringiensis ' <-->into the cereal creating the BT transgenic corn , also dependent <-->on agrochemicals as well <-->as not fertile , which meant <-->that peasants needed to buy them anew each year . <-->As a result <-->of this process , today <-->in Mexico there are sequences <-->of transgenic contamination <-->of 90.4 % <-->in the whole production <-->of tortillas which are consumed <-->with every meal . <-->[ 6 There is a lot <-->of money invested <-->in the creation <-->of food that is low <-->in nutrients <-->but high <-->on private patents owned <-->by big corporations <-->like Bayer ( owner <-->of Monsanto ) , Pioneer-Dupont , Syngenta , DOW Agrosciences , <-->among others . This has created a scenario where the keepers <-->of ancestral seeds started to be treated <-->as criminals <-->because <-->of the pollination <-->of their harvest <-->from transgenic plants .


The ancient cultural cycle <-->of corn is now a dependent one . <-->On one hand there is a biopolitical issue <-->of the 'green revolution ' where traditional practices <-->of working <-->with land were replaced <-->by new technologies <-->and cooperate businesses agreements . <-->On the other hand , there is an issue <-->of who has the capacity <-->and power <-->of deciding who lives , <-->and therefore also who dies . Michel Foucault refers to a kind <-->of authority that is endangering life , <-->while hiding the evidence <-->of being responsible <-->for the dead . 7 According to this , foundations <-->and corporations named <-->above are contaminating corn <-->and doing so guilty <-->of an act <-->of endangering life. <-->As a result <-->of such violent acts <-->on natural goods , a huge crisis has manifested itself <-->in the indigenous territories . Peasants are <-->in poverty <-->in part <-->as consequence <-->of the global competition , which has lowered the prices <-->of some food . The only possible way <-->of keeping producers <-->in the market is <-->by having more land where bigger quantities <-->of food can be produced . This leads to land concentration ; a few actors having control <-->over important areas . Additionally , due to bad harvest the value <-->of their products is so low <-->that farming is unprofitable <-->for the peasants , who lose their lands to these economical disasters . <-->And <-->as <-->if that isn t <-->enough the state <-->of Chiapas , which is a large producer <-->of corn , is also importing the same cereal <-->from South Africa . This type <-->of transgenic imported grain can be found <-->in the governmental rural stores <-->of Diconsa , competing <-->with <-->and thus endangering local varieties <-->and peasant production . <-->In this losing cycle , farmers are first pushed <-->into debt <-->and then <-->onto the streets , forced to start working <-->for others <-->on the lands that used to be theirs ; a result <-->of the systematic process <-->of impoverishment . All this is creating a downturn , wherein the indigenous young people are looking <-->for other options to live . Thus some <-->of them are migrating legally <-->and illegally to the United States <-->or other Mexican territories trying to find a job <-->in touristic places . One elder man <-->from Tenejapa said <-->in an interview , Sometimes it looks <-->like the heart <-->of young people is a stone , it seems nothing is important <-->for them <-->and nothing is touching them anymore . They walk <-->without knowing where they are going , <-->like robots. 8 However , <-->in the middle <-->of such multilateral complexity some <-->of them are keeping the seeds , water , lands , wisdom , <-->and memory , alive .


I feel-think offerings <-->for getting water <-->and food are a reminder <-->for us to be grateful <-->for what we have received <-->from previous generations <-->and take care <-->of this common goods . Reciprocity might be something as wonderful <-->as the kind <-->of work indigenous cultures do when they are preparing their meticulous <-->and ephemeral artistic compositions <-->as offering <-->for the water L . They spend a lot <-->of time <-->because <-->in their hearts they know life ends when water is not flowing , <-->so this offering is <-->worth the effort . When indigenous people are keeping corn , they are cultivating the plant <-->with great respect <-->and an attention that goes <-->beyond just growing it. They also sit around a fire <-->in the kitchen to reproduce face to face the teachings <-->of the meanings , the varieties <-->and the ways <-->for harvesting <-->and healing <-->with corn ; all the wisdom is given <-->in this warm community-oriented touch . Learning to listen to the elders <-->and keeping <-->in touch <-->with people who still know natural ways to cultivate as well <-->as carry ancient seeds <-->and memories , are ways to remember . <-->But to resurge these practices today we need to act as well . We need to disseminate organic seeds <-->and the knowledge to take care <-->of them , appropriating available technologies to recover natural balance L <-->in living ( decontaminated ) soils <-->and water .

This is a time <-->for creative collective praxis to protect life <-->and common goods ; humanity is living <-->through a serious historical process . Something people <-->in every country could do is to finding community solidarity <-->through the act <-->of conserving the biodiversity <-->of food . <-->For example , we can get <-->in touch <-->with the seed collectives which are taking <-->on a significant labor <-->by keeping germplasm banks to conserve seeds <-->in low temperature environments , <-->and , more importantly , growing the seeds <-->in the soil <-->and renewing each cycle . We could also be responsible <-->for <-->at least one seed´s survival , <-->in our rural soils we should research cultural production systems <-->as 'milpa ' to associate the plants <-->in this case corn <-->and beans <-->among others to have abundant <-->and various harvests . <-->In the urban areas walls , roofs , <-->or pots are great hosts to plants ; also schools <-->or parks . Reinforcing local exchange <-->of producers <-->and conscient consumers is also important . <-->By organizing time <-->around sustainable , organic , abundance <-->and sharing it <-->with children we are offering to the Earth <-->and humanity life , autonomy , <-->and richness . <-->In this way we make the noble effort to keep alive the rainbow seeds ( varieties <-->of food ) to give the future <-->as much colors <-->and flavors <-->as we have received <-->from earth <-->and our previous generations .

That is why taking myself serious is an act <-->of reciprocity , which means <-->that ( inter ) acting <-->from <-->within the power <-->of my heart is necessary <-->because <-->through my work <-->and my way <-->of living I am affecting others , known <-->and unknown . <-->As native people say it is <-->through the heart <-->that we can be aware <-->of the consequences <-->of our acts <-->in the territory we live <-->in <-->without ignoring other lands <-->and people . This is related <-->with developing fair economics <-->and politics that reduces inequality . It is important to highlight <-->that dealing <-->with the urgent problem <-->of ecocide means dealing <-->with the collateral disaster <-->of genocide provoked <-->by that ecocide . Addressing such issues will demand <-->that we recognize , respect , <-->and embrace our cultural differences , belief systems , traditions , <-->and languages T M P ending any cultural supremacy <-->and dominance that requires the oppression <-->and starvation <-->of others O . Reciprocity is a relationship <-->with living nature : plants , territory , animals , <-->and cultures to which we have a lot to re-appropriate <-->and learn <-->from , <-->because feeding ourselves is a process where awareness , memory , <-->and re-learning are needed (fig.5) . The construction <-->of a good way <-->of living named * Lekil kuxlejal * ( full , dignified <-->and fair life ) <-->in Tseltal language is not only a product <-->of harmonic relations <-->with nature <-->and society , we can only get there <-->in a collective transformation process where both concepts <-->of reciprocity ATATA <-->and *ich´el ta muk'* are present <-->in both a local and/or global scale , <-->through political intimate acts <-->and 9 public transnational reciprocal agreements .



  1. To Yaku.

  2. Pérez Moreno, María Patricia. O’tan - o’tanil. Corazón: una forma de ser - estar - hacer - sentir - pensar de los tseltaletik de Bachajón. Chiapas, México. FLACSO, Quito. 2014

  3. Escribano, Mariana. * Semiological research on Mhuysqa language, Decryption of moon calendar numbers.* Antares, Colombia. 2002

  4. López Intzin, Juan “Ich’el ta muk’: the plot in the construction of the Lekil kuxlejal”, in: Feel-think gender. La Casa del Mago, Guadalajara. 2013

  5. Levin, S. and Greenfield, P. Monsanto ordered to pay $289m as jury rules weedkiller caused man’s cancer. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/aug/10/monsanto-trial-cancer-dewayne-johnson-ruling. 2018.

  6. Álvarez-Buylla Roces, Elena. * Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. IE y C3, UNAM, México. 2017 http://www.dgcs.unam.mx/boletin/bdboletin/2017_607.html

  7. Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality*. 1997.

  8. López Intzin, Juan.

  9. <--> : as a part of speech a conjunction make visible the interdependence. Being in relation to others.