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Los Guardianes del Maíz/ The Keepers of Corn A documentary directed by Gustavo Vazquez Duration: 60 minutes Synopsis The 2021 Red Nation International Film Festival Best Documentary Feature Film Winner

For thousands of years, native farmers in the Mexican state of Oaxaca have kept alive a system of seed exchanges that, like oral almanacs, have brought the collective knowledge of traditional milpa farming methods into the Twenty-first Century.

One such seed exchange takes place in the town of Ejido Unión Zapata, in whose province lie the caves of Guila Naquitz. Today the caves are catalogued as a World Cultural Heritage Center by UNESCO, whose website describes them as containing, “the earliest known evidence of domesticated plants in the continent, while corn cob fragments from the same cave are said to be the earliest documented evidence for the domestication of maize. “

The seed exchange at Ejido Unión Zapata is host to over 500 indigenous farmers and their families who come from every region in Oaxaca. The system predates the arrival of the Europeans and to this day, no money changes hands. The only currency tendered here is genetic diversity and good advice. It was at Ejido Unión Zapata that the idea for our documentary, Los Guardianes del Maíz, The Keepers of Corn, 2020 was born.

To fully understand the importance of preserving the over sixty varieties of native corn in Mexico and the genetic diversity of the hundreds of eco-system-specific strains cultivated in Oaxaca, we needed to trace some of the farmers back to their fields and communities in the far flung Mixteca, Zapotec and Chinantla regions of the state.

It is hoped that this work serves as a testament to both the fragility and tenaciousness of traditional farming cultures, whose way of life is challenged daily by the incursion of fast-food, soft drinks and a growing ecological catastrophe caused by the increasing use of herbicides. We are honored and grateful to have been invited into these communities and hope that our work provokes a dialog between them and others like them, even in other countries.

We learned along the way that coalitions between budget-strapped, yet dedicated, government scientists, activists, chefs and the farmers themselves actually do happen and that together they can work in defense of the great genetic diversity and cultural treasure that native corn represents.

  • Year
  • Runtime
    60 Minutes
  • Language
    Spanish, Zapotec, Chinantec, English
  • Country
  • Premiere
  • Social Media
  • Director
    Gustavo Vazquez
  • Screenwriter
    Gustavo Vazquez, Jonathan Barbieri
  • Producer
    Gustavo Vazquez, Jonathan Barbieri, Yira Vallejo
  • Executive Producer
    Jonathan Barbieri
  • Co-Producer
    Yira Vallejo
  • Filmmaker
    Gustavo Vazquez
  • Cinematographer
    Gustavo Vazquez, David Vallejo, Chip Lord
  • Editor
    Giorgia Zarantonello
  • Composer
    Moritz Wanger
  • Sound Design
    Ruanth Chrisley Thyssen