Monday, September 17, 2012
BABY CORN Y NEPANTLA
I had the opportunity and honor to get to know 5 month old YAHRETZI this Sunday while her mama and my partner, Jennifer was at their monthly sweatlodge or temazcal. Justin, Tabitha, my children, ages 10 and 12, and I had our own pretend temazcal under the shade of a plastic blue tarp in 100 degree temperature outside the lodge, near a boggy creek in South Texas. I told the women of the lodge they were crazy to go sweat and ughugh not for me. And in a nice smart ass kidding way said, “I sweat under the tarp and make sizzle steamy sounds. I’m already all india and spiritual and all. Aint got nothing to prove nobody. I’ll support y’all and run errands chop wood or whatever. Y’all crazy to be sweating in this kinda weather.” Whatever. To each their own; I will sizzle in the shade and watch children and the dragonflies. And yes Nepantleras, its not always hard to get to Nepantla. It can be fun.
YAHRETZI aka YAYA had just been given the chichi and was just fine until her mama placed her into my arms.Yaya is cute and chubby but right away with her whole body starts to cry. Mama tears up and I tell her I’m fine with her crying. Mama said, “She’s very attached to me.” I said smiling to her, “ I know . Go sweat. I can handle it.”
Justin and Tabby start to panic as soon as mama enters the lodge. Then they start sssshhhing Yaya. I tell them gently, “No, don’t sssshhhing her .Listen to her to her cry. This is her way of telling you she is having a hard time.” After a very short time, they start to get scared about her crying and start giving me advice on how to comfort her to make her stop crying. I listen to them tell me give me their expert advice after all they are children and probably have some good ideas .They talked to me like I maybe don’t know how to take care a baby. And I’m curious about their thinking and ask them for more of their thinking and ideas.
Carla, the firekeeper quickly brought us a big turkey feather fan to cool YAYA. “Maybe she’s hot?”, I said to them I cool Yaya with water sprinkle and ask Justin and Tabby to take turns fanning her. She still cries louder. I give YAYA water she drinks and stops for a few seconds and then continues to wail LOUDER! I told Yaya, “Sorry, Mamas. It’s not milk.”
Tabby and Justin get panicky again and ask me if they can hold her to help her stop crying. They each took a turn and when they saw she wouldn’t stop crying, they handed her to me and took turns fanning YAYA. Tabby and Justin started to get cranky and hot. And bored. And I said to them, “This is how we learn to take care of people and be good mamas y daddies. Practice. Fan her like you wished someone had fanned you when you were a hot baby.” Justin said to me, “But it’s not good for a baby to cry!”
I said, “No, babies cry for a reason. This is the only way she can talk to you and tell you what’s bothering her. What is not ok is to let someone be alone when they are crying. Don’t let her be alone with all this. Listen to her with all your attention.” Their faces got serious and I said, “She needs you attention. She’s not hot. She’s not poopoo. She’s not wet. But she does miss her mama and she might be a little scared. And take turns fanning her.”
“I wanna hold her,” said Tabby. I said, “Ok, she’s heavy. Don’t drop her.” Tabby and Justin take turns holding Yaya while I fan all of them and myself. As they each hold her, YAYA was still wailing, I tell them, “Just let her cry. She just needs to cry. Tell her we love her and that her mama will come back and get her.” Justin said to her, “Mama will be back, little baby.” I said, “Good job, Justin. Ask what else is hard?”
Finally, Yaya falls asleep in my arms. Tabby and Justin keep fanning her and Justin whispers, “Can we go to the pond, yet?” I whisper back, No, not with the baby. Later.” They keep fanning. This is how we learn to take care of each other.
About 30 minutes later, Yaya wakes up crying again and 15 minutes later Mama came out of sweatlodge all weepy red muddy and sweaty. And Yaya stopped crying right away when mamas’ arms held her. We fanned her and mama. She thanked me and I said, “De nada.”
The women came out of the lodge about 15 minutes later all red muddy y sweaty too. Me, Justin and Tabby fan them and give them cool water. As we cool off in the global warming heat, we ate laughed and talked under the blue tarp. Yaya had more chichi and was bouncy and happy. Mama seemed more refreshed. And Mama, Yaya, Tabby, Justin and I are a little more connected and closer than we were before. This is but one of many ways we learn to take care of each other. It was good to be sitting there with my red skinned sisters in any kind of weather. I think about how many of us long for this kind of day. There is so much against us to split apart and we forget- we seek communion with each other. Communications in union .I don’t want to do just ceremony and yet still not be connected with each other .It’s how we hold our ground in the truth with each other during the good the bad and the ugly. Being with each other during the hard times is the ceremony. Holding the space for crying babies and children and still enjoying the struggle and the dragonflies. I hope I am preparing the way for Yaya the Nepantlera .
Being together IS the victory. Now, that is being in Nepantla. LOL!
This was a good day on the good red road.
Sunday, June 24, 2012
The thing I like about my multinational corporate job here in San Antonio is that I get to work with mostly young adult RAZA, who are in charge. So I get to work with some of the smartest nerdiest Xicana/os in the city. I like that we come in all sizes and shades and regardless, we are from the working class. We work there because we have to and because we are smart.
I decided to be inspired by a young xicana dyke that works here. (I’ll find out my sister’s name later). If I was thinner I’d be her size and height. Orale, Sister!
I love being Queer Corn. Of course, I wouldn’t be as exotic or erotic if everyone would just be themselves. If everyone would decide to free their minds and hearts, then I’d just a mere human. But no, I’m Queer Corn.
I love being Queer. I’m not just different to be different or to be shocking. Im not queer to impress anybody. Some people are outrageous so they can be the center of attention like Madonna or Lady Gaga.
No I’m queer because I’m curious. I’m queer because I love myself. I m queer because a different path or direction is my destiny. I don’t know what queers me that way but surely I follow whatever light makes me grow.
If love is light, which I believe it is, then I’m queer because love guides me to a higher reason. I’m queer corn because the heart of corn is big. If corn has a heart which I’m sure all plants do then corn’s heart must be BIG! And corn with a big heart must be daring enough to love what is forbidden. I’m corn that defies the limits. Im corn that crosses borders. I dare grow in bad dirt. I’m corn that combines with grass, earth, air and water and make our world a better planet. I dare grow with doubt and danger all around me.
My friend, Jane, the one who is growing an urban garden said,” Oh I got you some real queer corn!” She said it was her favorite plant and she showed me the stalk of Johnson grass that had come together with her corn and that it at first in the beginning, its stalk looked just like a corn stalk.
I know it is silly to compare corn to queers but there is something amazing to being imperfect and yet so beautiful. Was corn always yellow? Or did some queer corn decide to show up blue or red or white? If so, what was the event or condition that made it change? And what did it taste like? What does survival taste like?
Sunday, June 17, 2012
Friday, June 15, 2012
My children are from the new millennium. Their names are Justin, Joey, Tabitha and Nico aka KING KONG, DING DONG, QUEEN KONG. And my godchild Nico, I used to call MOCO because when he was a toddler he had a lot of snot. I’m not sure if I do right by them but they all seem to want to spend more time with me. Sometimes they just want to talk or want me to join them in some physical adventurous activity.Im okay with that. I’d be fatter if it wasn’t for them making me move a little more than I would if I was childless. Now what is hard for me is shopping for frilly things with Tabitha, or telling them about the ugly things our society has set up for them to face like racism and sexism.Or that we live in the class system where money before people matters.
Nico and Tabitha are the oldest. When Nico was born, I tell him that I saw him come out of his mama’s belly. I was there when she had a Caesarean. In that moment he was born, it was if I had forgotten what joy was about. That’s all I felt when my eyes first saw him. My eyes still tear up when I think of that moment. I felt absolute most divine light room filling JOY. My heart burst open more than it had ever been bloomed before.
When Nico was 2 years old I didn’t want him to learn how to kiss from soap operas. I didn’t want him to learn sexuality or affection from fucked up television. I want him to learn all that naturally. I have talks with Tabitha daily that her intelligence is as important as her looks or body. That I don’t want Nico to be oppressive and UN thoughtful about women and that I don’t Tabitha to demean herself and yet I want them to be free about their sexuality and not have any hang-ups about sex. Tabitha freaked me out when she wanted to wear big hoop earrings to 5th grade! Already she is more concerned about her looks than writing or reading.
I am trying to prepare them for reality but also plant hopefulness so they can carry with them all their lives. Hope.
Hope is like corn. Gotta plant it to grow it. But you can’t tell a lies. And I’m not about to lie to my babies.
My children are full of themselves. They love to look at themselves in the mirror. And they think they are so cute. They are. Then again at times, they tell me they feel terrible about themselves. But we all feel like that at times. Sometimes we feel cute and other times we pick at ourselves where we are not perfect.
I was definitely Asian in my past life. I love beauty and order. I admire the Zen of perfection but I don’t my children to be afraid to make mistakes. I’m not looking for perfect looking ear of corn although corn is perfect with all its imperfections as it IS. I like that corn is imperfect just like my children. My friend, Jane, who is growing corn in her urban front yard, said that her organic corn is smaller.
My children have been judged as imperfect. And they are. I like them like that. My boys have been diagnosed with ADHD blah blah and getting them off meds was easy and at times like an exorcism. My plan is to defy the labels and diagnosis. They are intelligent humans and my goal is to help them discover and recover from the hurt that has been placed on them. This is where I refuse to be defined by white colonization and medical model of illness and intelligence. The wildest colts do make the best horses.
I don’t want my children to be good workers in our slave system or what I call the madness. But I do want them to be good workers that love to do a good job. Work is good. That doing nothing but being depressed or drugged not the way they would want to spend their time. WORK IS GOOD. Perfection isn’t the goal. Doing their best IS. I tell the must learn to struggle and that they can whistle why they work. I am reminded of the Buddhist saying: before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. You have to know how to chingar. That means endure struggle and suffer thru things. If you can’t get over it you have to go thru it and that is that.
My boys Justin and Joey know suffering. They were taken by the state from their parents who struggle with drug addictions. Those boys know fear and hurt. They also know how to check out from emotions. They had to learn how to get thru the pain when no one was around to help them. Yet I see them as so tender. I worry that they will be too tender that they will be brutalized by other men. And I also worry will they be brutal men? I asked them one day, “WHAT KIND OF MEN DO YA WANNA BE LIKE? LIKE SO AND SO? OR SO AND SO?!!!!!” Joey said so matter of fact, “Like you, Ari.”
It hit me like someone punched me in my chest. There was no smile in his face. Real serious he said it. I wanted to burst out laughing. He knows I am a woman. He wasn’t being a smart ass or clever. He meant it.
I hope my children know that when they really need someone that they have me. When do I be there for them and when do I let them figure it out for themselves? Just when I think I am being too hard they ask me to not go to work and stay home. Sometimes they say I am being mean. I say, “I mean business”. My word means something. I promised them, I would never lie to them and that I would keep my word. I dunno But I do know one thing. If theres trouble or they are scared, they look for me. That’s because I DO MEAN BUSINESS. And yet I can’t protect them everything.
I confess. I struggle with my commitment to nonviolence. I used to have a poster that I lost and found again years later. I was excited when I thought it was a poster of acupuncture points but instead it was a poster of Martial Artists strike points to kill an opponent. My friend, who was with me when I found it, laughed and said, “Oh yeah that’s from the days you wanted kill people not heal them!!” Non violence Principle 1 of Martin Luther King, Jr. is “Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people. So far, all I can say is Love gives me courage. I hope my love helps me finds the ways to do right for my children. I tell myself that how I am with them NOW is how they will be with their children and how my grandchildren will be with their children. I take the next generation seriously. I hope I pass the skills and information I have so they can learn how to heal themselves and help other people.
I do mean business.
Each kernel makes a lot more corn. Our children are the children of the corn.And for whatever reason, these four are in my path, surely they must be extraordinary, and Creator wouldn’t have blessed me with just anybody. Any child that happens to stumble in my bunny trail has got to be special.
Gotta go plant some corn with all my love and hope.
Saturday, June 9, 2012
I told my teacher, who is naturopathic doctor, that obesity among mi raza especially the young ones was big here in Sananto. She said, "It’s the food. The corn we eat is not nutritional anymore. Haven’t you heard about what Monsanto is doing to our corn?”
“Yes I know. But what I want to know is am I ok? Am I sick? I’m struggling with my health and weight right now. Diabetes. My mother and sister are diabetic. I am headed that way.”, I answered.
She said gently lovingly sacredly,” I dunno. You gotta make the decision. You have to decide whose side are you on? The GMO Side or NON GMO side? Whose side are you on?”
WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON? Her voice keeps haunting me when I’m still and quiet especially, or in a quiet creeping up like a snake whisper. Whose side are you on? Whose side are you on? It feels heavy and wells up a deep sadness for me ? Add to that a suffocating choking grief for mi gente
WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?
I told Ms Silva that DIABETES IS AN EPIDEMIC. Are we the only ones that are worried?
At the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, I met a healer named Arturo Castillo. He had come to the Health Center I worked at to teach a juicing class. Rumor was that he used to be HIV+ and that he was now negative. Its was hush hush because no one believed him. And he was tired of telling people he no longer tested positive for the HIV virus. This was in the time when it was absolutely too many too soon were dying .Grief on top of fear was heavy. We weren’t sure who were we gonna lose next. When he found out he was HIV+, he decided to do something different.
He told me that his friends who were diagnosed with AIDS did the usual medication. And usually the medication itself is what probably killed them. To Arturo it didn’t make sense to take the medications that ended up destroying the organs like kidneys and liver that our bodies use to cleanse and heal itself.But Arturo remained loyal to his body. Arturo cleaned himself up for real all the way. He changed his diet. Arturo told me Jesus and Essenes were into cleanliness. “What else did they all have to do all alone in the desert with the apostles?", he whispered. Escandola!
In an Essene book that I read ,”Jesus said, everything you need to heal yourself is in Mother Earth.” That blew my mind.He said Mother Earth.
Arturo cleansed himself with colonics and was macrobiotic food. He was into juicing and massage. He was a dancer and ran 10 miles a day, worked out and he was buffed!
And all he ate was vegetables .
He was love and light. Puro Indio. I wanted to always be in his light.
He was that all the way live!
But Arturo had sadness about him. He had lost a lot more friends than I had. One day, Arturo died suddenly. I’m not sure from what. My teacher says he saw what was coming and was too tender to stay on the planet.
Who gives a shit about them? Is it shame that led to our self disgust about each other and ourselves, then hopelessness that leads to the death count? Is it the hopelessness that is happening. Or is the pinche miedo that makes me think Im not gonna make it.
IM NOT GONNA MAKE IT.
ERES UN HIJA DE LA CHINGADA.
YOURE NOT GONNA MAKE IT
Feel the hopelessness?
Why is it easier for me to find heroin than organic corn on the cob in this town? GMO corn is killing me. Or is it me killing myself?
WHOSE SIDE AM I ON?
I go out
of my way to buy organic corn.
AND I WILL ENJOY IT TO THE MAXIMUM.
I don’t have to give up corn
I just have to decide to be on the organic corn side like Arturo would have been too.
Once after I smoked organic weed (it was organic, I had to try it), I saw Arturo. He was a 3D Viewmaster looking dark brown skin puro indio angel.
He is my guardian angel. Real Purdy.
I wonder what Arturo would say now about corn.
Friday, June 8, 2012
I had a thought about cornrows earlier…why do they call black hair braids cornrows? Duh, because it looks like corn kernels in a row! LOL! Then of course , that lead me to another duh? Tortillas?
Tortillas reminds me first of LALO GUERREROS song, “There’s No More Tortillas” then I think about George Lopez’s joke, “ A tortilla will never be a WRAP!!” WRAP has become a NOUN word.
Then my companera Jennifer said to me just two days ago,”Baby, I am gonna help you eat right. I made you a WRAP ( tortilla) and it has spring mix in it”. What???? !!!!!
My mother has a dicho that says : Las cosas que no quieres en su casa en su casa lo ayes. Or the things you dont want to in your home is where you will find them.
I m sad like Lalo and Im with George. A TORTILLA WILL NEVER BE A WRAP!
I have a science fiction story called LAS AVENTURAS DE LOLA COATLICUE and in her world there is a plant that has a round vegetable that you slice and make a tortillalike food. Even in my wildest fantasy can I be without a tortilla.
I get the best supernatural stories from viejitos and the working class -brown blackwhite doesn’t matter. I love the many versions I hear about the Virgen de Guadalupe or Jesus appearing on the toasted parts of the tortilla. I have yet to hear about a Buddha on a tortilla yet. Jennifer sees Jesus all the time in tree barks. And SHE IS brown and working class!
Everyone I know has a version of how they like to eat a tortilla. First, do we wanted it toasted hard or soft and warm? Jennifer loves her practically burnt and me soft. Do we use it to scoop food with our hands or do we eat it aside like bread? I think its interesting that a child can eat with their hands and then switch back to school and use a spoon or fork.
Ugh! We used to be embarrassed when I had a fresh made buttered tortilla in my hand and had to rush to get on a bus full of white kids ! Then they would say ughhh, whats that??? Shut up.
Now it’s a luxury to get a handmade tortilla ……precious. Now everybody eats a tortilla…well in Texas. Now its fashionable. I guess. Well in my world it is!
My mother would make tortillas from scratch every morning…mostly flour. I can still hear the palote banging. Palote an indian word for rolling pin and her singing at the top of her lungs LOUD some mariachi de Jalisco high note song. She says when she did that it meant that she was in a good mood and that her tortillas came out perfect. And in the evenings,she would ask me to sit with her, while she threw the chile, garlic ,tomato etc in the molcajete ,and ask me about my day at school . And always her stories.
Working Class y brown.
I think I see a Buddha in my tortilla.
Thursday, June 7, 2012
Jennifer says after reading that corn comes in many colors that her new painting is gonna be on focusing on each kernel. Then she said,” Baby, you need to write just a kernel since you don’t have much time lately.” I thought to myself yeah corn comes in many colors. She said she loved especially how each kernel could be different colors or even two or more colors in just one kernel. I said oh yeah. That’s right. Corn is purdy.
I was talking to Ms Silva this morning via Facebook and I realized that part of the reason I’m writing about corn is that it’s my way of working on food and diabetes. Ms Silva is working on a series of Platicas on diabetes and also just finished a book of poems and other writing on Diabetes and RAZA. And I’m raza working on corn and my fear or probability of diabetes.
Diabetes reminds of the AIDS epidemic. Maybe its because in San Antonio I see so much effects of food and diabetes here. I can go for days and not see white folks in San Antonio where I live. My daily life is MEXICAN. I live in occupied Mexico or at least a large rez. I speak Spanish daily or at least Spanglish. DAMN there is even more diabetic shoe stores and dialysis centers here than I see anywhere else. That’s messed up.
Well this is what I wanted to be with..mi gente. San Antonio is a large cornfield. Jennifer says we are children of the corn for real. Have you noticed that in OCCUPIED Mexico we eat more flour tortillas than corn? But corn syrup is in coca cola and always corn chips. In Texas, corn chips are almost always free before your meal comes to you. There are as many ways to fry corn chips as there are colors of corn and kinds of corn. BUT nothing is as good as homemade corn tortillas….mmmmmmm good.
My sister Alice tells us the story of when she visited Guanajuto, where her husband, Jose and my daddy’s family are from that’s she tripped out when she woke up and smelled smoke. She said the women had gotten up early and started a fire outside. Damn she thought they up early! Then later she heard them grinding stone. When she finally woke up because it smelled good she said they were making tortillas from scratch. They had ground up the corn from the kernel to the masa to the tortilla. We all said DAMNMMMMMMMM! That there are some children of the corn for real.
Sunday, June 3, 2012
I am gonna speak to you as if you never were forced to forget you are India. I am gonna speak to you as like I am your village or tribal storyteller. I am gonna speak to you because you belong to me and I belong to you. I am gonna speak so you will remember who you are and where you came from, India. And I am gonna speak to you so you won’t have an excuse to not pass it on. I am gonna tell you, so I won’t forget. And I am gonna tell you because the there is a heaviness we live with that makes us forget and together, we can lift it off once and for all. SOMOS INDIAS.
Each of us is a seed for more corn.
Many years ago when our people lived… not just existed, it was the land…. la tierra ….earth that mattered the most.
That was the center of our universe.
We were in the now moment and not busy with work that was for profit or money. We worked to feed everybody. We shared more and thought more about each other. We weren’t working for the master or landowner or other bully. We weren’t slaves. No one owned the land. Earth was spirit. Earth was worshipped and treated like it was holy. When we were more into la tierra, Earth was church. Earth still is.
The earth was given more attention. All things evolved around the earth. We weren’t into our looks or our money. What we were going to eat was far more important. Food occupied our body hearts and minds. Corn was sacred.
Corn was more sacred to us than our Ford F150 or Explorer. It was more sacred or important than the Harley Davidson motorcycle. It was more sacred than beer, weed, sex and crack. Corn was more sacred than the Texas Longhorn football game or the Spurs winning the next game. Next to corn, I suspect rest and play were next in importance. Air and water were important but I place that under the category: Earth…La Tierra.
My father, Joe Chagoya, who was a master landscaper and arborist, gardener and farmer, horse whisperer, and water dowser used to tell me that he wanted me to go to Texas A &M and study agriculture. I used to roll my eyes and say to myself ugh why?????? I went instead to the rival University of Texas. But I still have my daddy’s earthiness.
He used lay out in the grass outside when we went out en la monte and say, “Ahhhhhh…..smell that country air!” Daddy was puro indio. Tree climber. Chango. Tarzan, my pops. Had my daddy lived more outside, I don’t think my dad would have drank as much.
When I would help daddy till the dirt and plant the seed for the garden, afterwards, I would be all sweaty and hot but I used to love to lay on my back between the rows of dirt. It made me happy and one with universe. It made me feel joyful and satisfied-accomplished and victorious. Don’t know why I still just love to lay down on dirt. Earth
Corn. Maybe I am planted with corn too when I do that. Maybe la tierra makes our bodies feel happy in places where things are fertile and growing. Maybe laying that close to the earth on our skin makes us remember why we are born.
Maybe it makes us feel closer to creator or at least makes us closer to something special. Maybe that special feeling is that you are holy in the a place that’s holy. Holy like when you are in the room when a baby is being born.
I am gonna speak to you as if you were never made to forget you are an indian. I don’t care what you think or say.
You Redskin. You Redskin that looks like Whiteskin or maybe
Maybe Meskin acting like no skin.
I am specially talking to you.
Hellooooo, the eagle eating a snake on the cactus Meskin?
Hello nopal on your forehead Indian!
Maybe you a forgot Nauhatl Indian.
Maybe you a forgotten Swahili Indian.
Maybe you a Gaelic forgotten Indian.
Maybe you lost your tongue Indian.
Maybe you lost Indian.
Maybe you lost.
Now you found.
Corn comes in many colors.
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Last night I looked at the images of lotus blossoms for a painting I want to do. My teacher gave me assignment to find my flower so that I can keep it focus as symbol for me about me. I choose the lotus flower. I want to meditate on it in detail.. study it.. become it. When I paint it, I want to be its spirit and express it in a painting but corn is as a precious to me. As I wrote this I am hurt and angry when I feel CORN. My teacher also said to me that I needed to stop eating the genetically modified corn. That the corn that is on the market today is killing me..killing my people. That the rise of diabetes is directly related to eating GMO corn. Everything has corn. Corn syrup corn oil .How did a plant that was so crucial to my people become one of things that is killing us? I had to stop eating corn and its not easy. Its in everything. Try finding organic corn in town. Its easier for me to find cigarettes than organic corn. Hell, I can find heroin easier than non GMO corn in my town. Seriously we need to grow our own. If we can get the guts to grow weed we can grow our own corn.
Corn .I go to Wikipedia to look up corn. “The term "maize" derives from the Spanish form of the indigenous Taíno word for the plant, maiz. It is known by other names around the world.I see MAIZE the word for CORN. I like the word CORN. I like the word MAIZE. Either word works for me. Makes my mouth water mmm sweet juicy maize. I like the sound of maize not MAZE but MY EAZE the way my mama would say it. ‘Vamos a trear maize para los tamales. Compro nomas cinco libras.”
So here are some things about corn you may not known
Maize started becoming a food about 7,500 to 12,000 years ago. Researcher from the 1950s to 1970s originally thought that maize first started in the highlands between Oaxaca and Jalisco, because the oldest archaeological remains of maize known at the time were found there.The later found out that corm is related teosinte which is genetically most similar to modern maize. Teosinte is Zea mays ssp. parviglumis, native to the Balsas River valley and also known as Balsas teosinte
From Wikipedia : Some of the earliest pollen remains from Latin America have been found in lake sediments from tropics of southern Mexico and upper Central America, up to Laguna Martinez and have been radiocarbon dated to around 4,700 years ago. Archaeological remains of early maize ears, found at Guila Naquitz Cave in the Oaxaca Valley, date back roughly 6,250 years; the oldest ears from caves near Tehuacan, Puebla, date ca. 2750 BC. Little change occurred in ear form until ca. 1100 BC when great changes appeared in ears from Mexican caves: maize diversity rapidly increased and archaeological teosinte was first deposited.
Perhaps as early as 1500 BC, maize began to spread widely and rapidly. As it was introduced to new cultures, new uses were developed and new varieties selected to better serve in those preparations. Maize was the staple food, or a major staple (along with squash, Andean region potato, quinoa, beans, and amaranth), of most pre-Columbian North American, Mesoamerican, South American, and Caribbean cultures. The Mesoamerican civilization was strengthened upon the field crop of maize; through harvesting it, its religious and spiritual importance and how it impacted their diet. Maize formed the Mesoamerican people's identity. During the 1st millennium AD, maize cultivation spread from Mexico into the U.S. Southwest and during the following millennium into the U.S. Northeast and southeastern Canada, transforming the landscape as Native Americans cleared large forest and grassland areas for the new crop
Maize was planted by the Native Americans in hills, in a complex system known to some as the Three Sisters. Maize provided support for beans, and the beans provided nitrogen derived from nitrogen-fixing rhizobia bacteria which live on the roots of beans and other legumes; and squashes provided ground cover to stop weeds and inhibit evaporation by providing shade over the soil. This method was replaced by single species hill planting where each hill 60–120 cm (2.0–3.9 ft) apart was planted with three or four seeds, a method still used by home gardeners. A later technique was "checked maize", where hills were placed 40 inches (1.0 metre) apart in each direction, allowing cultivators to run through the field in two directions. In more arid lands, this was altered and seeds were planted in the bottom of 10–12 cm (3.9–4.7 in) deep furrows to collect water. Modern technique plants maize in rows which allows for cultivation while the plant is young, although the hill technique is still used in the maize fields of some Native American
Masa (cornmeal treated with lime water) is the main ingredient for tortillas, atole and many other dishes of Mexican food.
Popcorn consists of kernels of certain varieties that explode when heated, forming fluffy pieces that are eaten as a snack. Roasted dried maize cobs with semihardened kernels, coated with a seasoning mixture of fried chopped spring onions with salt added to the oil, is a popular snack food in Vietnam. Cancha, which are roasted maize chulpe kernels, are a very popular snack food in Peru, and also appears in traditional Peruvian ceviche. An unleavened bread called makki di roti is a popular bread eaten in the Punjab region of India and Pakistan.
Chicha and chicha morada (purple chicha) are drinks typically made from particular types of maize. The first one is fermented and alcoholic, the second is a soft drink commonly drunk in Peru. Corn flakes are a common breakfast cereal in North America and the United Kingdom, and found in many other countries all over the world.
Maize can also be prepared as hominy, in which the kernels are soaked with lye in a process called nixtamalization; or grits, which are coarsely ground hominy. These are commonly eaten in the Southeastern United States, foods handed down from Native Americans, who called the dish sagamite.
The Brazilian dessert canjica is made by boiling maize kernels in sweetened milk. Maize can also be harvested and consumed in the unripe state, when the kernels are fully grown but still soft. Unripe maize must usually be cooked to become palatable; this may be done by simply boiling or roasting the whole ears and eating the kernels right off the cob. Sweet corn, a genetic variety that is high in sugars and low in starch, is usually consumed in the unripe state. Such corn on the cob is a common dish in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Cyprus, some parts of South America, and the Balkans, but virtually unheard of in some European countries. Corn on the cob was hawked on the streets of early 19th-century New York City by poor, barefoot "Hot Corn Girls", who were thus the precursors of hot dog carts, churro wagons, and fruit stands seen on the streets of big cities today. The cooked, unripe kernels may also be shaved off the cob and served as a vegetable in side dishes, salads, garnishes, etc. Alternatively, the raw unripe kernels may also be grated off the cobs and processed into a variety of cooked dishes, such as maize purée, tamales, pamonhas, curau, cakes, ice creams, etc.
Maize is a major source of starch. Cornstarch (maize flour) is a major ingredient in home cooking and in many industrialized food products. Maize is also a major source of cooking oil (corn oil) and of maize gluten. Maize starch can be hydrolyzed and enzymatically treated to produce syrups, particularly high fructose corn syrup, a sweetener; and also fermented and distilled to produce grain alcohol. Grain alcohol from maize is traditionally the source of Bourbon whiskey. Maize is sometimes used as the starch source for beer. Within the United States, the usage of maize for human consumption constitutes about 1/40th of the amount of grown in the country. In the United States and Canada, maize is mostly grown to feed for livestock, as forage, silage (made by fermentation of chopped green cornstalks), or grain. Maize meal is also a significant ingredient of some commercial animal food products, such as dog food.
Maize is also used as a fish bait, called "dough balls". It is particularly popular in Europe for coarse fishing.
Some forms of the plant are occasionally grown for ornamental use in the garden. For this purpose, variegated and colored leaf forms as well as those with colorful ears are used. Size-superlative types, reaching 40 ft (12 m) tall, cobs 2 ft (61 cm) long, or 1 in (2.5 cm) kernels, have been popular for at least a century. Corncobs can be hollowed out and treated to make inexpensive smoking pipes, first manufactured in the United States in 1869.
An unusual use for maize is to create a "corn maze" (or "maize maze") as a tourist attraction. The idea of a maize maze was introduced by Adrian Fisher, one of the most prolific designers of modern mazes, with The American Maze Company who created a maze in Pennsylvania in 1993.
Traditional mazes are most commonly grown using yew hedges, but these take several years to mature. The rapid growth of a field of maize allows a maze to be laid out using GPS at the start of a growing season and for the maize to grow tall enough to obstruct a visitor's line of sight by the start of the summer. In Canada and the U.S., these are popular in many farming communities.
Maize kernels can be used in place of sand in a sandboxlike enclosure for children's play.
Additionally, feed corn is sometimes used by hunters to bait animals such as deer or wild hogs.