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The Origin of Maize
In those days they say that God had the maize up there. They say he threw down a single kernel of maize from the sky, two little kernels he threw down. And they say that those little maize kernels matured in three days, already it produced maize. From there they say it spread all over. They told it like this. [Only] barley, barley in the beginning, they say, and God's dog was hungry. They say that he had a little white dog, with long hair he made it. That is why he loved it, because it was white and little like this. They say that that little dog would get the spines [of the barley] stuck in his tongue, he would look up to heaven and cry. He would show it to him. They say that then they threw down the two kernels of maize for him, and from that came abundant maize. From two kernels of corn we received this corn. [For that reason] my father would never like to see even one kernel [of maize] left lying [wasted] on the ground. This is the order of our God. If God had not sent us these two grains we would not have anything to eat. When they would tell [my father] that the maize had been spilled on the ground, he would say "Pick it up, it is the order of our God. It is because he has sent these two grains that we have plenty. If our God had not sent them two us we would not have any. [We would have had] to eat barley, which would have belonged," he said, "to the dogs.” When we put the grains into the ground, I cross myself. My daughters ask, "Why does mother cross herself." "You have to cross yourself," I say. If God gives we can plan to eat. If he takes it away, what are we going to do? If he were a lieutenant or a human being, we would go beg him to give to us, but God, if he punishes, he punishes. I tell them, that is the way life is. That is why I tell you, if God gives a little grass for the guinea pigs, then God provides. If he takes away the grass, then he takes away even our own food. He also takes away food from the little animals. I tell you, the birds too, when God gives, they eat the little grains, when God does not give, one is left without even a cent for oneself, and so it is not possible to buy food for the animals."
Talking about Sara
Abandoned Grains of Corn Cry
When we were little girls of six or seven my father would have us de-grain the maize. And so we de-grained, and being kids we played around and when we would drop a kernel of corn he would say, "Don't be stupid!" my father said, "grains of corn cry!" And I, being a daring girl, asked him, "Why does it cry?" "That grain is crying because you don't pick it up. You'll see how that kernel will look in the morning." And on the next day [that corn] used to wake up soaked and sweating. And so the grain cries, because that kernel is left all alone, the grain of God is left abandoned. That is why it cries, because you don't pick it up. And so he would beat us because we let peas drop, we let beans drop, we let maize, morocho, chulpi, or popcorn drop. My father never wanted even one grain to be left outside. The same with my departed husband. Boy he was an enemy of it [of leaving corn kernels abandoned] He didn't want to see a single grain of corn [left out]. For that reason he used to say, where ever when you find a kernel of corn lying in the middle of the road, you are to pick it up, looking up to heaven, because the grain of God has fallen. Gather it up and in this God will help. In the same way as [we have compassion on the abandoned corn] God will have compassion for us, because we gather up that little kernel. And that is the way it must be. And when we were roasting maize and we burned it, he used to talk to us harshly in the same way, that we shouldn't burn it, because the grains of God cry. He used to warn us not to treat the little grains that way, that we must give them manure, that we must weed them. In ancient times, among grandparents they must have had the custom of talking about it like this.
Frightening the Corn
At the time of the maize harvest] there was something that we did. In order for it to ripen quickly, we first had to give the cornfield (chagra) a fright. Because if you did not harvest the first ears [the right way] the field would keep being green, green. One would begin in this corner here another in that corner there, another in that corner there and they would begin capping the corn at the same time. There was a certain calling that was done, "Be frightened! Field be frightened! field be frightened!" they would say clearly like someone asking for a jocha (loan of produce). They used to say, "Acunti Jesucristu, Taita, Taita San Francisco Labrador." Two saints were to be named, San Francisco and San Isidro Labrador. And they said, "cailaguata japibun." And immediately we used to say, "Ama, ama, ama jipa jipa, ama jipa, ama jipa jipa ama jipa jipa cusinguichu." That meant that they should not make [the maize] ripen little by little but all at once. Suppose that on this stalk there were three ears, four ears. And so from the one that had four ears, two would be plucked off and two left. Once capped like this the corn would immediately begin to dry up. They said that by the act of entering into the chacra (field), the rest of the corn gets the fright and begins to dry up quickly.
ODA AL MAÍZ, DE PABLO NERUDA!
América, de un grano de maíz te elevaste hasta llenar de tierras espaciosas el espumoso océano. Fue un grano de maíz tu geografía. El grano adelantó una lanza verde, la lanza verde se cubrió de oro y engalanó la altura del Perú con su pámpano amarillo. Pero, poeta, deja la historia en su mortaja y alaba con tu lira al grano en sus graneros: canta al simple maíz de las cocinas. Primero suave barba agitada en el huerto sobre los tiernos dientes de la joven mazorca. Luego se abrió el estuche y la fecundidad rompió sus velos de pálido papiro para que se desgrane la risa del maíz sobre la tierra. A la piedra en tu viaje, regresabas. No a la piedra terrible, al sanguinario triángulo de la muerte mexicana, sino a la piedra de moler, sagrada piedra de nuestras cocinas. Allí leche y materia, poderosa y nutricia pulpa de los pasteles llegaste a ser movida por milagrosas manos de mujeres morenas. Donde caigas, maíz, en la olla ilustre de las perdices o entre los fréjoles campestres, iluminas la comida y le acercas el virginal sabor de tu substancia. Morderte, panocha de maíz, junto al océano de cantara remota y vals profundo. Hervirte y que tu aroma por las sierras azules se despliegue. Pero, dónde no llega tu tesoro? En las tierras marinas y calcáreas, peladas, en las rocas del litoral chileno, a la mesa desnuda del minero a veces sólo llega la claridad de tu mercadería. Puebla tu luz, tu harina, tu esperanza la soledad de América, y el hambre considera tus lanzas legiones enemigas. Entre tus hojas como suave guiso crecieron nuestros graves corazones de niños provincianos y comenzó la vida a desgranarnos.
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