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Corn, Cultural Heritage of Costa Rica

Letter by Manuel Lopez Obregon, Minister of Culture and Youth
For El Sabanero

Culture is what remains when one has forgotten everything. If in Costa Rica we can speak of an ancestral culture, it is undoubtedly that of corn. Although we have already forgotten many of our best traditions, we must remember and conserve something proper and essential: we are children of the corn.

For this reason, and the same as we did earlier with the cart, the oxherd or with calypso music, we now urge from the Ministry of Culture and Youth to declare corn, and all it represents, as natural and cultural heritage of Costa Rica-Zea mays- as well as its traditions and agricultural practices.

There are many reasons to support this declaration, one of which is the inseparable link between culture and cultivation, that work of man that makes the land produce.

In the majority of indigenous cultures of our territory, such as the Bribrís and the Cabécares, their worldview was based on corn. These peoples were considered to be created by the god Sibú, from seed corn, and its various colors determined membership of the various clans or "races".

The cultivation of corn in our country is ancient. They have found seeds and charred cobs in Tronadora Vieja, now Arenal Lagoon, from 2,000 BC, as well as ceramics that record agricultural practices to that date. There is also historical evidence demonstrating the presence of corn in Costa Rica – from corn pollen found in lake sediments, as in the Laguna Martinez, Guanacaste, which scientists consider date back to 3000 BC.

Further South American corn origins are also found in the Central Caribbean- archaeological site Severo Ledesma, near Guácimo-which suggests that our country functioned as a meeting place between different peoples of the continent that had in common the cultivation of different varieties of this plant. These varieties were a particular feature of each village that differed from each other, which could be associated with the emergence of chiefdoms, but this was in a period closer to possibly 300 BC. And also, changes in customs have been discovered, workers who left farming for service positions in coordination and control jobs.

In all historical periods, corn was essential in the popular diet, like atoles, tortillas, mixed with meats and even fermented drinks like chicha.

The symbolic metates, true works of pre-Hispanic art, were created to grind corn, direct inheritance that our grandmothers received and used after the Spanish conquest, a custom that continues to this day.

The cultivation and consumption of corn throughout the country is evident, with the Mesoamerican section of the country that has the most varieties. And it is in this region where we can appreciate a typical and abundant cuisine based on this grain, between drinks and meals, like pozole, tamales, Pisque, tortillas, biscuits, rosquillas, tanelas, marquesotes, topotoste, atol, pinolillo, chicheme and chorreadas .

We must concentrate on a model of development that has the foundation of our best traditions, including, as a central reference point, the corn. We build the future knowing and defending our past.

We proudly assume our rich heritage of the children of the corn, “men of corn” as named by Guatemalan laureate novelist Miguel Angel Asturias.



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Ticos in the United States: Living the American Dream Has Its Price

We walk from the train station toward a Guatemalan restaurant where we decide to have breakfast. It’s 11 a.m. on a summer day in August, a little late to be eating the first meal of the day, but Sandra, Miguel and Robert requested the day off of work to be with us, and they decided that before opening the doors to their private life, we should get to know each other briefly.

Pictures and News of the Month

The Voice of Nosara brings you a brief recap of December stories you might have missed.

Requesting Permission to Build Will Only Take 30 Days

In general, those who have taken the steps to build a house have had to exercise patience since the process of obtaining all the permits has taken from several months to a year or more in some cases.

Nicoyans Speak Out Against Planting Transgenic Corn in Guanacaste

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