Xela Keeps the Beet
With the rainy season upon us, what better time to rant about the great outdoors in the land of eternal spring! While good ol’ Guatemala has some of the most fertile land going and oodles of water in the wet season to get your unloved herb garden growing, much of the produce shooting out of the ground comes from vast monoculture plantations basted in a healthy smathering of pesticides —Guatemala, at a whopping 1.5kg per person per year, trails only Belize in world pesticide use. There is, however, a growing (*cough*) organic agriculture scene coming up in Guatemala and as always your mates at XelaWho HQ are here with the dirt (*cringe*) on Xela’s organic scene.
Agriculture in Guatemala has long been a heated battleground between small-plot farmers and large-scale agro-exporters who work hand in glove with large foreign conglomerates and governments. Consider those golden days of American corporate colonialism—when the United Fruit Company and Eisenhower ousted Guatemala’s pesky social-democrat president Jacob Arbenz in 1954 for the crime of modest land redistribution to boost economic growth. Today, the Central American Free Trade Agreement’s mandates that agribusiness giants have intellectual property rights to GMO seed genes and thus own any such seed in Guatemala—even if it accidentally blows onto your land (thankfully Guatemala’s constitutional court blocked that one in 2014). Rant, rant, rant…
Thankfully, there are more and more local people fighting back through networks of sustainably grown crops that repair the land and feed both those who grow the food and the who buy it from them. In Xela, the best place to get a taste of this is our very own Día Orgánico that runs in Parque Central on the second Sunday of every month. The Día Orgánico is a market to buy organic and sustainably grown produce, but it’s also a hub for people interested in avoiding pesticides and monoculture and supporting food that takes care of Guatemala and Guatemalans. The market just had its 4th birthday, and on top of quality goods from chocolate to sausages, it boasts products that you’ll struggle to find elsewhere like mushrooms and chard.
The market is run by the Western Regional Organic Collective (CORO) which is a network of producers, consumers and vendors that gets some support from organisations like Oxfam. Sadly Xela’s always reasonable-and-easy-to-work-with Muni has stuffed the market around since its birth and refuses to give them a fairly priced and consistent location. ‘Onya Muni!
Another way to get good produce is to get a basket of produce through Hojitas which dishes out the goods twice a month like a CSA (community-supported agriculture). You can look them up on Facebook and get involved. On top of good eats it’s a good way to meet interesting locals.
“That organic stuff is way to pricey for humble moi”, you say? Well, yeah if you’re buying $5 organic avocados from your local Brooklyn Whole Foods, but thankfully the organic scene in Xela hasn’t moved to the boutique pricing common elsewhere. It’s around about the same price as your regular compras… you just need to know where to shop.
So whether you’re anti Big Ag, you want to avoid pesticides or you’re just so so hip, get down to the market, check ’em out on the web at xelaorganica.webnode.es, Facebook ’em at Domingos Organicos Xela, or stuff your face at restaurants who buy sustainably produced local goods like Tacorazon, Al Natur, Tan Lechuga Yo, La stampa, Cafe Nativos, Mandarina, El Cuartito and Frutopia.Buen ‘provecho Xela!