Stories of Maize with Jorge Rojas and Dr. Roberto Rodriguez


Sep 15, 2021, 7:00 pm

Kimball Art Center is excited to host Artist-in-Residence Jorge Rojas in conversation with Dr. Roberto Cintli Rodriguez, author of Our Sacred Maiz Is Our Mother: Indigeneity and Belonging in the Americas. This program is a part of People of Corn, an exhibition by Jorge Rojas.

“If you want to know who you are and where you come from, follow the maíz.” That was the advice given to author Roberto Cintli Rodriguez when he was investigating the origins and migrations of Mexican peoples in the Four Corners region of the United States.

Follow it he did, and his book Our Sacred Maíz Is Our Mother changes the way we look at Mexican Americans. Not so much peoples created as a result of war or invasion, they are people of the corn, connected through a seven-thousand-year old maíz culture to other Indigenous inhabitants of the continent. Using corn as the framework for discussing broader issues of knowledge production and history of belonging, the author looks at how corn was included in codices and Mayan texts, how it was discussed by elders, and how it is represented in theater and stories as a way of illustrating that Mexicans and Mexican Americans share a common culture.

Rodriguez brings together scholarly and traditional (elder) knowledge about the long history of maíz/corn cultivation and culture, its roots in Mesoamerica, and its living relationship to Indigenous peoples throughout the continent, including Mexicans and Central Americans now living in the United States. The author argues that, given the restrictive immigration policies and popular resentment toward migrants, a continued connection to maíz culture challenges the social exclusion and discrimination that frames migrants as outsiders and gives them a sense of belonging not encapsulated in the idea of citizenship. The “hidden transcripts” of corn in everyday culture—art, song, stories, dance, and cuisine (maíz-based foods like the tortilla)—have nurtured, even across centuries of colonialism, the living maíz culture of ancient knowledge.

Roberto Rodriguez, PhD – or Dr. Cintli – is an associate professor, in the Mexican American Studies Department, at the University of Arizona. He is a longtime-award-winning journalist/columnist who returned to school in 2003 in pursuit of a Master's degree (2005) and a Ph.D. in Mass Communications (Jan. 2008) at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. While there, he co-produced with Patrisia Gonzales, Amoxtli San Ce Tojuan, a 2005 documentary on origins and migrations. Also, Ethinic Studies at UC Berkeley published a collection of their columns (Gonzales-Rodriguez, Uncut and Uncensored, 1996). Prior to returning to school he was a nationally syndicated columnist, first with Chronicle features and then with Universal Press Syndicate. He is the author of Justice: A Question of Race (Bilingual Review Press, 1997); it documents his 7 ½ year quest for justice in the courtroom, involving 2 trials, stemming from a case of police brutality that almost cost him his life. His research focus at the University of Arizona is on Maiz culture on this continent, which includes its relationship to the Ethnic Studies controversies nationwide. He teaches classes on the history of maiz, Mexican/Chicano/Chicana culture and politics and the history of red-brown journalism. As part of his work, he has developed and published on the concept of running epistemology (International Journal of Critical Indigenous Studies, 2012. In 2013, a major digitized collection of Mexican and Indigenous media was inaugurated by the University Arizona Libraries, based on a class he created: The History of Red-Brown Journalism. He recently wrote for Diverse Issues in Higher Education and currently writes for Truthout’s Public Intellectual Project. His book, “Our Sacred Maiz is our Mother: Nin Tonantzin Non Centeotl” was published by the University of Arizona Press 2014. He works with the concepts of elder-youth epistemology and running epistemology and was the 2013 Baker-Clark Human Rights award from American Educational Research Association.

This program is made possible with support from the Kimball Art Center, Park City Library, and Utah Humanities.

Kimball Art Center

1251 Kearns Blvd
Park City , UT 84060-5177
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Event Contact:

Willy Palomo
palomo@utahhumanities.org

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