The Mixteco Way
 Corn: A Gift From The Gods

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                       28 Jan 2008


Corn was a gift from the gods.  First they formed man from an ear of corn and then the gods provided this sacred crop as food for mankind.  It was from this beginning that all the earth was populated…. this is “the Mixteco way”.

 The divine relationship between the original people of Mexico and that of corn is nowhere more evident than among the Mixtecos who inhabit the mountains and valleys of Southwest Mexico in the State of Guerrero.  In the dark beginning of Mexico’s prehistoric period, … some four to five thousand years ago, … these people began cultivating corn.

 It is not known which of the many different tribes in southern Mexico first cultivated this food crop but each have their own beliefs about how corn was provided to them by their gods.  The Mixteco believe that corn is the basis of all physical life.  Without corn there would be no flat bread known as tortillas and, consequently, no people.

 Most of the corn consumed by the Mixteco people is grown on the steep hillsides and valleys of the Sierra Madre Mountains.  The low productivity of the soil requires hard work and timely rains to produce a crop that may provide an annual yield of only 300 to 500 pounds of corn per acre.  Higher yields and better quality is obtained along the river bottoms where the soil is deeper and irrigation water is obtained from the river.  The Balsas River forms a wide basin in which crops are grown year around.  Even in the winter dry months, the soil is green with maturing, as well as emerging plants.

 Corn, beans, peppers, squash, and melons are considered crops that are acceptable for cultivation without any fear of reprisal from the gods.  Those who carefully hand till the soil and gather the produce do not fear condemnation since these are crops that have been blessed by the gods.  Alternate crops better suited to the soil and climate is seldom grown due to the fear of vengeance from the gods.

 The fortunate few have access to irrigation water from springs that flow out of the mountainside.  In some cases, the water has sufficient pressure to power sprinkler systems.  The otherwise brown landscape becomes green productive fields.  Water for gardens near homes is also brought from similar mountain springs.  It is usually piped for long distances to the homes and the small plots of land.

 Little is wasted from the corn crop.  The stalks are stacked and later used as fodder to feed the cattle during the dry winter months.  Sometimes they are fed in a corral while at other times, the cattle are allowed to glean from the cornfields after the grain is harvested.

 Women are often seen sitting in a doorway shelling corn.  They also are the ones who grind the corn into meal and flour; a process that is time consuming but is just part of the Mixteco way.

 Change comes slowly among the Mixteco people.  This is true of their farming practices, their community organization, and their spiritual beliefs.  Decisions are made by consensus.  Only … after a long period of discussing the issues among themselves and seeking the will of their gods and their traditional values … is change considered acceptable.  Whatever is done must not upset the Mixteco way.

 The spiritual life of the Mixteco people, … like that of their farming practices, … has changed little over the centuries.  The Catholic Church was forced upon them by the Spanish colonists and today most claim some allegiance to this Church.  Yet, they still retain the long held beliefs in the gods of their ancestors.  Few have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

 Telling the Mixteco about Jesus is difficult.  Most prefer to speak their heart language rather than Spanish but very few can read their own language.  Even so, a few chapters of the Bible have been translated into their language. Spanish literature is readily available but few can read Spanish; however, most have some understanding of oral Spanish.

 Oral communication of God’s Word is about the only method that can be used to share Biblical truths.  Biblical stories that relate to their culture and provide clear statements about God’s Word are under development.  An essential part of reaching the Mixteco is telling the stories in their cultural context.  Whatever is done must be considered from the perspective of the Mixteco way.


  • Pray for those who are preparing Biblical stories for the Mixtecos.
  • Pray for those who will share these stories with the Mixtecos.
  • Pray for a yearning to know about “the Jesus way”.


Overlay:  Pray for the Mixteco People





Mixteco                                                          meek-STEH-coh

Sierra Madre                                                 see-AIR-rah MA



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