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Ancestral Mayan Foods/Plants

Dr. Armando Caceres, a professor at the Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala is one of the leading experts on Guatemalan plants (and specifically medicinal plants). He knows so much and loves to share his knowledge. It was incredible to hear him speak at a workshop that I attended. He captivated the crowd and wowed us with the stories that he told about many of the plants on his list. I wish I could tell you everything he shared about these plants or could send you the moment captured in time in which he explained his list, telling stories about the plants’ historical, social, cultural, and botanical significance.

He very convincingly explained the difference between native and ancestral plants, noting that native plants biologically originated in Guatemala, but may not have historical/cultural value while ancestral plants may or may not have originated in Guatemala, but have deep social Mayan significance. (He explained a very interesting point about plant breeding/domestication here in which though one genetic line of a plant such as amaranth originated in Guatemala but it was domesticated/bred elsewhere, so how can Guatemala claim it as native when the world - including Guatemala - knows, grows, and eats the the non-native genetic line?) It was the ancestral plants that he proposed promoting.

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