Maiz — corn — rules much of rural Mexico. (At one time it ruled almost completely.) Guadalajara’s neighboring muncipio, Zapopan, was until recently called villa maicera, because it grew so much corn. And there are hundreds of small villages throughout the Republic called pueblos maiceros by their inhabitants because they exist on maize.
This time of year, fishermen, gardeners, masons, carpenters, waiters, plumbers and many others, all of whom are relatively reliable during much of the year, frequently disappear to tend their fields of corn. People grow corn in patios and corrales behind their houses, in vacant city lots, patches of ground owned by their employers, along Lake Chapala beaches, in their front yards, down the edges of orchards — anywhere there’s a bit of fertile earth.
Mexico’s mythical cultural hero, Quetzalcoatl, is said to have turned himself into an ant so he could steal a single grain of teocintli (corn) from deep within a secret mountain where the insects had hidden the precious grain. Returning, he gave that one kernel of maize to humankind so it could nourish itself forever.
To the Mexica (Aztecs), corn was a divine gift, a true miracle. To historians, it is the exceptional plant that allowed mankind in the Americas to cease existing in scattered groups of hunters and gatherers and settle down to create the ancient rich, fascinating and often mysterious civilizations of what is today Latin America. It was the bridge between culture in the Americas and the beginning of the region’s civilizations.