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Sat

09

Jan

2010

What Is Your Relationship With Grandmother Earth? Carolyn Baker Interviews A Mayan Earth Steward
Saturday, 09 January 2010 10:09
by Carolyn Baker

  We are no longer living in the present; we are living in the future. There is no more time.

PHOTO: "Chita" founder of Grandmother Earth's Kitchen

I recently met Rosiema Saravia or "Chita" (chee-tah), as she likes to be called, at a year-end celebration of Transition Colorado and its permaculture and Bioneer partners here in Boulder. Later, I sat down with her to learn more about the catering business she operates here in the Boulder area.

Chita was born in Morazan, El Salvador in 1967 shortly before that nation erupted in civil war. Most Salvadorans were campesinos, indigenous peasants living at subsistence level without running water or electricity, while a tiny privileged minority lived in wealth and opulence. It was in the 1960s that reformers began challenging the alliance between the right-wing military and the oligarchy. Caught in the middle of rampant violence were tens of thousands of indigenous Mayan-Pipil people who lived off the land-land that was being destroyed by war and usurped by the ruling elite. Chita was one of those individuals.

She carries the emotional scars this turbulent time caused her people and doesn't like to talk about it in depth. Her trauma began at the age of eight, but later as a young teenager, she was taken to San Salvador, the nation's capital, where she lived working to sustaining her mom and little brothers and sisters--further away from the violence that marked her life and the lives of more of hundred and thousands of Mayan-Pipiles en El Salvador. During that time she found solace in both her native religion and the community support and resistance groups of liberation theology, which were community-based groups, formed for and with the people and later supported by the soon-to-be-assassinated Archbishop Romero, a person who had been transformed from seeing the peoples pain and suffering, the pain of his people.

For what it's worth, on the morning of the day I met Chita, I awakened with two Spanish names in my head: El Mozote and Acteal-the locations of two heinous massacres, the first, occurring in El Salvador during the civil war and the second in Chiapas in the late 1990's. When I finally heard Chita's story, the re-appearance of these names in my mind made sense and reminded me again of the pervasive violence in Central America during the last half of the twentieth century-violence which continues today in other forms and places in Latin America such as the current carnage in Mexico. It also reminded me of the mystery of connection we have with all of the community of life, whether we are consciously aware of it or not.


Chita came to the United States in the late ‘80s, arriving in Los Angeles and living there until 2009 when she moved to Colorado. During those years she married and had three children, one attending college now and two in elementary and middle school. She raised them and made sure they received an education during Chita's daily hard-working hours. She and her children have been an example to a lot of United States citizens that a Mayan-Pipil woman, who came to United States and who made big changes, by changing her family and community's destiny with her commitment to life. Chita was active in numerous social justice projects in Southern California from the time she arrived. In 2000 she had a dream about two towers in some large city becoming inflamed and collapsing to the earth. When 9/11 occurred, she was deeply shaken and realized that she must keep in close contact with her Mayan-Pipil elders and her way of life-her abuelos and abuelas (the Spanish words for grandfathers and grandmothers) and listen carefully to them, to her dreams, and to the earth for instructions about where to live and what her work on this planet must be. Making many trips back and forth to her place of birth in Central America and consulting with people of conocimiento y sabiduria (knowledge and wisdom), and with the sacred help of her advisors, she gained clarity about her mission and purpose.

In 2008 she became convinced that she must leave Southern California and do something related to growing and cooking food, something she always did as a child of the earth. A series of vision quests and ceremonies guided her to Colorado, and the abuelos suggested Boulder because it had been voted the healthiest and the smartest city in the United States. It was then that she formulated the vision of Grandmother Earth's Kitchen which is now a catering business but which Chita and her advisors want to expand to a full-service restaurant in Boulder.

The Mayan elders have told Chita that we are no longer living in the present. The future has begun, and there is no more time. We must live with our ears and our hearts close to the earth, and food is one of the most important aspects of this because as Chita says, "food is medicine." By this she means that food has healing potential, but even more so, food is power. "Medicine", a term frequently used by native peoples, is synonymous with the particular kind of power a person carries in the world which often relates to his or her life's purpose. Clearly, Chita's medicine is the growing and cooking of nourishing food.

In order to grasp the significance of her mission, we must understand the Mayan concept of food. Food either heals us, or it kills us. We can have toxic "happy meals" a la McDonalds and others food services in the world, or we can have nutritious, living, healing "happy food." The Mayan-Pipil saying about food is, "From the land to the stove, and it returns to the land to be a nutrient for itself." Chita says that we must "practice what we say and live with a conscious heart and soul". Happy and living food would also have to be local food, for how can food transported long distances, sometimes frozen and replete with preservatives, be truly alive?

It's also crucial to understand the Mayan-Pipil woman's attitude toward cooking which is about much more than just preparing food. Cooking food is a ritual-a ceremony and a celebration, and what Chita has been taught is, "The kitchen should be filled with women talking about love, sensuality and sexuality, and they should be dancing. As the protagonists of life, as life givers we need to sing, dance, pray and be happy when we plant, harvest, and cook for our families and people. Women's body language is very important in our way of life; when they cook, they express themselves as goddesses-showing that they are in tune with the love and life of our mother earth."

At the end of our conversation, Chita gave me generous portions of her wonderful brew of amaranth and chocolate-a traditional sweet Maya-Pipil abuelas beverage which warms and soothes the body. After consuming several cups, I was sent home with a delicious cinnamon tea which enhances the healing energy of the amaranth and chocolate potion.

For me, my time with Chita confronts me with the medicine of food in my life and what I must be doing with my life to serve and protect Grandmother Earth. I also long for the opening of Grandmother Earth's Kitchen restaurant here in Boulder, a project for which Chita works daily and is actively seeking resources. She wants it to stay in the hands of the people who work hard and who have inherited these traditions--those who believe in alternative ways of living and in communality with the land. People are welcome to be part of Chita's and abuelos non-profit organization for a sustainable and ambitious project of life, or the for-profit business. Even in these economically challenging times, I believe their dream will manifest. In fact, it must because "We are no longer living in the present; we are living in the future. There is no more time, one mind, one heart, one purpose--the hope that the Mayan-Pipil have kept for thousands of years--the sacred seeds of life. What the foods of the Mayan-Pipil are bringing is light and love for generations to come."



Chita may be contacted at \n grandmotherearthskitchen@gmail.com

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