National Geographic : 2014 Dec
#futureoffood 57 lation living below the poverty line. But those born and raised there, like Juan Carlos Loza Ju- rado, question the significance of the statistic. What is poverty, he asks, when every member of an extended family, employed or unemployed, can count on a meal every day as well as other forms of support? What is poverty when the town hosts a giddy number of festivities over the course of a year? Loza, an academic with a specialty in rural studies, has looked at his com- munity from both a personal and a scholarly vantage point and views its social cohesion as remarkably strong. “People in Milpa Alta have their own perspective. The environment, the kind of social relations they have, these things make their lives better. People say frequently, We are better off here.” That sentiment is borne out by the low level of migration to the United States. Traditional val- ues anchor everyday life, and top among these is eating together. “In my experience there is a glue, a bonding, that comes from the time together at the table,” says Josefina García Jiménez, whose family raises sheep. She often cooks for her nieces and neph- ews and says, “It feels like I am passing down a tradition, and when it comes their turn to be adults, they will remember what I have done. Here we have time to cook, time to think just what ingredients are needed, time to show your kids through cooking that you love them.” Like many Mexicans, Josefina is a fan of the Milpa Alta means “high cornfield,” and its identity has been connected to agriculture since pre-Hispanic times. Corn was a primary crop here until the 1930s, when farmers switched to the more drought-resistant nopal, the prickly pear cactus that is a staple of Mexican cuisine. Today the region is one of Mexico’s top nopal producers. Another business is the production of barbacoa, slowly cooked, barbecued sheep, made the old way, by placing an entire lamb or sheep in a pit of earthen tiles lined with spiky maguey (agave cactus) leaves. Since the town is located about 17 miles from the center of Mex- ico City, producers can sell to urban dwellers willing to pay top price. The borough of Milpa Alta is the poorest in Mexico City, with nearly half the local popu- Mexico City Milpa Alta MEXICO UNITED STATES Gulf of Mexico PACIFIC OCEAN 0mi 500 0km 500 NGM MAPS Victoria Pope is a former deputy editor of the magazine. Carolyn Drake has photographed groups such as China’s Uygurs for National Geographic.