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In 2010, traditional Mexican cuisine was declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). A few years later, during his presidential term, Enrique Peña Nieto ensured actions to preserve regional gastronomic identities and gave special importance to the sustainability of agriculture and the balance of economic, social, and cultural development of the country. The positive popularity of Mexico’s culinary culture overshadowed three serious current problems in the country’s food systems: 1) the growing decline in health and the rise of diseases caused by the consumption of processed foods, 2) the decrease in the yield of fertile land and native seeds such as native corn, and 3) a state of chronic food insecurity. The landscape of Mexican gastronomy can be observed from different angles, some of them contradictory to each other. Therefore, one of the goals of this dissertation is to study the role of different discourses concerning food in Mexico. Understanding how these scenarios coexist and how they are promoted through a variety of documents is necessary to understand the complexities of Mexican food systems.

Contemporary agrarian social movements claim that the government contradicts UNESCO’s intentions and hinders efforts to protect the people who produce native corn seeds, the most important grain for the country’s food sovereignty. These social movements share their opposition to the agrarian terms that were first decided in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the same that remains in the Treaty of Mexico, the United States and Canada (T-MEC), that started on July 2020. Mexican agrarian social movements want to achieve national food sovereignty and have published a series of documents to point out the problems that threaten the Mexican native corn and the peasant communities that grow it.

My dissertation follows theoretical and methodological approaches of Agro Food Studies and Rhetorical Critical Analysis and argues that the documents written by the agrarian social movements are intended to be a rebellious response to the official discourses issued by the Mexican government. These documents also drive concrete actions to further UNESCO’s mission and are important for the continuity or readjustment of eating patterns practiced by Mexicans. Thus, this research examines the discursive techniques used in these documents and the purpose they serve in the fight against the extinction of Mexican native corn and the marginalization of the peasant community.

The first chapter of my dissertation analyzes the fight for food sovereignty focusing on the relationship between the lack of nutritious accessible food in Mexico and its current health crisis. In order to discuss the main argumentative techniques that social movements use to convince their readers, I examine the following texts: Manifiesto del día de la Tierra (Campaña Nacional Sin Maíz No Hay País 2020), Alianza por nuestra tortilla (Alianza por Nuestra Tortilla 2018), and Manifiesto: no al maíz transgénico (UNORCA 2013). The entire critical apparatus of these three documents is based on the idea that the food crisis in Mexico does not exist because of a natural and inevitable effect, but it is caused by government decisions and neoliberal consumer practices. Each one contributes proposals that are deployed from a specific problem and promises the transition towards an agroecological scenario with national food sovereignty.

The second chapter explains the concept of nation, the limits of the territory and the regionalist and nationalist positions in comparison to the idea of globalization. I analyze two body texts: digital content uploaded to Instagram by Pixza (2015-2020) and the Decálogo de la buena tortilla (Alianza por Nuestra Tortilla 2018). Both are ideal to explore the reasons why nationalism and the perpetuation of the myth of Mexicans being “hijos del maíz” (children of corn) works to counteract the ideology that promotes a globalized citizenship.

Finally, the third chapter discusses and analyzes the role of women in agrarian social movements. Two body texts are explored: digital content uploaded to Instagram by Sana Tortilla (2020), and the comic strip ¡Campesinas con derechos! (La Vía Campesina 2020). I trace how language is used to exemplify gender equality and rural feminism and explore the arguments that these texts use to explain the growing feminization of the countryside as well as the precarious emancipation of women. In this regard, this dissertation proposes applying Rhetorical Analysis so that Agro-Food Studies can be nourished from a perspective that goes beyond Sociology and Economics. Discursive analysis thus makes it possible to detail the possible solutions that the social agrarian manifestos promote. Finally, this dissertation provides a method to grasp stylistic and rhetorical features that these writings use, so it can be used as a guide in future works that analyze contemporary manifestos and agrarian revolutionary body texts.



Sustainability, Agriculture, Mexico, Food Systems, Native Seeds, Corn, Maize, Rhetorical analysis, Social Movements, Manifestos