Wheel in the sky keeps on turnin

Sausalito – US Map
Originally uploaded by Henry Volt

It’s all gonna change, one way or the other, today. With that said, it’ll be interesting in a few weeks, months, or (hopefully) years to look back on the beginning of 2008 and see the state of the union–not from the prostelitizing in the government halls–but from the perspective of some of our best writers.

A nice example of that viewpoint can be found over at Slate’s excerpts from State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America. I’m especially diggin Bagoberto Gilb’s take on the state of Iowa.

From the Milpas of Mexico to the Cornfields of Iowa
By Dagoberto Gilb

This is about the tortilla. This is about corn grown in Iowa. This is about the people who are in the campos of Iowa picking the vegetables and walking the cornfields. Those people are Mexican people. They are of the culture where hand-ground masa was first patted into tortillas and, because of that, it is said that the physical body of any Mexicano is at least half-corn. They are from the civilization that worshipped the corn plant as a god—in some regions, such as what became known as Guatemala, the God, the image of God—and they are from the soil and nation where this corn we all have learned to eat and to feed as grain for healthy livestock was first developed and harvested five thousand years ago. They are the people who now are driven here, because even corn, and the tortilla, is going up in price even more since the ’90s NAFTA treaty, and subsidized corn in the United States is cheaper to import, while its demand increases its value to the corporate farmers in Mexico. Because corn has become an ethanol fuel industry, its hybrid grain is even more highly sought.

But in Mexico, the ordinary milpas—cornfields—are shrinking in size, and those people who traditionally worked them can’t make enough to survive in their villages. So they are leaving, like animals in a drought, going to the big cities to find jobs, and they are crossing the border into the U.S. because that is where most jobs are. They come to Iowa because they will be hired and work in meat-packing plants cheaply, hard, and they work in the fields cheaply, and hard. And as they walk las milpas in Iowa to do as their culture has done for thousands of years, anti-immigration ideologues bash them for spoiling what they see as a field of dreams as clean and pure as Iowa butter, as nostalgic as baseball, as all-American as Kevin Costner.

Read the rest of the story here.

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