Writing at Guapamacátaro was both a retreat from and Immersion into the subject of my work. Far from my field work in the Yucatan Peninsula, I found it easier to link together the pieces of a story I had collected in interviews, experiences, photographs and data over the last two years. The quiet hacienda and a lack of easy access to the internet helped, as did long walks through fields and along rivers. But Guapamacataro also sits in a fascinating agroecological context of strawberry and fava bean fields, finely tuned flood irrigation, horses and rodeos, and people who make pulque from wild agaves in the mountains. For a final exhibition, I invited guests at the open house to make a collection of the agrobiodiversity of Guapamacataro by writing the name of any plant they know here and posting it on a wall. The enthusiasm and participation surprised me. Biodiversity can be a dull subject when we think of it as a dwindling list of organisms, but is dynamic and exciting when we treat it as the material things that happen where people’s needs, desires and knowledge shape and are shaped by the natural world.
Devon Sampson is a writer and agroecologist working at the intersection of rural livelihoods and environmental change. His current work looks at the relationship between food security and agricultural biodiversity on small farms in Yucatan, Mexico. The relationship is complex: the diversity of crops supports food security, food security allows farmers to invest skilled labor in diverse agroecosystems, and the relationship is stronger for some kinds of households than others. He employs diverse methods from ecology, anthropology and the arts in innovative, participatory approaches to get at this complexity. Devon is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Environmental Studies at U.C. Santa Cruz.