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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Decolonizing palates : Indigenous foods in the culinary scene of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Mexico : opportunities to promote Indigenous food sovereignty and biocultural diversity conservation in a post-pandemic world Solis-Becerra, Celina


This dissertation demonstrates how Indigenous cuisines hold significant potential for Biocultural Diversity (BCD) conservation. Preserving BCD is fundamental for ensuring food for local contexts, particularly under simultaneous global crises. Within the commitment to feed the global population, Indigenous Food Sovereignty (IFS) addresses the specific challenges affecting Indigenous peoples' long-term abilities to get fed, such as social inequities, or the consequence of food colonization. Food colonization is observable in the stigmatization of Indigenous Foods (IF), the neglect of traditional knowledge and the ancestral culinary practices that native peoples developed from their relationship with local biodiversity. Therefore, the rise of Indigenous chefs and restaurants in the American continent over the last decade is a remarkable phenomenon. This dissertation applies the IFS approach to analyze five IF-based Culinary Projects (CPs) in San Cristóbal de las Casas (SCLC), the ruling city of the Mayan Tsostil-Tseltal Region of Chiapas, Mexico. This city stands out for its colonial background and strong inter-ethnic tensions, as well as for being the epicentre of the Zapatista movement and a prominent alternative tourism destination. Through qualitative research methods assisted by Indigenous Research Methodologies and Digital Ethnography Observations, this research contributes to the existing literature on food systems, IFS, and BCD conservation by incorporating the cultural and symbolic dimension of food into the widely studied aspects of (agro)biodiversity conservation, fair trade, agroecology and sustainable food systems. Research contributions add the culinary approach as an articulating axis of the above variables and an appropriate action vehicle for the suggested changes. At the same time, this work incorporates food colonialism into the study of food sovereignty, local food systems and the culinary industry. This work also provides relevant recommendations for policy-makers, chefs, owners, collaborators and diners of IF-based CPs. These recommendations seek to promote local BCD conservation, IF destigmatization, and build platforms where Indigenous people can revitalize and re-signify their food narratives, traditional knowledges and culinary practices in a respectful and culturally appropriate way.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International