Rita Valencia

Decolonial Methodologies to unveil and inspire: Indigenous agroecological practices and the creation of Gardens of Abundance

School of Humanities, University of Glasgow &
Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS), Mexico


Rita Valencia is an activist scholar born and raised in the Mesoamerican highlands of Mexico City. Moving across disciplines (literature, agroecology, anthropology, and political organizing), she sits uncomfortably in the existing boundaries that divide ways of learning, knowing and feeling. She is a post-doctoral researcher at Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS), Mexico. With a transdisciplinary background she worked on Native Bees and Decolonial Ecology in her PhD and is currently researching and developing methodologies around ways of knowing and caring for the Soil Food Web. More here & here.


During her EARTH Scholarship exchange, Rita was based in the School of Humanities at the University of Glasgow. Through an exploration of indigenous agroecological practices that produced abundance for millennia for humans and non-humans, the main objective of the project is to open our collective imagination to other ways of inhabiting and relating to nature within the context of our current systemic crisis. Methodologies that incorporate intuition as a way of knowing, feeling and researching were shared in workshops in the University of Glasgow as well as in communities in Mexico. This was a collaboration with the Glasgow Food Sovereignty Network. The project is a continuation of Rita’s PhD work developed in Mexico around Native Bees and Decolonial Ecology and it will strengthen her ongoing research on the Soil Food Web related to indigenous practices to sustain soil fertility and abundance. 


This image is a first draft produced in collaboration with Angélica Ramírez, a Colombian artist with whom I will be developing a full map of different technologies and practices that diverse societies developed over millennia of inhabiting Abya Yala / America. This will be a pedagogical material that will be used in community workshops in order to explore alternatives beyond the Capitalocene/Plantationcene that are specific to these territories.  

To see a world in a grain of sand

This work has a starting point the notion of territory as a garden inhabited by a diversity of beings. Against the mainstream narrative portrayed in Mass Media and in some academic settings (usually those closer to Natural Sciences), we contend that the human species is not necessarily destructive by nature and it is not the main culprit of the current climate crisis that is threatening life on earth (at least as we know it). Destruction has been created by a specific way of being human, which is the result of a set of systems and subjectivities: Colonial Modernity (Quijano), Capitalism and Patriarchy. These interlocked systems have enslaved humans, non-humans and Mother Earth through the expansion of imperialism and colonialism while threatening or disappearing other ways of being human, variations against imposed binarisms, other forms of producing food and relating to it; in short, other ways of inhabiting Mother Earth.  

A basic feature of this imposition from Economics, is the discourse of scarcity, which is prevalent in almost every single government trying to impose austerity measures. This represents a basic contradiction with one of the premises of Colonial Modernity and Late-Stage Capitalism: Never ending growth. Even if in formal discourse, the Limits to Growth, were supposed to challenge the idea of the constant production of goods, an alternative was to provide services that could be considered necessary and universal: Health and Education. Again, this refers to one particular form of Health and Education which reproduce the same way of inhabiting earth, with the same logic of promoting rural to urban migrations, Global South to Global North, the same overconsumption of energy and resources that reproduce the western way of life. 

This is why it becomes an imperative to radically challenge the narrative of scarcity. This can be achieved by the realisation of the possibility of Abundance, based on the traces left by ancient civilizations along with the knowledge and practices of different peoples that are actively defending land and other ways of being. 

Mayan Garden Forest Cities

Painting by mazateca artist Andrés Martínez developed in collaboration with me as part of my PhD work, which illustrates in an artistic form, the concept of the Mayan Garden Forest. Inhabited by different beings which are related, co-evolved through forms of mutual nurturing. During a period between 8,000 to 4,000 years ago, the Maya developed a system of cyclical polyculture centred on maize known as milpa. Until today, we are pueblos milperos. This is a fundamental example of a Garden of Abundance, which was explored as part of the Sustainable Cities and Food Systems workshop that was held at the University of Glasgow on Tuesday 16th of May and was a collaboration between researchers, the Food Sovereignty Network and other stakeholders that are developing sustainable solutions for the current systemic crises. This piece was part of the displayed used in a presentation, part of the workshop.  


On May 18th and within the context of this scholarship, I gave a workshop at the School of Humanities, University of Glasgow, that had as a title: “Other ways of Knowing: Practices and intuitions towards a Decolonial Ecology.” An element that was particularly relevant for the people attending was the role of Intuition as an integral part of my research methodology.