Living and archiving Sotuta’s foodways

Woman sharing the medical recipe book she wrote of effective remedies and the people she has cured. © Olin Moctezuma-Burns


Sotuta, Yucatan, Mexico.

Sotuta, Yucatan ©Daniela Mussali
Sotuta, Yucatan ©Daniela Mussali

Synopsis and Position 

Our project integrated archiving into the everyday life of Sotuta, a Maya community in Yucatan, Mexico. Over a year, fourteen residents, almost all women from a wide age range, documented the foodways of the town, involving their family members, friends, and neighbours. Each chose the topic they would document, which included medicinal and culinary recipes, kitchen gardens, the wilderness, the relationship between humans and plants and animals, agricultural practices, festivities and traditions, and memories of past life experiences, among others. Together, they collected over 4000 images, videos, and handwritten documents, they restored a mural documenting Sotuta’s embroiderers, cross-stitched calendars, embroidered memory journals, and hand sewed dolls. They created the multimedia archive by incorporating their record collection into their routines. That is, they integrated self-archiving into their life, firmly positioning themselves as historical actors through the quiet processes of the everyday. Through regular meetings, community workshops, and an exhibition, in partnership with with local grassroots project Cultiva Alternativas de Regeneración, Solares Huertas Agroforestales, and Comunidad escuela campesina de agricultura regenerativa y agroforestería Maya, we also created spaces of intergenerational tsikbal, intimate dialogue, to share experiences, records, memories, and emotions, reinforcing collective memory. With this, the project intertwined the tangible with the intangible. Living and archiving Sotuta’s foodways has helped revitalise sustainable practices for food sovereignty and the defence of Maya identity, memory, territory, and ways of living

Objectives and Methods

Through workshops that will follow the Tzolk’in count of 260 days (the time it takes for corn to mature), the community will gestate a transmedia archive from text, audio, video, and image with memory objects, such as embroideries, and interventions in public spaces. The archive seeks to be a source of inspiration, reflection, and agency, and it will be a central tool in the regenerative agroforestry school and the women’s kitchen gardens initiative for food sovereignty as they counter the threats of climate change, urbanisation, poverty, migration and the abandonment of agricultural and culinary practices. With this, we seek to foster a way of experiencing the present, with a consciousness of its ties to the past, and an understanding of how one can shape the future.

Workshops and Events

In December 2022, we held an open community workshop to diagnose and self-reflect on the current state of memory-keeping and set the direction, parameters, and objectives of the project. This was followed up by another workshop in March 2023 to evaluate, reflect upon, and adjust the course of action. Finally, in November 2023, we presented the results in an exhibition open to the public to collectively analyse and systematise experiences and celebrate results. These community events allowed us to trace collective paths to reinvigorate locally grounded alternative and sustainable practices both through action and through memory work.


Record collection took place in the quotidian life of the participants. They then met regularly over home-cooked meals consisting of traditional dishes and ingredients grown by the participants themselves. The meals opened a space of tsikbal to troubleshoot problems, learn from each other and get inspired. As their projects evolved, participants reported a transformation in their understanding of maintaining their foodways alive, acknowledging their roles as historical actors, and gaining tools to continue to do so. They also observed tangible changes in their lives, with individuals implementing newfound knowledge, such as using medicinal plants or altering agricultural practices, as well as gaining a sense of appreciation for their knowledge, experiences, and wisdoms, as well as that of others.

Photos from the left: Gathering the first harvest of maize, © Maria Jose Rivera Javelly;  Making the Isuaj, the tortilla made from the first harvest, © Maria Jose Rivera Javelly;  Illustration of the arnica plant and its medicinal uses, © Olin Moctezuma-Burns; A box of medicinal herbs and soaps, © Olin Moctezuma-Burns; Argimira Jiménez Canche cross-stitching a record of the process of growing corn, © Aremi Ileana Chan Jiménez; The first harvest of corn, © Samuel Gibran Aguilar Montejo; Cabeza de cochino dance, © Nayla Marily Canche Jimenez; A participant meeting where conversations took place over traditional food, here Rosca bread; Glendy Areli Tamay Campos of her cooking and sales each day, © Glendy Areli Tamay Campos; Photo by Aremi Ileana Chan Jiménez; Wilma Ester Chuc Caamal’s diary, which she embroidered every day with her memories, activities, and emotions; Cristina Chuc Caamal’s dolls recording what grows in her solar each month, © Karina Novelo.

Sotuta, Yucatan, Mexico