It’s all a myth. My Aunt Julia grew up in the highlands of Peru. She didn’t see rain until she was 6 years old.

She took care of my mom when my mom lived in Cuba. She lived in Miami when my mother, by them a recent graduate of the University of Miami, first lived there.

I remember Aunt Julia fondly.

She was part of the card parties that my mother had in my youth. Maybe I was 3. The cigarette smoke would make interesting patterns above me as they played bridge.

Aunt Julia became a citizen of the United States. But she had never seemed like a foreigner here.

Her husband, Uncle Howell, was a composer and claimed he wrote “When You Wish upon a Star.” He’d stop by every now and then. Aunt Julia was always around.

After a while those two faded out of our lives. I don’t know why.

My grandmother died at 101 years old. I believe Aunt Julia was at least as old. I hadn’t seen her for at least 40 years when she came up to me at the funeral and said, “You don’t remember me.”

“Of course, I remember you,” I said, because I did.

My cousins had no idea who she was.

For some reason it has always been my job to remember, to remember we are more than who we think we are.

Perhaps that is because, for some reason, family has always been the center of my consciousness.

Anyway, I was thinking about potatoes. Yes, potatoes that apparently originated on the plains of Peru.

They were little blue things that are still around. They are kind of chewy. Those original potatoes proved to be quite versatile and malleable in climates as diverse as Spain and Ireland.

When I plant my late potatoes, around the fourth of July, I always think of Aunt Julia and the land of her ancestors, and the origins of much of the world’s agriculture – corn, beans, pumpkins and potatoes.

Potatoes can be planted as a second crop, because they are tough – a crop, originally of the high altitudes.

I also think of how mixed up everything is now. And how we try to pretend it isn’t so.

Corn is from south of the border. At least south of what we think is the border now. And the agriculture of all the Americas originated south of that border.

Also, the problems in Central and South America are problems that were created by North American companies, corporations and countries exploiting the natural riches of those south-of-the-border places.

There is a reason we used to call those places banana republics. If you don’t believe me, a little research will prove otherwise.

The potatoes I plant this week will provide an excellent fall harvest.

The corn we harvest in August is a testimony to the agronomists who live thousands of years ago in South, Central and North America.

And I guess I will always be grateful for the influence that South and Central America and the Caribbean have had on my life, for showing me that we are a nation created by diverse influences and cultures that originated south of the border.

Where would the people of the hemisphere be without corn? Who would they be without corn and potatoes and beans and squash?

Where would the world be?

Forrest Hartley lives in Hadley. You can leave him a message at new_americangothic@yahoo.com.


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