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Celebrating the Diversity of Maize

Visitor focusing microscope to examine colorful corn.
Celebrating the Diversity of Maize
Discover the many varieties and uses of corn in Latin America.
Maize Under the Microscope

There are hundreds of varieties of corn. Also known as maize, ixi’im (Maya), centli (Náhuatl), or sara (Quechua), corn was domesticated from a grass called teosinte by Indigenous people in Mexico thousands of years ago.

Cooking with Maize



Pib is a Maya dish from the Yucatan in which a large bowl of masa (dough) is filled with a thick paste called k’ol, as well as chicken, onions, and epazote leaves.
Chicha de jora


Chicha de jora is an alcoholic fermented corn beer from the Andes, made from various types of sprouted corn.


Pupusas from El Salvador are made from masa, and typically stuffed with cheese, pork, refried beans, or loroco flower buds.
Peruvian cancha is toasted corn, such as the orange/yellow ch’ullpi, which grows in the Andes above 2,400 meters (8,000 feet) in elevation.
diverse varieties of corn


Compare these diverse varieties of corn, each bred for a specific use or appearance.
Native maize


In Oaxaca, Mexico, Indigenous people domesticated maize thousands of years ago. Today they still grow more than 30 varieties. To protect this Indigenous intellectual property, exports of native maize from Mexico are tightly regulated.

Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

Funded by a generous grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, with additional support from the Troy and Leslie Daniels Fund for Life Sciences.