Pedro González Hernández walks slowly between rows of chrysanthemums, baby’s breath, and roses — red, pink, yellow, and white, not yet in full bloom — scanning for traces of imperfection or sickness.
“This greenhouse only has 10,000 plants,” he says. “It’s one of the smallest.”
In this municipality in the Chiapas highlands in southern Mexico, growers cultivate nearly 40% of the land with flowers. There are about 1,200 floriculturists in Zinacantán, most of them Mayan Tsotsil small-scale growers like González Hernández, 26, whose family began growing flowers 15 years ago when they pivoted away from beans and corn. Commercial floriculture, initially developed through government support in 1973, is now a mainstay of the local economy and culture: Flowers adorn pantheons and churches during weddings, baptisms, and birthdays, while the mountains are dotted with an estimated 5,000 greenhouses. Most of this, however, relies on increasingly precarious imported inputs.
“The prices of chemicals have doubled or tripled,” says González Hernández, referring to the fungicides, foliar sprays, and root fertilizers his flowers require. According to Banco de México, Mexico’s central bank, the country imports two-thirds of its nitrogen fertilizer, much of it from Russia. “They’re saying it’s because of the war [in Ukraine] because some of the chemicals come from those places, and with the war, they can’t leave.”
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