Huerto Roma Verde represents a growing holistic laboratory of knowledge and a growing community of educators, volunteers and activists. For the last four years, it has been a garden, deeply dedicated to experimenting with strategies of resilience in Mexico City. Their objectives include: permaculture, solidarity economy, community building, recycling, holistic and ancestral medicine, sustainable methods of living and construction and the integration and awareness of nature in the city.
Through our collaboration at Huerto, we learned to work with local and organic building materials and took part in constructing arches out of carrizo (wild cane). We organized talks on social solidarity, solidarity economy and the “Right to the City” movement to discuss and learn various methods of resilience practiced by individuals and initiatives working towards a more sustainable culture of living.
This gave us insight into what it means to be part of a wider community, focused on environmental sustainability and micro economy, in a metropolis where people are caught in the machinery of a neoliberal society.
Participants: MacKenzie Boomer, Xin Cheng, Lisa Eggert, Tino Holzmann, Hye-Eun Kim, Lea Kirstein, Robert Köpke, Barbara Niklas, Marjetica Potrč, Konouz Saeed, Mana Stahl, Kathrin Sohlbach, Susanne Wilk, Julia Wycisk and Tessa Zettel.
Interviews with Workers at Huerto Roma Verde
Joshua Nichols, Worker
Josh had already been working at Huerto Roma Verde for six months when we first met. He was happy to give us a tour of the many things going on in the garden. At the Huerto he is mostly concerned with building structures (like the bio digestion bathrooms) or finding other ways to make himself useful.
Originally from the U.S., Josh has travelled throughout the Americas and taken part in several community gardens and squatted houses. From these experiences, Josh emphasizes how it is always more important to make yourself useful than to talk. He says, “With privilege comes responsibility towards others, the environment and the world”. He has also witnessed the eviction of squatted houses and peoples’ struggle for their personal rights to the city in Mexico City.
Josh considers himself an anarchist. He is always trying to live as independently from capitalist structures as possible. At the Huerto, he wishes for a more community-driven organization and would like to change the hierarchical structure at the garden to distribute power more evenly among the people working there. More communication, transparency and collective decision making would help open the place up to people from various walks of life. As Josh puts it: “If it’s not accessible, it’s not revolutionary”.
Xavier Torrent, Permaculture Expert
“You have to put your hands into the soil!” We met Xavier on a sunny day between beautiful circular vegetable beds, which make up the mandala at the heart of Huerto Roma Verde. He supervises 33 volunteers and teaches them everything there is to know about the bio- intensive garden. The seed bank, the compost, and the green house are now their daily duties and all the plants are edible and available for use. After six months, the volunteers are ready to leave and apply what they have learned at the Huerto. Some stay and move to a different “leaf” in the permaculture garden to further their participation in the han ds-on educational system at the Huerto, which teaches people sustainable living in the city.
Xavier recently took charge of the mandala, but has been collaborating with the Huerto for about three years. Previously, he was working as a child psychologist, until he came to the conclusion that the food system intentionally damages peoples’ health, to sell pharmaceuticals and other medical products. Xavier is self-taught. He learned by growing his own food on a roof garden. Now he wants to give some of these insights to other citizens and help cultivate healthy food food options through his collaboration with the Huerto.
With a little smile, he insists that the people who want to buy vegetables also have to harvest the plants themselves, “It’s like going to the market but you take it directly form the soil”. When talking about the future, Xavier seems very confident that the culture and methodologies at the Huerto are developed enough to be modeled elsewhere so that others can learn about sustainable life. “Even though permaculture projects are growing quite fast,” Xavier says, “it’s not fast enough to keep up with the rate at which we’re harming our environment”.
Felipe, Construction Worker
“This is Felipe, our construction expert!” we heard on the first day that we arrived at Huerto Roma Verde. For the next couple of days, we found ourselves running after him, while reconsolidating bamboo arches. We were happy to get an “está bien” from Felipe. He is the construction expert and responsible for several projects around the Huerto, where structures are built entirely out of organic and recycled materials.
He grew up in the rural parts of Puebla, where he learned construction from his father. He moved to Mexico City, like many people from rural areas, to find work, and has been working at the garden since it was founded 4 years ago. “I wish we could have places like Huerto Roma Verde in villages like mine, to teach people how to use the materials available to them locally,” said Felipe. In his experience, the knowledge to build ecologically is much needed in rural areas, where there are limited resources. “It’s a shame that I built my home before I learned these methods”, he said, “Now I would do it differently”.