In Puerto Rico, Activists Transform Abandoned Land To Build Food Sovereignty
Luis Alexis Rodríguez Cruz writes in Next City about how in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, activists have turned abandoned land into a community garden. They say El Huerto is only the beginning. The following is an excerpt of the original article.
The structure of an old sugar mill sits in a once-abandoned parcel of land in Ponce, a city along Puerto Rico’s southern coast. Believed to be owned by the Puerto Rico Department of Housing, the space was used for over two decades as an illegal landfill.
It’s one of many abandoned buildings and spaces in Puerto Rican cities, the result of countless ongoing social, political and economic crises, coupled with a barrage of deadly earthquakes and storms.
But that land, about 10,000 square feet, is also one of a growing number of abandoned places that have been reclaimed by communities. Organizers of El Huerto Urbano del Callejón Trujillo, the community garden and gathering space that has since taken over the dumpsite, say their aim is to effect change and take into their hands what the government is neglecting.
“Being part of this community was key for me to overcome the distress and sadness I was feeling through the aftermath of Hurricane Maria,” says María Del Carmen Ramos, a 26 year old Ponceña that must drive to San Juan, the capital, for work and graduate school. She says El Huerto has become a space to reflect on what is possible in a place where already-difficult living conditions are ever-worsening.
Header image is a still from documentary by Luis Enrique González Lozano.