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Cultiva Ciudad: Urban Agricultural Revolution

Cultiva Ciudad is a socio-environmental organization that has been running since 2010 and continues to be led by its founder, Gabriela Vargas, whose has accumulated eighteen years of expertise on agricultural sowing in Mexico City’s urban setting. The organization is dedicated to the promotion of urban agriculture projects with one goal in mind: to develop a program focused on the integration of the local community through workshops and events that can foster the community’s participation and eventual ownership of the projects.1

Fotografía: PJ Rountree, Huerto Tlatelolco
Fotografía: PJ Rountree, Huerto Tlatelolco

Vargas and her crew firmly believe that urban agriculture is an educational, productive and therapeutical way to enrich people’s lives and reconnect them with traditional lifestyles. The projects also promote collective responsibility and help build a sense of community and autonomy amongst their users. The Cultiva Ciudad platform has led to the development of several initiatives amongst which Huerto Tlatelolco is the largest and most significant. The Huetro Tlatelolco project aimed to restore an underused space in the city, turning it into an urban farmland that brings social and environmental benefits to the surrounding community.2

Huerto Romita. Fotografía: PJ Rountree
Huerto Romita. Fotografía: PJ Rountree

Located at the very center of the city, the Huerto Tlatelolco space is a former residential complex, demolished in 1990 due to the severe damage it underwent during the 1985 earthquake. For many years afterwards, the space was used as a garbage dump until the Cultiva Ciudad managed a collaboration with the local authority of the Cuauhtémoc municipality to put it to better use. The main purpose of this initiative was to provide educational workshops on environmental and organic agriculture to participating citizens in the hopes that these practices could be replicated and taught by said participants. This project was replicated in many parts of the city in order to foster awareness on the value of urban agriculture as well as on the integration of natural environments in the urbanization process.3

The Cultiva Ciudad project tackles their goals from an experience-based approach: people can come to appreciate nature and agriculture when they are given the opportunity to become involved in the shaping of green spaces. These experiences have been implemented through seven actions that include collective construction of agricultural patches, community-run composts, training programs for local citizens, social work for disadvantaged individuals, school visits to reach out to child participants, volunteer positions for space maintenance, and public events to develop the social aspect of these community spaces.

Fotografía: PJ Rountree, Huerto Tlatelolco
Fotografía: PJ Rountree, Huerto Tlatelolco

There is thus a variety of involvement initiatives that range from theoretical courses to the physical labour behind reaping and sowing one’s own food. Playing a part in the transformation of organic waste into fertile grounds as well as recognizing the existence of biodiversity in the city can give citizens an awareness of urban ecosystems and their ability to coexist with the built environment. This awareness in turn helps develop knowledge on the dangers of climate change, bringing real-world consequences of unstable temperatures and air pollution to the hands of urban denizens.

  1. Marisol Romero Magailán, interview.
  2. Ibid
  3. Ibid