Chicano House opens community garden

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Members of CSUN's MeChA club break ground on "Jardin Tonatiuh", a garden that will allow students to grow fruits and vegetables on the CSUN campus. Photo by Ryan Hecksel / Staff Photographer

Local volunteers and students gathered near the Chicano House to celebrate the opening of “Jardín Tonatiuh,” a garden meant to promote healthy living and sustainability among students and the community.

Students signed up for their personal plot as soon as the announcement was made that a space behind the Chicano House on North University Drive was to be reserved for a garden in which students could plant and grow whatever they wanted, said sophomore, Alex Hernandez, 19, a Chicano studies major and garden director for Movimineto Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA).

“This has been our vision, and I think we’re going to execute it today,” said Hernandez, who along with professors and community volunteers helped to organize and open the garden.

“A lot of us come from communities that are so called low-income,” Henandez said. “To us the biggest issue is access to healthy food.”

Junk food is easily attained but healthy food is usually expensive so cost becomes an important concern, said Hernandez.

“We need to start eating healthy, so what we’re trying to promote is students to become self-sustainable to grow their own food and become connected with the land,” he said.

Reggae and Spanish Rock played from speakers to entertain students while they dug out and laid 16 square spaces which will be used to plant and grow various plants and flowers and promote locally grown food.

“I think about people who’re out there all day in construction or picking fruit,” said senior Luis Miranda, 22, a Chicano studies major who works with MEChA and the Chicano House. “Most (people) don’t appreciate working outdoors all day. You don’t get that feel for life, you don’t get that connection with the land.”

Miranda said Jardín Tonatiuh has the potential to create an awareness of what workers must go through to provide the food that we all eat.

“Everybody should respect the earth,” said Miranda. “We don’t know what it feels like to have to go out everyday, dig a hole, and bend over for 90 percent of the day picking fruit. These workers should be among the highest paid because they’re doing stuff we don’t want to do.”

Among the objectives which organizers hope Tonatiuh Garden will accomplish is not only to increase awareness and appreciation of the amount of labor behind our food, but to promote physical and mental health through better eating and exercise.

Jorge Garcia, professor of Chicano studies, said it is important to maintain that relationship with the land by working closely with it, but that relationship also encourages healthy eating.

“We specialize in junk-food,” Garcia said. “There’s too much fat and grease, it’s too refined and processed. So it’s good to do some exercise planting and sowing fruits and vegetables (that) are good for you. Everything can be grown around us, locally, even though we’re in the middle of the city, at least a large part of it. People are always talking about how to promote healthy living and lengthen lives, so this garden is part of that campaign of fighting for better health.”

Hernandez said Jardin Tonatiuh, which in Nahuatl means “the one whose purpose is to give off hear or light,” will create a sense of community and increase knowledge of plants and their relationship to culture and history.

Hernandez also said many professors and MEChA members wish to expand the garden to include not only CSUN students but individuals within the community.

“Right here, we’re going to know every little process that goes into our food,” said Hernandez. “It’s a chance for us to remember that our families have struggled to provide us with quality food.”


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