Ecological solidarity is getting stronger every day in Puerto Rico, thanks to the people working hard to develop independent projects. Here are a few examples that confirm once again that the goal of preserving nature, cultivating non-toxic products and advocating for sustainability isn't an impossible dream.
The Organización Boricuá de Agricultura Eco-orgánica (Puerto Rican Eco-Organic Agriculture Organization) [es] brings together a diverse group of farmers and individuals interested in learning how to cultivate products in a sustainable way. They organize action squads, seed exchanges, and recently established the first Puerto Rican certification for ecologic crops. Their web page distributes free books and videos (interviews) that document the real work of Puerto Rican farmers. Here is a video posted by bartus allen, in which you can listen to Edgardo Alvarado, a founding member of Boricúa:
Desde mi huerto (From My Orchard) [es] is a great family initiative! A couple of ecological farmers, Raúl and Ivonne, have dedicated themselves to teaching people about effective ways to create organic home orchards. From their farmhouse, located close to the Bosque Carite, they plant “all kinds of vegetables, medicinal plants, aromatic herbs and fruit for your use, sales and consumption.” On their web page you can find useful information about organic seeds, orchard care and even listings of land for sale.
The Cooperativa Orgánica Madre Tierra [Mother Earth Organic Cooperative][es] organizes open-air markets on the first and third Sundays of each month in the Roosevelt de Hato Rey square, Puerto Rico. These markets bring together farmers, bakers, masseuses, educators, and organic and natural food lovers, among others, to share their knowledge and resources. The researcher Carmelo Ruiz says that this institution, created by a team of volunteers, is one of the most solid of the movement.
In addition to publishing valuable books and articles about food security in the Caribbean and Latin America, Carmelo Ruiz has since 2004 maintained a blog called Proyecto Bioseguridad de Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico Biosecurity Project) [es], where he has compiled a wealth of information about the harmful impact of genetically modified foods. He also announces encouraging news about the approval of laws that demand labeling of these types of products, and the successes of organizations working for greater access to healthy food.
La Chiwihna is the first fair trade store, located in Río Piedras, Puerto Rico. The founding couple, Joel and Karla, say it's difficult to put into words everything their meeting space has to offer. For those considering a a visit to this urban oasis, we tell you ahead of time that they offer delicious local and international organic products, lunches prepared by contributing chefs, and that they organize an endless number of cultural activities.
Chef Verónica Rodríguez Ojeda shares her passion for food, art and activism through her private and group cooking classes, community workshops and articles. The graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts co-founded ASIQUESI, a small natural restaurant, and Slow Food Calalú in Puerto Rico. Her experience as a sous chef in the Omega Institute, where she discovered “the biggest, best vegetarian kitchen in the United States,” was an formative part of her path. Now, back on the island once again, she will be coming up with new and exciting ideas.
El Departamento de la Comida (The Food Department) [es] is an eco-business committed to distributing organically-grown food from artisanal seeds. It also offers services for markets, parties and demonstrations such as the Global March Against Monsanto that took place on May 25. To learn more about the extraordinary story of Tara Rodríguez Besosa, who created this project along with Olga Casellas, watch Tedex San Juan: “Food is My Social Network”.
The Centro para la Recuperación de Artículos para su Uso, Reuso y Reciclaje (ReusArte) (Center for Recovery of Objects for Use, Reuse and Recycling) [es] is a project directed by Wanda I. Rodríguez that aims to support sustainable development. Almost every weekend, Wanda opens the doors of her house to organize bazaars, talks and workshops; and people from every part of the island come together to explore the different ways in which clothing, plastic and other valuable object can be reused or transformed. This communal space, with a view of the Guayama mountains, nourishes the vitality of the artisans, historians, poets and friends who come to share their passions.
La Casa-Tienda Tierra de la Luna (The Store-House of the Land of the Moon) [es] focuses on healing and peace; and it prioritizes products made by local and international artisans “that share their culture, tradition, love and respect for our Mother Earth.” They also use the space, in Caguas, to organize workshops about ecology, spirituality and health. In the most recent activity, participants discussed the symbolism of weaving, feminine wisdom and the menstrual cycle.
In her workshops and books, empirical ethnobotanist and educator Maria Benedetti shares her vast knowledge of medicinal plants and the Puerto Rican curative tradition. ¡Hasta los baños te curan! and Sembrando y sanando en Puerto Rico: Tradiciones y visiones para un futuro verde and Bendiciones botánicas para Boriquén are some of her worthwhile publications. Click here to listen to an interview with her from the radio program “Piedra, Papel y Tijera” (Rock, Paper, Scissors) transmitted by the University of Puerto Rico's radio station.
And finally, Mi Puerto Rico Verde (My Green Puerto Rico), founded by Ernesto Amador and José E. Maldonado, “promotes the knowledge and participation of the community through interactive social media tools.” This is an excellent site to keep up to date with the contributions of these and other important initiatives on the island.