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Jardín Santuario: A safe place for community to plant, grow and unite

Carley Arroyo kneels to pick plants from the raised beds at the new, community garden Jardín Santuario. In the background, Centro del Pueblo members and volunteers are laughing and joking, welcoming people coming in. Quickly, the vibes are set and friendships are made.

Jardín Santuario is a community garden specifically led by and for the immigrant community in Arcata. It’s a collaboration that began with Centro Del Pueblo and Cooperation Humboldt in February 2021.

“This is like when we say we are planting the seeds of the future. This really feels like that way, we’re planting, we’re growing. I think it’s really powerful,” said Arroyo, farmer and community organizer with Centro Del Pueblo. “To come into a space and hear jokes in Spanish, to hear our music playing, it’s just a different space and it’s so powerful and has so much potential.”

This garden is to remind people that Humboldt County is a sanctuary county and to also develop BIPOC spaces and communities through planting, growing and harvesting different types of fruit, vegetables and herbs.

“It’s a sanctuary for immigrants,” said Karen Villa, a community organizer with Centro del Pueblo. “That means that ICE can not collaborate with the police. They are not allowed to come in at midnight hours of the day, there’s a bunch of other rules as well.”

The garden was meant to be a sanctuary place according to Villa. In November 2018, Centro del Pueblo worked on passing Measure K in the ballots to successfully make Humboldt a sanctuary county. It made sense for Centro Del Pueblo to call it “Jardín Santuario ‘’ due to all the work Centro Del Pueblo, among many other organizations, have done to make this county a sanctuary for immigrants.

Villa says that Jardín Santuario is supposed to be a safe space where people feel comfortable, welcomed and where ICE can not touch them.

“This is our first year, we started the collaboration in February and we’re looking forward to what’s to come,” Arroyo said. “We’ve been really excited to have things like corn growing, epazote, cempasúchil, verdolagas. We have a lot of these special plants that are really difficult to find throughout the county.”

Many of these plants are either already dried and processed or expensive when they are found. This allows Jardín Santuario to share fresh food with the community. People can come into the garden and harvest fruit, vegetables, herbs and take care of them, collect the seed, and plant for a future cosecha.

In the future, Villa hopes more leaders will contribute and unite to continue to grow this space.

“I hope that we get more leaders out here, I hope that HSU gets involved, I hope that we have a lot more of our community members to work together and continue to plant what we want and I hope it continues for years to come,” Villa said.

This is a food sovereignty project and all the food is free. Their message is to make sure everyone has access to fresh food. Community members in Humboldt County are welcome to harvest at any time, although Jardín Santuario community organizers recommend coming on Saturdays from 2-4 pm to help learn more about the planting.

“The sense of having a sanctuary garden implies having the opportunity as a migrant to sow freely whatever your interest may seem to you,’’ said Denise Verde, community member and artist. “Having the opportunity to generate this activity that I can be a part of where I can sow and I can reap, I can see that something is growing even though it is not mine. I know that my effort is going to continue for others.”

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