El Jardín Santuario experienced a second incident of vandalism less than a month after the welcome sign was spray painted with hate speech in late July. On Aug. 13 corn stalks were cut down prematurely and left for the volunteers to discover early that morning. Brenda Peréz, director of Centro del Pueblo, explained how she felt when she came across the vandalized state of El Jardín.
“I felt very sad. I felt very disappointed. I felt like the work that Centro del Pueblo is doing is being threatened. Our work is not just cultural, it’s political,” Peréz said. “So for me the corn is a sacred ancestral symbol. It represents creation, so when they cut the corn it hurt me from my country to here.”
The most recent attack on the garden has solidified workers’ and volunteers’ insecurity regarding their safety while at El Jardín Santuario. Magaly Cervantes, community organizer for Centro del Pueblo, voiced her concerns for the master gardener Adan Cervantes, who works to cultivate and harvest crops at the garden.
“[Adan] Cervantes, the one who is in charge here at the garden, sometimes he is alone,” Cervantes said. “So we want more activity in the garden so that they see that Adan is not alone and to avoid another type of attack.”
On July 21, the first hate crime vandalism occurred, which left the welcome sign of El Jardín Santuario spray painted black with large red letters reading “America USA” on top. Both vandalism incidents are still under active investigation. El Jardín Santuario is under extra patrol by the Arcata Police Department, according to Detective Sergeant Chris Ortega.
“We want our community members to feel safe and we want them to know that the Arcata Police Department takes hate crimes and hate incidents seriously,” Sgt. Ortega said. “We investigate hate crimes with the goal of arrest and prosecution when we are able to identify the perpetrator.”
Moving forward, Centro del Pueblo encourages more community involvement to keep the garden as the sanctuary safe space it has always been. Tobin McKee from Cooperation Humboldt helped facilitate a brainstorming discussion of how to make the garden more safe on Aug. 27 at El Jardín Santuario. They plan on hosting a community fundraiser event Sept. 24 to meet their $5,000 goal for security cameras to be installed in El Jardín. Additionally, Humboldt Jiu Jitsu has offered a free self defense class to volunteers on Sept. 11.
“Our plan for the future is to put a security system with technology that also includes presence, workshops, art, music in this place,” Peréz said. “Our plan for the future is to achieve security for us.”
If anyone has any information on who is vandalizing and targeting El Jardín Santuario, you can report it to APD by calling 707-822-2424 or the anonymous crime tip line at 707-825-2580.
Volunteer hours at El Jardín Santuario are Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon.
For more information about El Jardín Santuario follow @jardin_santuario_arcata or @centrodelpueblo on Instagram or at cdpueblo.com.