Xochiquetzal Peace Garden

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Year established: 1992
Community Group: Proyecto Xochiquetzal
NeighborSpace Partnership: October 17, 1997

Xochiquetzal Peace Garden has become a study of the environment for the Whittier Elementary School children. When they learned about the rain forests in other parts of the world, those forests seemed so far away. The garden, however, is just across the street from the school and provides an opportunity for hands-on education for the kids. “Xochiquetzal” means place of the Quetzal. The Quetzal is an endangered bird which is found in the rain forests of Central America and is the most sacred symbol of the Mayas, many of whose descendants now live in Guatemala and the Mexican states of Yucatan, Quintano Roo, and Chiapas. The bird symbolizes freedom and wealth.

With a painted mural wall as its backdrop, Xochiquetzal Peace Garden produces, among other things, flowers, tomatoes and strawberries. It is a place for parents and kids to be together. In fact, it has inspired the teachers, parents and children to create small gardens around the school itself. The combination of beauty and education it provides has made Xochiquetzal a unique garden “bridge” between the school and community.

There is a very close connection between Proyecto Xochiquetzal and the school – approximately 10 teachers were among the founding members of this community group. The group was instrumental in raising the funds needed to purchase the lot. Every class developed their own fundraising idea – from selling dance tickets to a T-shirt design contest.

In Claudia’s words: “The best part of the garden is that it defines the [Whittier] school.” Claudia would like to get more teachers and parents involved and points out that “gardens are a lot of work but worth the work.” The additional gardens that were later developed around the school itself is evidence of this. NeighborSpace has provided much appreciated support in the ongoing process of maintaining a garden.

Best practice idea: Claudia’s view is that with a dedicated group of people you can make a community garden a reality. The more people you have involved, the easier it is to share the tasks involved in the continued maintenance of a garden and the larger the conversation is about what the garden can be.