Can urban gardens, farmers’ markets, cooking, and food heritage celebrations reinvigorate and nourish an economically impoverished community on the U.S.-Mexico border?
Chamizal is a neighborhood in South Central El Paso that lies immediately adjacent to the international boundary with Mexico. While high in cultural skills of resiliency and dignity, the neighborhood has no shortage of “deficits” largely the result of poverty. Chamizal is sometimes known as the “poster child” for the job-loss devastation caused by NAFTA. In 1994, 35,000 jobs left El Paso and dozens of factories closed, resulting in the highest number of displaced workers in the country, many of whom lived in Chamizal. Today, the majority of residents are employed in temporary labor, food processing, bartering and the informal economy.
SFA is working with La Mujer Obrera, an El-Paso, TX-based organization dedicated to creating communities defined by women, to create the “Chamizal Food, Health and Culture Master Plan.” The plan will serve to strengthen the organization’s work in food-oriented community development, which includes local food production, heritage food programs, and farmer’s markets in Chamizal.
With support from the Kresge Foundation, SFA will assist La Mujer Obrera in launching a broad-based community planning process with the aim of strengthening 3 areas within the organization’s already successful neighborhood-scale food-oriented community development plan:
- The Green Initiative (Proyecto Verde) will use a comprehensive asset-mapping of accessible land parcels, yards, green spaces, water access points, open public spaces and alternatives to soil planting options in Chamizal with the goal of expanding local food production.
- The Taste Initiative (Proyecto Sabor) will develop ways to expand heritage foods programs with new, innovative methods of education and outreach, such as catering ventures, curricula creation, and art-based approaches.
- The Conviviality Initiative (Proyecto Convivio) will develop strategies for transforming La Mujer Obrera’s Farmer’s Market into a micro-festival, a place not just for food exchange but also for social capital and artistic exchange.