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The Flowers’ Pain “Ramón López Velarde” Park

Photographs by Alex Dorfsman

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“I will now speak of the flowers’ pain to better feel the order of what exists”

–Clarice Lispector, Agua viva.

Leticia Hernández Pacheco is on Meadow 16 of “Ramón López Velarde” park that she knows almost since its construction, which was after the 1985 earthquake, when the neighbors saw a large extension of land being populated by trees, flowers, bushes, granulated volcanic rock, cement and games for kids.

A neighbor for 28 years, Leticia has bore witness to the neglect and deterioration that the park has endured. She retired from her lifelong job three years ago and embraced a new activity: she approached the authorities to offer her services as voluntary gardener because she found no other way to make changes in the park’s landscape.

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Without resting for a single day, Leticia decided to concentrate her efforts on Meadow 16, one of the most worn out and hardest ones to restore. Her efforts were also channeled towards the community by attending the neighborhood councils and uniting her voice to the demands that were made there. But she hasn’t been heard or supported much, because in her search, she has appealed to a sense of civil and citizen responsibility reduced by contemporary time, by the permanent rush that afflicts us (or that we make up) and by the lack of commitment to that which represents a benefit to all.

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The neglect of Meadow 16 is the reflection of a complex problem and Leticia is conscious of its aspects. She coexists with them every time she places a support to the trunks of malnourished trees to grow upright, when days go by without water, when she has to hide her work utensils in the bushes so they don’t steal them; even when she has to defend herself from the threats of the homeless that live in the park, the threats of those who pluck flowers under the excuse that they’re in a public space and those of the workers that feel displaced from their job (in reality, what Leticia does is to procure advice on how to care for plants, but they are ignored once the care implies attention and time).

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With a good sense of humor, Leticia reduces the aforementioned obstacles, characteristic of human actions, to tell us that one of her main enemies in caring for the ecosystem she tends to are squirrels, rodents that, for their part, have the support and admiration of neighbors.

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But not everything is negative. Leticia has managed to spread her enthusiasm to others to restore the park so, for example, every Sunday, a man comes all the way from Chimalhuacán to work with her. She has also transmitted it to the members of the AsambleaRoma1, a space that not only unites neighbors, but people from different origins that feel the need to convene, moved by the pain and outrage that the number 43 represents today, which first and foremost, is directed to the exercise of reflection and community practice, namely, what is created through citizen councils where information, actions and knowledge are shared.

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Juanpablo Avendaño narrates his encounter with Leticia:

I met Leticia the night of our second assembly. It was about a month and a half ago, I think she came because of one of her neighbors, who surely also knows what Leti does and who must’ve told her – this is how I imagine it – “Leti, you should come, they’re doing this, you should check it out.” So that’s where we were at, and at some point after various interventions, Leti spoke and started telling us, in a very concise manner, about the long list of difficulties that Ramón López Velarde (RLV) Garden faces, and that she had been attending these meetings every day for the past three years to speak of this. In the following meeting, on January 11 of that year, Leti gave us the tour of her meadow, and as you can imagine, we were all in awe with her words and the rigor with which Leti went about her task.

And suddenly, just like that, taking advantage of our awe, we were in another part of the park, on a couple of meadows, not small at all, that Leti explained are called Ampliación del parque (Extension of the park): she tells us that it’s an area located outside of the responsibilities of those who work there, a condition inherited from the 1985 earthquakes and the horrible construction of Pabellón Cuauhtémoc.

Since then, we’ve been going to the meadows every Sunday, with what we call a permanent brigade, which fluctuates between 7 and 14 people trying to replicate Leti’s instructions.

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“Among the teachings of Leticia that I most appreciate is understanding that the tree’s health starts with the soil’s health, so the first thing is to un-toughen the soil, loosening it for the water to penetrate. We have to do it carefully, because trees – although we might not think so – are very sensitive. We have to be careful when removing the soil, not to break their capillary roots.” -Juanpablo Avendaño

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Meanwhile, Alex Dorfsman was also captivated with the park at first, and then with Leti and her work:

I moved to the Roma neighborhood about a year and a half ago, and surprisingly enough, I had a park 3 blocks away, I had seen it from afar, but never gone in. I started discovering the park because I looked after a dog from time to time and I took him for a walk there.

I was surprised with the park’s size. The kid’s games, the sports area, the seventies (I’m guessing) sculptures, the fountain that occasionally had water; but what most took me aback was the intimacy that the park created; it is so big, with so many trees, bridges, winding roads, that I felt I was somewhere outside of Mexico City’s chaos and I was right next to my house.

I’ve always been attracted, and could say obsessed, with observing vegetation, be it in the woods or in this case, in a park. I concentrate mainly on the small details, which are an independent world in a vast universe of plants, trees, flowers, etc.

Every time I went to the park, I took pictures with my cellphone, just for the sake of it, but they were always in low resolution. I’d check everyday at what time the sun hit certain areas to go back and take photographs with my camera, which I never did; it’s in my list of to-dos.

One day my friend Mónica Castillo invites me to the second Assembly of the Roma neighborhood at the Luis Cabrera Plaza where I thought I’d find a few of my friends, but surprisingly, I only found four, among them Juanpablo Avendaño, with whom I had collaborated on his project “Conejoblanco.”

I was later invited by Mónica once again to the assembly, but this time it took place in the park; I didn’t know what to expect, until I met Leticia, an remarkable woman with amazing inner peace, who told us about her work and who we talked with about the strategies to care and save the park with her.

I decided that my first collaboration would be to document the work Leticia has done for the past 3 years and subsequently, document the messy parts, and thus, in the future, document the progress. This way we can create an attractive folder to show the municipal office what a beautiful park it is and how the neighbors are coming together to help Leticia, but that we also need help.

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“When we got to the RLV Garden, we said hi to Leti. Hers is a paradise compared to our extension of the park, but it definitely inspires us. At times, she comes up to us to give us support and help us find our path. ‘Patience, guys,’ she tells us.”-Juanpablo Avendaño

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As she explains how she’s worked on her meadow, Leticia reveals what she’s learned: “We must never go against nature, always in her favor.” Hence, we concluded that Leticia has observed and assumed the rhythms that the earth, water, sun, trees, and various plants present. We discovered that in comprehending that phase lies the patience with which Leticia has faced each adversity that she has stumbled upon in the last three years.

Any passer-by understands this concept of time when he decides to rest in a park; he sits and listens to the wind blowing through the leaves, breathes the freshness of the shade and smells the soil that’s been removed by the gardener and animals.

The green areas in urban spaces are essential to connect its inhabitants with another time, one that is more tangible, and with another sense of community.

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“We don’t want them to cut down the sick trees, we want to cure them.” -Alex Dorfsman

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