Proyecto Jardín Community Garden: Traditional Medicine & Health Among Latinx in Boyle Heights
- Author(s): Hernandez Romero, Claudia J.
- Advisor(s): Roberts, Allen F.
- Mays, Vickie M.
- et al.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) reports that Latinx continue to rely on folk or traditional medicine, but the information is not conclusive and medical researchers still call for studies that identify medicinal practices people rely on as well as the beliefs or explanatory systems that guide their choices. This area of concern reflects a need for studies that provide insight into people's reasons for choosing traditional medicine. In 2003 I collaborated with Dr. Robert Krochmal to develop a medicinal garden on the site of Proyecto Jardín community garden.
My dissertation takes an ethnographic approach to the documentation of the process of making the medicinal garden, the selection of design elements and herbal remedy workshops that were held after the completion of the medical garden. I rely on personal observations as well as conversations with gardeners who provided me insight into their health experiences and reasons why they choose herbal remedies. I argue that Latinxs at Proyecto Jardín show a preference for herbal modalities not simply as alternatives to primary care in the face of a prejudiced and inaccessible medical system, but also to determine self-reliance and/or to recuperate medicinal traditions and rituals perceived lost through the process of colonization and migration.
Although my study is based on the experiences of a select few participants involved with Proyecto Jardín Community Garden, it provides a glimpse of the complexity involved in defining the role of traditional medicine among Latinxs. Culture plays a role in determining which modalities a person might choose, but as my research shows, socio-economic factors and politics of identity do too. Moreover, the community garden also influences choice as well as serves as a type of informal health education setting where people can grow medicinal herbs and well as exchange remedies and recipes with other gardeners. The research of community gardens has increased, however, studies on ways people organize activities and educational projects to address health are minimal. This dissertation highlights the importance of further research into these areas if we are to consider the ways community gardens serve as sites of health and healing.