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Las Mariposas de La Villita: Little Village Environmental Promoters

It has started to get colder and colder during the month of October and community garden activities have ended for the season. Gregoria Marquez an active participant in Las Mariposas de La Villita, or The Little Village Butterflies, talks about some of the activities that were held during the spring and summer, as well as plans for the future. She is joined by Maria Herrera, the Public Health Coordinator at Enlace.

“This summer, we worked closely with Lincoln Park Zoo to create ProTEJA, which stands for Protegiendo la Tierra con Educación, Jardinería y Arte, [e1] (Protecting the Earth with Education, Gardening and Art),” Gregoria says. The program provides an opportunity for parents and children to learn together about the environment, animals, plants and the importance of promoting biodiversity.

Las Mariposas de La Villita has nine members who are parents and high school students. From April to August, they were trained to facilitate a curriculum focused on promoting care of the local environment. They then shared what they learned with other community members at the Mr. Keeler’s Pumpkin Eaters garden on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the 6062Trees: Sembrando Bajo el Sol garden on Mondays and Wednesdays. Activities were held between four to seven in the evening. “Señora Silvia and I were the trainers this summer,” Gregoria explains. “Lincoln Park Zoo provided four hours of training each month so that we could build our capacity and then train our compañeras, who were other instructors in the community gardens. We started trainings in April right here in the neighborhood, at New Life Church. The week after each of our trainings with the Zoo, we would share the information with the rest of the group.”

At the end of the summer, the instructors received compliments from the rest of the group. The information that they shared helped them to grow and to understand why it is important to cultivate plants and increase biodiversity in the city, and in the Little Village neighborhood.

Thanks to all the work that was done, Mr. Keeler’s Pumpkin Eaters, also known as El Jardin de la Calabaza, received the 2018 Chicago Excellence in Gardening Award. This award recognizes the work, creativity and commitment that it takes to make Chicago healthier and more beautiful. David and Brian, two youth participants at La Calabaza, received the award this fall.

Even though the planting and harvesting season is over, members of Las Mariposas de La Villita still have work to do. “During the winter months, we will meet with Lincoln Park Zoo to plan the next trainings and to conduct surveys with participants in the garden to see what they would like to do,” explains Maria Herrera. The instructors and members of Las Mariposas de La Villita will be active participants in the planning process. “One of our goals is to support the professional and personal development of the trainers,” Maria says.

Gregoria has been a participant with the community gardens for the last five years. Thanks to her dedication and commitment, other community members have been able to increase their knowledge of the environment. “It’s important that people feel connected to nature, that they participate in field trips. Lincoln Park Zoo, for example, is working to conserve a very special place, and we were able to visit this summer with a group of community members,” Gregoria says.

This summer, participants in the gardens also developed a vegetarian cooking program that integrated Latino flavors, and they learned about the Monarch butterfly. “As part of the program, we cared for Monarch eggs in our houses and we witnessed their lifecycle. We also learned about their migratory route and how we can work to protect them,” Maria explains.

Congratulations to El Jardin de la Calabaza, to las Mariposas de La Villita, and to all the participants in the gardens for their hard work and commitment to protecting the environment.

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