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This project is a grassroots garden revolution. It is a call to action to reclaim the land we live on. It is nourishment for the mind, for the body, and for the spirit. It is the story of a random guy who woke up one day and decided to plant a cactus. 

Nopales aren't just any cactus, nopales are my relatives. Relatives who taught me to survive in harsh environments and to provide for the ones that I love. My relatives may be spikey and hostile on the outside, but on the inside they're very gooey. As they are my relatives, each time I plant a nopal, I create a relationship to the land. A promise to arrive and care for my relative, in hopes that one day it will care for me or the ones that come after me in return.

Many people are unaware, but Nopales are also food. At least, really nutritious food--once you take off the spines. Nutritious food which asks for very little water. You can fry 'em,  pickle 'em, put 'em in a stew. Or, if you're really brave, you can eat 'em raw. 

The first nopal I planted against the city was on the southeast corner of 5th and Arrowhead. It was a space that had been barren for far too long, bearing an arrowhead garden bed constructed from loose bricks, some of which were falling to the side and onto the sidewalk. My task was to make the space look nice, instead of void and barren. I task my nopales with taking care of the land they occupy, to keep it free from trash and to politely greet everyone that passes by. 



"Cuando le cortas el corazón a Copilli, vuelve a crecer donde cae" 


Samuel Armando Castro Marrón has always struggled to find his roots. Much of his childhood was spent routinely crossing the US-Mexico border to visit his family in the Ejido, where he remembers running through fields of nopales on his grandfather's farm. On the northern side of the border, Sam remembers bouncing from city to city and school to school, never staying anywhere long enough to form meaningful attachments. As a young man, Sam's search for meaning led him to strange places and experiences, such as chasing a greased pig in a West Virginia mining town, dangling off of a motorcycle on the streets of Guadalajara, and self-administering a coffee enema in the mountains of Vermont. Despite these odd adventures and several going away parties, Sam always finds himself back in the IE. 


Although Sam may never feel like he belongs anywhere, he finds solace in the stare of a friendly prickly pear. His hope is to spread this kinship to the city through planting nopales to greet all those whose roots were severed by the callous southern border.


These days, Sam works part time at a Spanish language bookstore, spends much of his free time either composting or gardening, and takes his coffee orally. 




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