Archive for Greening the Ghetto

Greening the Ghetto: Street Art

Posted in hope, Life in Juarez with tags , , , , , on 08/25/2009 by mattlindsey

I have made it my business to use the green economy as a social and economic solution to poverty. I want to Green the Ghetto.

Majora Carter

Back in February we began writing about Greening the Ghetto here in our own neighborhood in Juarez. Sure, it is a daunting prospect, but we are continuing to dream and work towards seeing it come to fruition. We have a small sputtering garden that is slowly taking root, and now, our first mural. “The first of many” as Jorge Hernandez, our good friend from Palo Chino says. He is an art student here in Juarez and he has been working on several graffiti themes for our neighborhood.

Stencil Prep

Stencil 1

Stencil 2

Stencil 3

Stencil 5

Stencil 6

Stencil 7

We have been working on themes that speak against the violence and draw attention to hope, love and peace. Jorge’s first mural is a stencil piece, a small girl cradling a bomb as if it were a teddy bear. It is a bold, straightforward statement that screams, “No more violence!”

Andale, jorge! Arriba Juaritos!


Greening the Ghetto: The Desert in Color

Posted in Life in Juarez with tags , , , , , , on 02/07/2009 by mattlindsey

The concrete-gray washes over me like a tidal wave of rubble, with 100 million plastic bags and a few hundred thousand worn out tires embedded in its curling face. Even with the dusty trashy mess, our neighborhood has me enamored. Everyone keeps warning us about the sinister dust storms that roll across the desert in March and April, and we are already seeing vast clouds of dust hovering over the city like smog over L.A. I hear about these impending sand blizzards, and when I am out sweeping the street, fighting the used nacho cheese chip bags and smashed plastic coke bottles plastered to the asphalt, I find myself muttering, “God, we need some trees in this Colonia.”  

Bruce Berman, editor and photographer of the Border-Blog, an absorbing look at life through photography and essays which concern our border with Mexico, posted this photo of Juarez. The photo is a reflection of the pain in my heart for this city, like the erie aftermath of falling bombs, or a used-up and discarded city in sorrowful ruins.juarez-lores

For the last several months we have been considering a home-garden/greenhouse project with the hopes of bringing life and color to our neighborhood. As I wrote in What Color is Hope, Juarez is devoid of color. Dust, concrete, and trash are the overbearing color-sapping sponges that have infected so much of this world. We want to help reverse that effect. Some simple ideas we have are: small raised-bed flower/veg gardens; building/buying planters, pots, etc for our neighbors; thinking of ways to use the trash to our advantage, i.e. using buckets, tires, & other items to turn into planters; painting homes; painting mural-like “street art” on graffiti-burdened walls. We are in the beginning stages of organizing some sort of Greening the Ghetto project for Ciudad Juarez, starting here in Colonia Palo Chino. This past fall I started this in our own yard by planting a small bunch of  Zenias; this winter I have extruded thousands of rocks from a 10’x 10′ patch of dirt in our patio, I have begun to amend the soil, and I started a compost bin. 

To us and our friends Juan and Carmen, Greening the Ghetto is much more about spreading love to this community through color and life, and we believe that these are reflections of the true heart of God. Simple acts like these can create inroads for sharing life, like getting to know our neighbors better and helping transform this community. To El Paso, Juarez is the elephant in the room that few people are acknowledging; these worlds that are separated by an imaginary line are painfully detached from each other. We have been thankful for people like the Border Explorer and Border-Blog, who are speaking out for our Mexican brothers and sisters, but with so many people from El Paso afraid of crossing the border, we are asking how we can connect the two very different worlds of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, the 3rd safest city in America and the murder-capital of Mexico, with bonds of solidarity, love, and the outrageous beauty of shared life. We want to flip fear upside down. 

Our friend Betsy gave us a copy of a talk from, a super intriguing site where, “the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers… are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).” The talk she gave us is called, Greening the Ghetto. This talk speaks directly to the changes that we would like to see within this community, with hopes that it will swell across the city. We encourage all that would be interested in this project to take 18 minutes and check out the talk and consider joining us in bring life and color to the desert. We look forward to hearing from you.


Thanks to Bruce for the use of this stellar photo. Please visit his site to see other excellent photos of our border.