Our ancestors’ trees


As I was talking to voters in South Los Angeles in favor or Prop. 10, I would run into the smell of guavas ripening on the trees. For me it’s a pleasant smell, sweet and clean, that reminds me of my father’s Jalisco and my vacations as a kid. For some the smell is too strong, overwhelming. I don’t fight it; I give into the aromatic invasion.

My father, like many immigrants to California— and not only Mexicans, also planted trees and plants from his home country. Guava, cactus, Mexican limes, chayote squash, avocado. We shared the fruit with family and neighbors. These foods connect us to our traditions and ancestors. And they are healthier.

But you can’t always pick all the fruit from the trees and a lot of it goes to waste. The organization Food Forward has the solution. They send volunteers to pick the fruit, leave as much as you want and the rest they donate to food pantries.

Like all traditions, we have to protect and transmit the knowledge of growing crops and gardening to future generations. Our busy lives don’t facilitate this and it can easily be lost. We take it for granted and don’t appreciate the fragility of trees and the environment.

For example, right now trees in Southern California are facing epidemics of invasive pests. It’s forecasted that we may lose up to 38% of our trees. To fight this, besides tapping into family wisdom, you can be a volunteer in a community garden or take a course with Tree People or the University of California Cooperative Extension to be a master gardener. We need more programs like this but in Spanish, so that the information can reach our communities. If your trees are sick, take a picture and send it to the state department of agriculture.

Not everyone has a house to garden in, but now the City of Los Angeles allows you to plant crops on the sidewalks. In fact, the organization Los Angeles Green Grounds can help you plant your garden. Imagine if every street harvested enough to for its residents. With our high cost of living, it would be great to save, at least, on food expenses.

These themes are valuable not only for our personal and communal health and wellbeing, but also global. With global warming, every day we need more trees to clean the air, conserve water and provide the relief of their shade. We can do it. I hope that you enjoy the year’s end, sharing memories and making new ones with your loved ones under the protection of a tree.