South of the constant busyness of the city center is the Roma neighborhood, where there's a refreshing mix of the new and old. It's full of artists, writers and expats, and then the ma-and-pa businesses that seem to have been here forever. Traditions run deep and things here move just a little slower with a bit more room to breathe.
In the midst of it all is Huerto Roma Verde, a secret garden of sorts with its doors open to all. It's only been around for four years and it's hard to believe that the now lush plot of land used to be a semi-abandoned trash pit. It's been completely transformed; produce and flowers are in full bloom and a rain-collecting water-tower irrigation system is its crowning jewel. On a sunny day, you'll find anywhere from one to five cats that are sunbathing on and around the inventive installations, which are mostly made of recycled materials.
The change was thanks to a group of people who came together to turn the space into an urban garden on the fringes of legality. To this day El Huerto is run by a collective of people, with many volunteers who come to tend to the plants, harvest them and sell them to offset the costs of running the garden. There's a whole community that's grown up around this little place; they put on events and gatherings, there's music, art, yoga and artisanal markets.
The places we are drawn to say something about us. I moved to this giant city of 22 million habitants without thinking much of it. But in the rush of city life, I've found myself seeking out these little, hidden green spaces with a not-so-surprising regularity. I may be far from my home town in rural Vermont, but my love of little farms has already found its way into my big city existence.
Calle Jalapa #234, Roma Sur: open for visits between 10-2 Tuesday-Saturday and 10-5 on Sunday (just poke your head in and if the gates are open you can usually walk around). Closed Monday.