Having strong skills in agricultural cultivation is a sure way for an individual to have an abundant food source, but gardening can be used for healing too. La Loba Loca is a queer educator and herbalist working on various issues, including herbal medicine cultivation. Going by the pronouns Loba or them, California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) virtually hosted Loba for the Plant Your Intentions workshop on Feb. 17.
Aimed at sharing their vast knowledge of traditional Andean and Latin American plant medicines and practices, Loba’s background on the subject comes from ancestral knowledge passed through family lineage. Hailing from Arequipa, Peru, their family has been growing plants and passing down spiritual plant knowledge for generations.
Loba began the workshop discussing how capitalism and city lifestyles point as unsustainable ways of living, attributing many issues brought up by the COVID-19 pandemic to capitalism, including the impending climate catastrophe. Loba introduced the term “chacrita,” which is a Quechua word meaning “little farm.” Quechua is an Indigenous language spoken by the Quechua people of Peru.
Chacritas hold a deep and complex connection of people, land and plant work. They emphasize for many Indigenous people, trauma associated with tending to land because of colonialism is keeping many Indigenous people from their traditional practices. Modern day gardening continues to perpetuate colonialism in various ways, including centering non-Native people during discussions about Native flora and seed kidnapping.
“Historically, so many terrible things have been done to land and people,” Loba said. “Subsistence farmers are struggling to grow in their ancestral lands.”
Loba also introduced Pachamama – a goddess revered by the Andean people – known as the Earth mother. People from the Andead region offer her pagos a la tierra or “payments to the earth.” Pagos take the form of offerings, giving thanks for what she provides. Loba mentioned the term and concept has become increasingly co-opted by non-Native people who don’t share this heritage.
Loba then provided tips and insights about urban farming. They formerly lived in Los Angeles where they had a small garden, but the soil had the consistency of cat litter and, thus, was unsatisfactory to grow. But this did not deter Loba.
“We have a tendency to only view gardening abilities in rural areas,” Loba said. “But you don’t have to have a huge piece of land.”
Gardening is possible anywhere one has a little bit of extra space. Loba shared pictures of their backyard covered in what they called “container gardens.” One can fill up an old tire with soil and use it as a planter.
“There’s a lot of death that comes with growing plants,” Loba said. “If you plant, eventually things start growing.”
Loba currently lives in New Mexico, learning how to cultivate in desert soil. The planet is facing severe weather patterns and desertification, and Loba pointed out that “climate change is going to be chaotic.”
Despite climate concerns, Loba mentioned life is plentiful in the desert. “Our sustenance is linked to big corporations who have no care about regenerating the soil,” Loba said.
Growing their own food to decrease dependence on government and corporations, Loba shared another good way to limit dependence is investing in mutual aid funds. Mutual aid funds are secured through community members to community members, directly helping vulnerable people. Queer, Black and Indigenous people are historically more vulnerable to harsh effects of climate change, creating an increasing necessity for the funds.
Loba shared how mushrooms can be used for a multitude of purposes, including regenerating soil. Clarifying the difference between tea and a fusion, Loba states that teas are typically a single ingredient while fusions contain more than one ingredient or plant. Herbal medicines can be made into tinctures, such as baths and footbaths, perfect for those looking to conserve water.
Urging participants to invest in their own health, Loba views food as medicine. Spices, such as black pepper, aid in digestion, whereas lemon balm is good to calm down nerves. Loba shared some of their favorite plants which include: rose, chamomile, cacao and coca leaves.
One of the biggest takeaways, Loba shared, is one can plant anywhere with whatever resources they have available to them. Their main mission is to reclaim “abuelita knowledge,” or knowledge passed down from the ancestors.
Their Instagram is @lalobalocashares and more information, as well as links to their patreon and various classes they offer, can be found at lalobaloca.com.