Naples photographer’s work in Harvard magazine features a growing Immokalee movement


The link appeared on Facebook Messenger last Saturday: a photo essay published in ReVista, the Harvard Review of Latin America, “Women Farmworkers and Gardening: Cultural Heritage and Food Sovereignty.”

But wait – the spot featured was Immokalee and the photographer / author was Lisette Morales from Naples, whose portrayal of Miccosukee activist Betty Osceola made the cover of Tropicalia earlier this year.

And here was Morales again, this time turning his focus towards a community movement in the farming town of Collier County that thrived through thick and thin during the pandemic, now highlighted in a scientific journal.

Lupita Vazquez-Reyes makes a paste of chili peppers and chaya leaves using a traditional Mexican stone mortar and pestle in Immokalee, Florida on October 6, 2020. The garden serves as an educational space for share ancestral knowledge, plant cuttings and forge friendships between amateur gardeners.

The images of Morales, of Nicaraguan descent, show farm workers and their allies engaging in the radical labor (the word comes from Latin for “root,” after all) of cultivating and sharing a guard’s food. community eating.

Here, Immokalee native and outreach coordinator Lupita Vazquez-Reyes stands among the chaya plants. There, she grinds chili peppers and chaya in a molcajete, a traditional Mexican stone mixer. In another photo, we see his hands carefully placing new chaya seedlings in the earth.

The fruits of her labor are all destined for the farm laborers who swell the city every year for the harvest, but often don’t have enough to eat, an irony emphasized by her partner and longtime missionary Rick Burnette. “This part of this city just happens to be a food desert,” he says. Together with his wife, Ellen, Burnette founded Cultivate Abundance and helped create the garden that supplies the pantry with fresh Latin American crops.

The Presbyterian Misión Peniel d’Immokalee hosts the collaborative project, which, in addition to offering a space for worship, serves as a site for COVID testing and vaccines and food distribution, including fresh produce grown in the garden at the back.

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This is no ordinary Southwest Florida garden, however. Morales calls it “an oasis of relevant and culturally appropriate foods for communities that include people of Mexican, Central and South American and Caribbean descent.”

Immokalee farm workers go to work during the pandemic.

Here, instead of the basic cheddar, peanut butter, and boxes of macaroni and cheese, patrons find a taste of home, from green papayas for Haitians to herb chipilin for the Guatemalans or amaranth – quelites, in Spanish – for the Mexicans.

These quelites, once a Mexican staple, have been a triumphant decolonization, ever since Hernan Cortez attempted to eradicate them in the 1500s by banning the cultivation of the nutritious plant, calling it pagan and sinful, according to tradition. But in the garden of Vazquez-Reyes, it thrives, to the delight of those who receive part of its harvest.

Under Vazquez-Reyes’ supervision, Morales writes, she “connected with other local gardeners, some working as farm workers during the day, and created a circle of trust by using the garden as a school to share knowledge. traditional wisdom “.

And that’s what makes this place unique. It’s not just the food he grows, but the power and the voices he cultivates.

Women volunteers collect amaranth at the Misión Peniel community garden in Immokalee.  Amaranth was once the food of Aztec warriors and later banned by European colonizers.  Today, it is reintroduced into traditional Latin American cuisine for its nutritional value.

“By growing our own food, we connect to the land and our cultural identity, which makes us our humanity,” Reyes concludes in Morales’ article. “We are not consumable.”

See for yourself, learn more or help us

Lisette Morales’s article is here: and her website is here:

Mision Peniel’s website is here:

The Cultivate Abundance website is here: and its Facebook page is here.

Co-founder Rick Burnette says they’re always on the lookout for volunteers, food donations and financial assistance. Send an email to [email protected] or connect online:


Amanda P. Whitten

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