Born and raised in the Southside of Santa Fe, Jose Ortiz moved for college and a career that kept him away for 40 years. Decades later, he is back in his hometown and living on the Southside again in a neighborhood with a coveted city community garden named Colonia Prisma. An avid gardener for most of his life, Ortiz is the mayordomo of this tiny, seven-plot garden.
Where did you grow up on the Southside and how do you think it's changed?
Agua Fria. There's a lot of different types of businesses out there now, not so much more people. A lot of the older houses are still there but everybody's fixed them up. My dad's house, somebody bought it and I didn't recognize it when I went in there. They completely gutted it. But [the Southside is] not that much denser. But there are a lot more trees. This whole airport area, there was nothing here. All of it was was dirt. You left Cerrillos Road and it was dirt all the way up to the airport. No trees, hardly even weeds. It was so bad. It's changed dramatically.
How long have you been mayordomo and what are some of the challenges and changes you've seen?
This is my second year. In our couple of streets here, there are not a whole lot [of families] but there are more than there were when we first started. I think back on some of the other streets there are more [families] because we're seeing more and more kids come into the park. That's a really, really good thing. We were hoping this year to expand… but I had a really hard time just getting the seventh gardener so it didn't make any sense.
Do you think that Colonia Prisma is a concept that could be done on a larger scale to feed more families?
It could. It's gonna take people getting interested in doing it and finding out what they can get from it because there is so much food there. In a space like this, If we were to expand it, you could feed quite a few families if they really got into it. You can see how densely we grow stuff here.