Transforming Gardens in Todos Santos

BY: MARLA O'BRIEN

Last summer in a neglected corner of the Todos Santos Cultural Center gardens, Julian Gomez had an epiphany. Using his background in landscape architecture, he envisioned transforming the long section of overgrown weeds into a contemplative outdoor space highlighting local plants. 

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“This little garden has been forgotten but I feel it’s important to recuperate the personality of the place,” Gomez says. “The Cultural Center is such a great place, but we can make it a real attraction.”

His plan calls for restoring the walls lining the space to create a large landscape for photos and art, installing a water feature and benches, and making the gardens accessible to those with mobility issues. Then the area will be planted with native flora such as cardon, barrel and chollo cactus, ocotilla plants and torote trees. Signage would be installed so visitors can learn about the local plants. 

Gomez sees this as an opportunity to use his expertise and give back to the village of Todos Santos where he has lived since 2012. Originally from Mexicali, his father was an architect and other family members were painters and dancers. From a young age, Gomez was influenced by their creativity and eventually became interested in landscaping. 

He took courses in landscape architecture at a university in Mexico City and practical landscape courses with an expert from Holland. It was this teacher that showed him pictures of the Jardin Etnobotanico de Oaxaca, the botanical gardens of Oaxaca. Inspired by the images, Gomez travelled to the southern city to see the gardens himself. 

“It had such a big impact,” he smiles recounting the experience. “I was so impressed by the magnificence, how beautiful and complex, and all the research that had gone into it. I knew I wanted to do this.” 

Since then, Gomez has primarily worked on gardens for private clients and has also worked on some high-profile public spaces. He was part of the team that designed and created the gardens at the Museum of the Vine and Wine in the Valle de Guadalupe, and the indoor gardens at the astronomical observatory in the Sierra de San Pedro Martir national park.  

A very important project to him was doing the gardens for the Parque del Ejido Michoacan de Ocampo outside Mexicali. In the 1930s during revolutionary times, Gomez’s grandfather was one of the first to settle and grow on the communal lands there. 

“I did the landscaping, and made a fountain and sculpture from agricultural tools,” he explains. “It was not just about making a pretty square but also about making it functional and representing the history of the area.” 

Work on such projects impressed upon Gomez the importance of demonstrating culture through landscaping, as well as experience in fundraising for public projects. He’ll need to use both skills to revitalize the garden at the Cultural Center. 

“I’m concerned about the cultural identity of Todos Santos. Are we trendy? Are we bohemian?” he asks. “We need to restore more of the real history and show the richness of Baja culture.” 

Trying to do as much as possible on a small budget, Gomez is looking for sponsorships and partnerships to help make this dream a reality. He’s already found a helpful partner in Ecorrrevolucion’s Alex Miro, who has allowed use of the recycling center’s truck to haul gardening supplies. Gomez would also like to work with local artists to show their work in the completed gardens. 

If you would like to learn more and support the Cultural Center’s garden project, feel free to contact Gomez at julianalonso80@outlook.com.