The Radical Root

By Guadalupe Pardo & Josue Ramirez

“They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds” is a powerful saying because it alludes to the promise of growth, to the potential of life despite the heavy weight piled on. After a period of dormancy, a seed’s growth is triggered by internal and external conditions. Only when the circumstances align are the seeds automated to begin their true act of defiance; to grow. That initial step is taken by the brave first organ to appear during germination; the radicle. Pronounced radical, it pushes through and grows downward into the soil, anchoring the seedling for its next phase of life. 

The radicle, also known as the primary root, can then grow a network of roots or store food (like potatoes or carrots). Roots (for the most part) are what hold a plant to the dirt, what brace it to the earth. They feed and nurture the blooming and fruiting of plants. Roots themselves are sustenance and can heal through medicinal properties, but they can also be a force of disruption. As Daniel Murphy
states, “A tiny seed finds its way into a small crack in the sidewalk. The radical emerges. Before you know it, a plant strong enough to push apart two concrete slabs has grown.” 

Metaphorically, roots can refer to our ancestral history, culture, and traditions. A successful seed can traverse miles- carried by the wind, stuck on roaming creatures, floating in the sea. When seeds find themselves in new environments, “radicals rise up as radicles force themselves downward, rooting in new lives.” Like with flora, many of our ancestors and the individuals migrating now- rooting oneself is a radicle and natural act.

Rooted in the Lower Rio Grande Delta 

The Valley is the land on which we stand, but it is also the ideological apparatus that has crafted us. Traditions and culture have shaped our ideas of community and informed our interaction with our environment. Dominant forces have divided us, these forces have separated us from our land, but our roots in this area are deep. They have been tended by indigenous/Tejanos, both our ancestors and contemporaries. They look like your tio, your grandma, your siblings, and you.

We’ve tilled these soils, harvested its bounty, and cared for our seedlings. Our work has amassed a rich history and knowledge. We’ve connected; through food, language, and love. We’ve shared recipes and remedios, work and its rewards.

We move like plants. Our seeds dispersed through the waves, carried by the wind over boundaries and barriers. They
spread for miles in all directions. We’ve traveled far and wide for freedom, liberty, and the right to live comfortably. We aspire to labor and continue to tend to our roots. When we connect with these roots, we are able to cultivate cultural and institutional change.

Our roots aren’t stopped by the river, they’re reinforced and grow strong and dense. Only with water can we bloom, only in water do lotuses flower.

Being the Radical

To connect with and explore our metaphorical and physical roots, we will tether a connection back to nature and back to the labor of our ancestors &/or the people native to this land. 

Through a three-series workshop, the Roots Break Wall campaign will center stories and physically connect with the soil to recognize the similarities between plant migration and human migration as natural processes. The first workshop will be held at the
National Butterfly Center on March 11th, 2023, from 1-4 pm and is open to the public. 

Those interested can
RSVP here


At the gathering, we will breach the limitations put in place and seed knowledge about our environment. We will connect to our roots through an art/poetry exercise on the subject of identity, through conversations on conservation efforts to preserve the local water, flora, and through folk healing methods and remedies. 

Activities in future workshops will include using a decolonized apothecary to teach healing, hands-on identification classes to prompt stewardship, and community gathering to celebrate our abundance of life, earth, and community.

Like roots, lets us connect, communicate, learn about our deep history, and nurture ourselves.

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