ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A weed called globe mallow grows in a little patch of dirt between the B. Ruppes store parking lot on Fourth Street and Hazeldine Avenue in Barelas. Herbalists and curanderas use globe mallow to treat skin sores and upset stomachs.
Coincidentally, B. Ruppes, thanks to the expertise of Maclovia Zamora, has been dispensing traditional Mexican and herbal remedies for decades. Zamora’s image gazes at the mallow from the store’s northern wall, painted there by the muralist Nani Chacon in collaboration with Working Classroom and the Barelas Community Coalition.
Barelas is full of beneficial weeds growing in empty lots, yards and between the cracks of sidewalks. Desert primrose treats sore eyes, spider bites, boils and toothache. Nightshade is for snakebite. Dandelion, when mixed with other plants, helps liver function.
Chacon says she began to think of the weeds as a symbol of Barelas when she got to know Zamora. The community began as a collection of farms along the Rio Grande, became a home for men working in the rail yards, faced hard times when railroad work dried up, was flooded repeatedly, paved over, torn up, paved again. A huge portion of the southern Barelas neighborhood was razed to make room for industry. Barelas has struggled with both gang violence and gentrification.