Cheryl Wheeler Art | Guest Blog, International Peace Garden of Mexico
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Guest Blog, International Peace Garden of Mexico


07 Mar Guest Blog, International Peace Garden of Mexico


I was blessed to attend Dedication of the Cheryl L. Wheeler International Peace Garden of Mexico, a once in a lifetime event that occurred on Thursday, February 16th, 2017!  It is my hope that this article will not only help you understand why the garden is so special, but it will also convey the spirit of that event in such a way that it becomes a part of your heart and soul, permeating your everyday life.  In so doing, the spirit of peace that existed that day will be multiplied and spread throughout the world, until the whole world is filled with peace and solidarity.  For when that occurs, peace will reign and there will be no more war!

The Garden and Why It Was Chosen

Being chosen as the International Peace Garden of Mexico is a great honor, because the International Peace Garden Foundation (IPGF) only selects a single garden to represent an entire country, and not every country has an International Peace Garden.  Paula Savage, President of the IPGF, shared with us that the IPGF travels the world fostering the ideals of peace, reconciliation, tolerance, justice and respect.  And that they search to transform our everyday world into a compassionate family free of racism, hatred, violence and misunderstanding, using flowers as their instrument for this mission.

The Vallarta Botanical Garden is known to be a place of calm, comfort and healing of body, mind and spirit.  The Cheryl L. Wheeler International Peace Garden of Mexico is a breathtaking gem located within the greater whole, nestled on the slope leading to the Interfaith Chapel, Nuestra Senora del Jardin (Our Lady of the Garden).  This garden embodies the harmony and unity that we all so deeply desire.  It accomplishes this by growing plants from the Mediterranean and the Holy Land (where several of the leading world religions were born), side-by-side with Mexico’s native plants and wild flowers.  It reminds us that at the heart, we are more alike than we are different, and that we can live and work together toward our common goals.

Cheryl Wheeler at Peace Garden VBG

But the IPGF had more reasons to choose this beautiful and inspiring Garden to represent Mexico.  Paula noted that Puerto Vallarta is known to be a leader in Mexico for respecting diversity of cultures and human rights.  And that in its 61 yrs. as a founding member of the United Nations, Mexico has made substantial contributions to the UN in areas such as peaceful settlement of disputes, struggle against apartheid, promotion of disarmament & halting climate change.   Mexico has resorted at different stages of its history to the peaceful solution of controversies.

Paula also provided this information about Mexico.  It is one of 17 countries in the world that are mega diverse when it comes to flora and fauna, being home to 26,000 species of flora.  It stands 2nd to world ecosystems with 34 unaltered ecosystems, 17 sanctuaries and protected areas for flora and fauna.  She stated “We celebrate the bio-richness of this country.  We commend Mexico’s commitment to the preservation & conservation of its coastal ecosystems including the preservation of its seven species of sea turtles laying their eggs on Mexican shores.”

The Dedication Ceremony

The Dedication Ceremony reflected the IPGF’s ultimate goal of fostering world peace, because participants from five different religions (Catholic, Jewish, Iranian Tribal, Zen Buddhist, and Wixarrika) participated in perfect harmony, while attendees from around the globe looked on in agreement.  Sandy Patti wrote a song that states “Love in any language, straight from the heart.  Pulls us all together, never apart.”  I believe that same could be said for peace.  Read on to hear about key events that I feel contributed to this extraordinary day, and that give further insight to how we can all move forward toward world peace!

Cheryl Wheeler, the Benefactor for the International Peace Garden of Mexico, has wanted this garden for 7 years.  She spoke from her heart about her desire for world peace.  It was easy to see how she translated that desire into a wonderful oasis of peace for all of us to enjoy.   Cheryl stated “My family hopes this garden will serve as a place to come reflect and experience the peace and joy that you crave in your life.  Please come here often, at least in your mind, and draw on the beauty to give you the strength to be peaceful with your daily words and actions.”

Willingness Step at VBG Peace Garden

Cheryl also explained the meaning behind the 12 Painted Tiles that form the walkway through the garden leading to the Interfaith Chapel.  Each tile has a different Spiritual Principle that she strives to model her life after.  Each one is written in both English and Spanish, again reflecting that theme of unity, and it also has a picture of the flower that corresponds with it.  As we reflect on these Spiritual Principles, we can see how each is needed to move toward a life of peace, and what better place to reflect on these principles than here in this garden.

Honesty, Honestidad
Faith, Fe
Commitment, Compromiso
Courage, Valor
Integrity, Integridad
Willingness, Complacencia
Humility, Humildad
Reflection, Reflexión
Forgiveness, Perdón
Perseverance, Perseverancia
Spirituality, Espiritualidad
Service, Servicio


Marina de Los Santos, who represented the Universidad de Guadalajara, Centro Universitario de la Costa, led the Roll Call of Nations.  The crowd was amazed at the diversity of the backgrounds of the attendees, yet it reflects the diversity that exists within the Puerto Vallarta Area.  As each country was named, the attendees from it raised their voices stating “Vivo la Paz” (Long Live Peace) in their own dialect.  When the voices from so many countries raised together with that single desire, it provided a glimpse of what World Peace would look like!  This was made even more poignant, when we realized that the representatives of the Jewish Chabad and the Ghashghai Tribe of Iran were standing together on the steps leading to the Interfaith Chapel.  Some of the countries represented were Mexico, Spain, Canada, US, France, Argentina, Germany, Israel, Iran, Greek and Slovakia.

Padre Vicente Saul Cortes Ibarra, Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Paz (Church of our Lady of Peace) offered a prayer for peace.

Milton Bogoch, representing Rabbi Schneuar Hecht for the Chabad Center of PV, noted that this is a chapel in a botanical garden, Peace within peace.  He shared this excerpt adapted from the Koran Prayer Book.  “Master of the Universe…..In this house, in this garden which praises Your creation, help us invest every relationship with the best of our nature.”  This is indeed a noble goal for all of us to strive for.

In addition, Milton Bogoch shared the following Jewish Blessings in both Hebrew and English.   Think on the immenseness of these gifts, and truly be thankful for creation and for beautiful gardens such as this where you can more easily enjoy it.

Baruch Atah Adoshem
Elohkeinu Melech haolam
Sheh-Cacha loh beolamoh.

Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe
Who has created such things in His world.

Baruch Atah Adoshem
Elokeinu Melech haolam
Sheloh chisar baolamoh cloom
Oovarah von Beriyot tovot
Ve-eelanot tovim
Lehanot bahem benay olam.

Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe
Who has withheld nothing from His world
And has created in it beautiful creations and trees for human beings to enjoy.



Gholi Darehshori was also in attendance representing the Ghashghai Tribe of Iran.  He recited Saadi’s Poem, Bani Adam (The Children of Adam), which was written eight centuries ago.  This poem is simple, yet very powerful.   The reading of it touched me deeply.  If we could all have this belief, war would not exist, because why would we hurt ourselves.  It is no wonder that this has became a motto, and decorates the gate of the United Nations Building.  Here is the essence of the poem as Gholi explained it, and he states that this is the belief of his people.

God created everyone the same.  And if one part of the body is hurt, then it all hurts.  If someone else hurts and you don’t, then you probably aren’t human.

Victor Hugo “Tonatiuh” Ochoa Guardarrama, attended representing the Wixarrika (Huichol) community of Western Mexico.  He shared the poem, “A Perfume of Torrential Fruits”, which reflects the Wixarrika’s belief in the provision and healing of God.

Here, God fell with drops,
It’s of the dew of the morning, the freshness of the day.
Here God is a storm.
The shaking of the muted night.
God has returned to the road.
It has entered me like the midday sun.
His light has flowed in the clay of my veins.
It’s a lily in flames, in the hollow of my days.
It’s the wind that shakes, the naked brightness.
It’s the Perfume of torrential fruits.
It’s the love that arrives to undermine my hunger.
To heal the murmurings of my life.

Anka Rick Spencer, from the Centro Zen Puerto Compasivo, led the attendees in a meditation to find your inner peace.  At the end, as each attendee held on to the feeling they discovered, Anka gave this quote from Ghandi “There is not a path to peace!  Peace is the path!”  How often we try to understand how to find peace.  But peace is something we choose on a day-to-day, minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour basis.  Once we choose peace, our mind is freed of so much chaos, hurt and pain.  This freed mind is then energized and focused, and able to move forward on its path!



Rebecca “Stolie” Stoelinga closed the ceremony by performing the song, Peace Like a River.  The song has three verses, Peace Like a River, Love Like an Ocean and Joy Like a Fountain.  Again in the theme of unity, Stolie performed this in three languages – English, Spanish and American Sign Language.  The attendees participated by singing, signing or both.  It was a great illustration of the unity we can have by cherishing and embodying these three key concepts!


My thanks go out to Cheryl, her family, and everyone else who had part in the creation and dedication of this wonderful peace garden.  The IPGF would like each Peace Garden to be a place where the seeds of peace begin, and can then spread throughout the world.  Those seeds have been planted here as part of this wonderful Dedication Ceremony.

I hope that this article has brought those seeds of peace to you, so they can grow and flourish in your life as well.  Let me close with the words of the 1950’s song, “Let There Be Peace on Earth”.  If we truly want World Peace, it must begin with me, and it must begin with you.

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me;
Let there be peace on earth,
The peace that was meant to be.

With Earth as our Mother
We are family
Let us walk with each other
In perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me,
Let this be the moment now;
With every step I take,
Let this be my solemn vow

To take each moment and live each moment
In peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.

If you would like to help support the Vallarta Botanical Garden, please connect with Cheryl at 
Cheryl is currently “Painting with a Purpose”, creating her beautiful art and donating 50% back to the garden.


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