Shocking news, and a loss for the development of Bonsai in the US

This is a copy of a facebook post by the American Bonsai Association:

Sad situation that transpired last weekend:
Last weekend, to the shock and dismay of nearly all in the bonsai community, Juan Andrade announced via Facebook that he and his fiancée had returned to Costa Rica to live, because they felt increasingly slandered by some referring to them as ‘Illegals” (they are not) and maliciously disparaging Juan’s talents. This apparently had been occurring for over a year, and was causing them both to feel not only unwelcome here in the US, but also a personal loss of dignity at constantly having to answer such allegations.
Anyone who has spent even five minutes in the company of Juan can attest to his intelligence, bonsai skills, kindness and humility. He is top notch both as a person and as a bonsai professional. The outpouring of support via social media is a testament to his skills and personality. And yet the damage is done.
We at ABS are horrified that such a situation has come to pass. Bonsai is a hobby developed by foreigners, taught to us by foreigners, and has now become a global art form. It is diametrically opposed to the ultimate pursuit of such an art to in any way speak or behave in an exclusionary manner. Saboro Kato, venerable Japanese bonsai master and founder of the World Bonsai Friendship Federation, famously stated, “Bonsai No Kokoro” - roughly translatable as, bonsai created from deep in your heart and from veneration of nature has no ego.
Malicious, slanderous, xenophobic speech or behavior has no place in American Bonsai. We at ABS will not stand for it in our organization, and we implore all in our community to use bonsai, this greatest of art forms, as a vehicle for peace and inclusion.
Karen Harkaway (outgoing ABS president)
Mark Fields (incoming ABS president)


This is heartbreaking news. I don’t know Juan personally, and I haven’t been practicing bonsai for very long, but my entire family - and our bougainvillea and wisteria - have benefitted greatly from his work and wisdom.

At the same time, this news isn’t surprising. How can it be in contemporary America? You have only to witness the Supreme Court’s decision, today, to uphold a travel ban on people from many Muslim-majority countries, including a permanent ban on Syrian refugees: people who are, by definition, fleeing the same persecution and violence that the US government professes to be acting against.

The ABS is exactly right to say that bonsai is inherently multicultural, and that US practitioners of bonsai must take a vocal, public stand against xenophobia and intolerance - as all Americans who value an inclusive, multicultural, humane society must do.

From my personal experience as a marginalized person, it feels strange and sometimes uncomfortable to participate in US bonsai culture, which - again, in my experience - is so often white, male, wealthy, and Christian. Those qualities which can feel strange and uncomfortable to me can be powerful tools to defend the rights of marginalized people.

Anyone here who is shocked by Juan’s departure should be shocked by the harassment he received. Anyone who is shocked must also be moved to action. Demonstrate. Vote. Stand loudly in opposition to the increasing marginalization of people who are darker skinned, from a different country, of a different religion, sexuality, or gender.

Thank you @Rafi for sharing this.


I hope @ryan addresses this issue head on. Those who are responsible for this ought to be ostracized at all levels and leaders like Ryan need to set the record straight. While it is true that bonsai is in an ‘elite’ hobby in part due to the costs involved, there’s no place for bigotry in art and and particularly in such an international art as bonsai.

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I agree wholeheartedly. I know @Ryan works hard to make Mirai a place for all people, but it’s not possible to be hospitable to both marginalized people and their marginalizers.

Put another way: if one of bonsai’s core cultural tenets is tolerance, then bonsai practitioners must speak out against and exclude those who practice intolerance.

The true irony of a inclusive society is that it must exclude people who practice exclusivity.


And for what it’s worth – since I’m already whacking the hornet’s nest – this can’t just be about how the bonsai community in the US treats people with darker skinner or different passports.

It is, ultimately, about whether US bonsai is inclusive of marginalized people – meaning that it doesn’t just accept marginalized people but loudly and proactively seeks to establish bonsai spaces as safe spaces for women and people who are transgender or non-binary, people with darker skin or different passports, people who are LGBTQ+, people who are not Christian, people with mental and physical disabilities, etc. etc.

Silence always serves the abuser, never the abused.


Myself and the Bonsai Mirai team are devastated to hear about Juan. He and I have had many interactions and conversations about his experiences working in Florida and the unacceptable conduct he was subjected to. Without a doubt bonsai is supposed to be an art form that unites people and is a safe place for any race, gender, or embodying aspect of identity. We do not tolerate discrimination at Bonsai Mirai or within the Bonsai Mirai community on any level and are deeply saddened. I am in communication with Juan as he continues on his journey and look forward to supporting him in ways that feel appropriate and just to him. In no way do I want to condemn the amazing bonsai community in Florida for the actions of a few unfortunate individuals. I am certain myself and Bonsai Mirai will have more to say and hopefully have a clear idea of the positive actions ourselves and the community can take to insure others don’t experience the same bigotry and injustice throughout the art form and in our community. We are united in bonsai, not divided. Its from this place that Bonsai Mirai will continue to orient and maintain the integrity bonsai deserves as we all advance and evolve in our practices together as equals.


Thank you, @ryan, for your thoughtful and reifying words. I’m grateful for your leadership in maintaining US bonsai culture as proactively inclusive of people from marginalized communities.

If there’s anything the Mirai community can do to directly support Juan, please let us know!


This is why we can’t have nice things.

I hope it doesn’t just get swept under the carpet. It still needs to be resolved before we can move on. I missed Juan at New England Bonsai Gardens this spring and I have been kicking myself ever since. He was one of our best and brightest.


Great words everyone. This makes me sad. As does everything else going on at the highest levels of leadership in this country. I hope and pray we can turn it around.

Vote. Speak. Act.


If any proof was needed of the level of skill that the US lost with Juan’s departure, here’s an amazing post. Please the bozo responsible for his departure step up his game to fill in the gap cause his level is about -1000 steps below.


Wow, amazing. It took me a good minute of staring at both photos to figure out what he did. Looks like he totally separated the live vein from the deadwood in the upper half of the trunk and then bent the live vein down. I can’t even imagine attempting that kind of work, maybe someday. Notice he wrote “I’m still on the pursuit of happiness” . Too bad the country that has that written in their constitution couldn’t provide that for him. shakes head.