HISTORY OF MANGROVE
The Miraculous Mangrove
you do not believe in miracles, it would be a good idea to read this
simple story about this small mangrove tree...
Swept up in the vortex of
routine, I forgot or better said, I tried to forget that bit of green
that was once a healthy mangrove, which all the children and professors
of the primary school “Eliseo Reyes” in the Náutico
neighborhood watched and loved from afar, without perhaps noticing
this sentiment much, since they were so accustomed to seeing it as
part of the landscape surrounding the school. The residents of Flores
were also saddened and missed the tree. Simply put, it wasn’t
there anymore and its absence pained us. Near the end of November,
on a visit to the school, I saw in the distance (I live in Náutico),
a dry bush, very similar to the mangrove of our story, located atop
some rocks along the shore. I thought to myself – it couldn’t
be that this is the same little mangrove, and if it is, I have to
find out what happened. I confess that I continued thinking that the
young man was fixated on the impossible and if he had placed the tree
there, it would itself become just more garbage at sea…
How wrong I was! A few days later, I approached the place where the little dry bush was and I was astonished, absolutely delighted. Before my eyes and to my surprise there was the little mangrove, free of the entangled trash and covered with green sprouting leaves.
But how could this have
happened?… Fortunately, at that moment, the young man appeared
and told me everything. Taking advantage of the persistence and constancy
of the community workers gathering and picking up all that had been
scattered about by the inundation of the sea in the neighborhood,
he tried to convince a worker with a forklift to move the mangrove
and put it some 200 meters to the west of where it had been ripped
out by the waves. But since the machine couldn’t enter the water,
he had to compromise and have it placed on the rocks. Thanks to the
tide its roots are periodically submerged in the water. I asked him
how he managed to free it from all that garbage… -with much
patients and with the help of some scissors and a friend. When I told
him that I was going to tell this charming story, he asked that I
do not include his name as he said that he didn’t do anything
José Fresneda Astorquiza,
a young man of 33, a lawyer by profession, but he is also fully convinced
and supportive of all causes in defense of the environment. He was
born and raised in the Flores neighborhood and his house is located
on the corner of 166th street and 1st, only a few meters from the
mangrove, protagonist of this story. His mother Alba, taught him from
a young age to observe and love this small mangrove, an excellent
tide indicator for her. Jóse (with accent on the o, in order
to pronounce it the way we do) participates as a volunteer, in similar
environmental projects, one of them being ACUALINA, always with his
characteristic smile and friendliness. He collaborates by planting
trees, cleaning shores, talking with children and a mountain of other
Sharing happiness with our fellow men is something nice and exalting, but so much more if the happiness contains miraculous solutions to situations or issues that we believed hopelessly lost.
Why allow days to pass without letting the boys and girls of the Eliseo Reyes School in Nautico know that their dear and seemingly lost mangrove was alive? This involved the always enthusiastic help of the teachers of the school and their promise not to reveal to the little ones the secret of what would happen on December 27 at 2:00 o'clock p.m. As a part of the plan, they were made to believe that it was just another of the environmental activities that I periodically share with them; they probably considered it to be a nice present for the end of the year.
Some days before, I went to the school and announced that I would speak to them about the mangroves: what they are, their importance, how many species there are in Cuba, among other things. It would also serve as an excuse to remember that bush they all were used to seeing every day that one day had disappeared because of the powerful hurricane Wilma. We also organized a contest of drawing and literature": My mangrove".
The participating judges, almost all neighbors and friends of the Nautico neighborhood, were: Eslinda Núñez, famous actress in theater, cinema and TV; Joaquín Baquero, writer; the architects and painters Maritza Verdaguer and Georgina Enríquez; and the young painter and sculptress Liam Eylé Perdomo. It was beautiful to see how the boys and girls expressed their feelings of love and at the same time sadness in their artistic works on the "loss" of their mangrove. They presented more than 70 drawings and 13 writings, including prose, poems and mixes of both: it was an arduous and difficult task to choose the best.
The National Aquarium, the Antonio Núñez Jiménez Foundation of Man and Nature and our friend and journalist Karen Wald, among others, donated a number of simple but very much appreciated gifts as prizes for the contest.
The last part of the educational activity was to make a trip to the Flores neighborhood to see all the trees that were planted to beautify the area by companies such as Communal and CUBALSE. Perhaps it is useful to explain that the neighborhoods of Flores and Náutico are separated by, or rather (I like it this way) they share the estuary of the River Quibú and in the absence of a bridge that joins these two communities you have to make an extensive journey to travel from one to the other.
I admit that I could not control myself anymore and I revealed to them the great news that the mangrove was safe and ALIVE and I told them that it was in fact not Harry Potter who saved it, but this young man Jóse, whom they already could see in the distance on the other side of the river waiting to tell us the history. Suddenly, everyone began to greet him, waving their hands and shouting: Jóse, Jóse, Jóse!!!... I believe that it was a very touching moment, so much for the children, as for Jóse himself. The professors and everybody enjoyed those moments of the children’s surprise and happiness.
Without more delay we started off immediately, carrying the flag of ACUALINA (remember that this project was born in the community of Náutico), with backpacks marked "Cleaning the World", a great poster that said "My Mangrove" and with lots of noise, so everybody that we met on the way smiled and perhaps wondered: what is happening?
Jóse awaited us on the exact spot where the waves of the Wilma uprooted and deposited the mangrove on October 24, 2005. The children shouted to him, greeted him with affection and gave him a gift on behalf of them all, thanking him for having saved "their mangrove." The face of Jóse, who is shy and modest by nature, seemed like a red tomato because of this treatment, which in his opinion was unnecessary, but for me and the others, it was what he deserved. Then he started to tell them the story of how it all happened, what that mangrove meant for him, and all the pain, despair and effort he had to endure in order to prevent if from dying. Nobody breathed, they only listened in absolute silence and respect to what this young man told them in simple words that everyone understood, words told not with the mouth, but with the heart.
Then we all walked about 200 meters further and approached the rocks on the coast. There we contemplated with amazed eyes the green leaves that already covered the tree all the way to its upper branches.
We wanted to put a large red ribbon on the mangrove for good luck, and also to make it more elegant and presentable for the pictures.
I am sure we agree that for some of these boys and girls - and why not for their teachers - it will be very difficult to forget such a vivid experience. Also I am optimistic and romantic, and therefore I keep up my hopes that after this day some change will happen in their minds, although perhaps very small or insignificant. They may feel that they too can be heroes just like Jóse, and maybe one day, these boys and girls will become conscious and passionate adults, true defenders and saviors of LIFE ON THE PLANET.
Perhaps the end of this story will be written in a few months’ or year’s time, by me or who knows by one of the children. That will be the moment when our dear mangrove will have recovered and strengthened sufficiently live in the sea again.