Jimmy’s Birthday

Isbel Diaz Torres

Jimmy Roque Martínez is an active member of the ecological organization El Guardabosques (The Forest Rangers).

Jimmy has been the first one to fulfill the promise: to plant a tree on his birthday.  He did it this past February 5th along with a group of friends, teachers and students from a school in his community.

The commitment to sow a tree on one’s birthday emerged out of the first workshop on the coordination of willpower and action in support of forestation, held in June 2009.  There, we agreed that we would all participate in this, and what’s certain is that Jimmy was the first to make good on his promise.

Jimmy Roque Martinez is an active member of the environmental organization El Guardabosques (the Forest Rangers).  Working together over the years on the protection of urban forestry in Havana, we have protested the abuse that these green beings suffer — though they provide us so many benefits — and the mistreatment to which they are subjected.

The readers of Havana Times have been able to enjoy Jimmy’s photos that often accompany my diary entries.  But this isn’t the only thing he knows how to do.  He works hard to maintain his family, he’s an optometrist and he plants trees.

The school children sang “Happy Birthday” to Jimmy as he held the shovel and dug.

To be able to sow the seedlings, first it’s necessary to obtain them.  We concentrated on that last summer.  We loaded backpacks with soil, we bought humus (organic fertilizer), we searched for ceiba seeds and we collected some 1,400 of them.  With all that, and with plastic bags that soy yogurt comes in, we have succeeded in raising thirty small ceiba seedlings.

One of those was transplanted by Jimmy at the elementary school in his community.  While Erasmo and I spoke to the boys and girls about how to sow and how to make compost, Jimmy dug a hole in the ground.  It was a touching moment when the children sang “Happy Birthday” to him as he held the shovel and dug.

At one moment there was tremendous racket.  The kids began running around looking for stones to protect the plant.  They then watered it and took photos with it.  As part of a popular tradition, before sowing a ceiba people toss coins in the hole and make a wish.  As a result, this little ceiba became a small treasure for the quantity of “donations” it received that day.

Children are able to make a party out of anything that surrounds them.

It’s incredible how children are able to make a party out of anything that surrounds them, which then draws us adults in.  We never imagined we’d be able to pull together over 60 people around that activity on one Saturday at the El Palmar elementary school in the Marianao district of the capital.

We must thank the principal of the school and the staff, who showed themselves to be very receptive of the idea and participated enthusiastically.  The teachers asked questions about technical issues concerning the plants, hoping to interest the youngsters in the action that was being carried out.

We finished the ceremony and took photos, and while we all enjoyed a glass of guarapo (sugar cane juice) Mario appeared with a gallon of water to water the seedling.

As we left the school, we noticed the owners of sheep who were feeding their animals on the leafy branches of an avocado tree that was growing just a few short yards from the recently planted ceiba.  It’s clear that educational work needs to be constant.

What’s certain is that Jimmy, who seldom participates in celebrations and parties, was all smiles this day.  Now my mind is spinning around trying to think of a place to plant my ceiba, because next month it will be my turn.

Isbel Diaz

Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.


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