Isbel Diaz Torres
HAVANA TIMES – None of the silk cotton (ceiba) trees I’ve planted as part of the Guardabosques (“Forest Ranger”) initiative I created in 2007 with a group of people concerned about the city’s trees have survived to date.
I admit I no longer know what to do about this, as I’ve tried every strategy I’ve deemed appropriate.
I should clarify that it’s not that the seedlings aren’t surviving the stress involved in the transplantation process. These are strong, resistant and healthy sprouts with enough roots, and we are planting them systematically, in fertile soil.
The reason they don’t survive is that other people have quite simply ripped them from the ground.
This has been painful for us in every case. To think about the beauty of this small plant, the time and love invested in it, and that an unscrupulous person should kill it in the blink of an eye makes me deeply sad and I am overcome by a terrible feeling of helplessness.
I planted a silk cotton (ceiba) tree at a primary school in Marianao, Havana, involving the principal, teachers and students in the process. I planted another at a primary school in San Agustin, along with my nephews, brother and kids from the neighborhood. I planted a third tree at my old high school, in the company of my older nephew and his teacher. All were gone after two or three weeks.
The last incident involved a silk cotton seedling that was more than two years old and two meters high, which my partner Jimmy, two friends and I had sown on the 1st of March this year, my birthday.
The spot we’d chosen for the tree is the large park located between Havana’s National Library and main bus terminal, an area without any nearby buildings that could be damaged by the tree’s roots and without any electrical cabling that could thwart the tree’s growth.
The space used to transplant the tree was not being used by any other plant or people. We nevertheless set up a rustic little fence around the tree, so as to protect it from the stray soccer balls of nearby games organized by children and teenagers.
Every day, Jimmy and I went to water the tree, which looked healthy and strong and showed no signs of withering – and had even grown a light green leaf after three days. A week later, it had disappeared.
Perhaps our mistake was announcing that we had planted the tree on Facebook. That may have alarmed the State Security agents “assigned” to me, who clamp down on all of our initiatives with ill will.
The suspicion that this may be deliberate hostile actions is not gratuitous. It is based on the fact I can’t think of any other person, a common citizen, who would rip out a tree seedling from a school garden or a park area where no people tend to stroll.
I can’t, however, be certain this is what happened. Does anyone have any recommendation for me?