Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Save that Tree

Las Terreanas is now the chic destination beach town here on the Samana Peninsula. It is on the Atlantic coast –just on the far side of the left front flipper of the Turtle.

We have carved turtles here, made from Guayacanes wood, lingam vitae. Everyone should have one as we are learning that if you have a problem, you  simply tell it to your turtle, who then works on it for you overnight and delivers the solution to you in your dreams. They are the closest thing we have to a map of the entire island for each of the two countries here only draw maps of their own portion of the island. Only the Turtle tells the entire story. 

The building here, the sheer mass of concrete that has been placed on the fragile soil, threatens to break the entire flipper. The main village has been constructed over the last twenty years by filling in the swamp, a small portion of which remains. If the foreigners have their way, the entire place will look like Miami Beach in ten years and there will be no wild beauty left to enjoy.

Lots and condos and villas are being sold now over the internet, in Euros and dollars, via hot mail France, and gmail Italy.

Sitting in the garden of the little apartment complex near the beach, one of the few places near the beach which is still owned by Dominicans, I overhear an Italian who has just come roaring in on his motor cycle, asking the custodian if there are any lots for sale? What about the one next door?

This lot is a small nest of palm trees, enclosed by a perfectly built stone wall . These walls, I call them Haitian walls as they are Haitian built, are made of local rock, with hardly any concrete and are as beautiful as the old stone walls of New England. There is no room to build a building on this lot  without cutting down palm trees. Already there is a concrete barrier and a chain link fence right through the middle of the palm grove.

I go over to the Italian and explain that he should be aware that the palm trees are protected here. It is illegal to cut down a palm tree.

There is one blind Dominican who sells pure coconut oil and chunks of hearts of palm in one of the chic shopping centers. I think it is alright to allow an exemption for this blind man but my American friend insists that the law is the law. She has convinced me. I feel guilty about the bottle of coconut oil that I bought from him and vow not to do so again even though coconut oil has been the only thing that appears to save my leather shoes.We struggle here to help make this a land of respect for the law.

The Italian, a rugged man in his forties, wearing camo army pants,  takes his hands from the handlebars of his bike and starts making machete chops.  It is almost impossible for Italians to speak without using their hands.

“Ah, I cut the palms, and then I eat their hearts!” he says. “Where are you from?”

“From New York City and Santo Domingo.”

“In New York, there are no palm trees.”

“No, indeed. We saw what happens when the Europeans arrive.”

“In Las Galeras (a smaller European town on the tip of the flipper), I cut down whatever trees I like.”

“You may do what you like in Las Galeras for the moment, but here in Las Terrenas, the palm trees are protected. I will tie myself to the palm tree so that you will have to kill me first.”

He smiles.

“I love you”, he says in English.

“I love you, too” I answer.

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