Posts Tagged ‘Francisco Verástegui’

We read the news today, oh boy. Early last night a violent thunderstorm brought gale force winds and torrential rain. It didn’t last long but it took its toll. The beloved giant Indian laurel that provided shade to the concerts, danzón, and other programs “bajo el laurel” on the zócalo toppled to the ground. Thankfully, no one was injured.

The iconic Indian laurels were planted on Oaxaca’s Zócalo and Alameda de León between 1870 and 1880. However, in the thirteen years that I have lived here, I’ve lost count of the number of laurels that have fallen.

As the late artist and heritage tree advocate Francisco Verástegui once explained to me, the trees suffered from damage caused by an aborted remodel of the Zócalo in 2005, along with improper pruning, inadequate irrigation, faulty drainage, and the use of unsterilized mulch leading to the growth of fungus and causing the roots to rot.

I wasn’t the only one to come to pay my respects to this magnificent tree. “Muy triste” (very sad) was the morning’s refrain, as people filed by shaking their heads and others stopped to watch as the body of the Indian laurel was prepared for it’s final resting place.

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This morning, Oaxaca began mourning the loss of two of the Zócalo’s iconic and beloved Indian laurels. In less than 48 hours, two of these massive trees, planted between 1875 and 1885, had fallen. Unfortunately, in their untimely demise, they join several other Indian laurels shading the Zócalo and Alameda that have crashed to the ground in the past ten years.

Yellow caution tape at the entrance to the Alameda

The concern is there will be more — thus, today these public spaces have been closed to the public with yellow caution tape and police barring the entrances.

Standing water at the base of an Indian laurel tree on the Alameda.

Ostensibly, the high winds and torrential rain Oaxaca is currently experiencing caused the trees to topple. However, our stormy weather these days is only the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Tending to the hole left by the Indian laurel that fell on Sept. 15, 2020 at the southwest corner of the Zócalo.

Several years ago, as we walked through the Zócalo and Alameda, I remember listening intently as the late artist and tree historian/savior Francisco Verástegui passionately described the indignities these trees had suffered, including disruption to their root systems when, in 2005, a governor attempted to remodel the Zócalo.

Status update at the northwest corner of the Zócalo.

Thankfully, a protest movement stopped that plan, but damage had already been done. What followed, among other things, was improper pruning, inadequate irrigation, faulty drainage, and the use of unsterilized mulch leading to the growth of fungus and causing the roots to rot — all of which contributed to the trees tumbling down.

Indian laurel that fell the evening of Sept. 17, 2020 on the southeast corner of the Zócalo.

And, it’s not only the trees in the Alameda and Zócalo. The director of the civil association Oaxaca Fértil estimates that 90% of the trees in the municipality of Oaxaca have been neglected, are diseased, and run the risk of collapsing. Let us hope that more of the historic trees that contribute to the beauty of Oaxaca can be saved and cared for in the way they deserve.

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Oaxaca has been trapped in a low pressure trough that, according to Conagua, stretches from Chihuahua to Oaxaca and is bringing moisture from both the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.  It’s made for dramatic sunsets!

Pink clouds against purplish-blue sky

And, for the past three nights it’s brought spectacular sound and light shows… lightning streaking across the night sky in a 360 degree circle around the city; the rumbling of thunder in the distance and loud cracks when it hits close to home; torrential downpours and hail, even though it’s 80 degrees F (what’s up with that?); and hurricane force winds.

It was all too much for one of the massive 130+ year old Indian Laurel trees on the Alameda…

Trunk of fallen tree

El Instituto Estatal de Protección Civil was on the job, roping off the surrounding area with yellow and red caution tape.

Yellow caution tape blocking off area around fallen tree

Workers gathered to receive their instructions,

Yellow jacketed workers in front of fallen tree

environmentalist and artist Francisco Verástegui was interviewed by TV Azteca Oaxaca,

Man being interviewed by Azteca TV about fallen tree

a rope was placed around one of the limbs,

Rope around fallen tree limb

chain saws revved-up, as scavengers went about their work gathering twigs and small branches…

Man with chain saw and woman gathering small branches of fallen tree

and a truckload of the precious firewood departed the Alameda with a youthful escort.

Truck carrying chopped wood from fallen tree departs Alameda with three boys following behind

According to today’s news, this laurel tree wasn’t the only victim of these storms; other fallen trees crushed cars, power went out, and flooding occurred.   However, as they say, “ojala,” no human casualties have been reported.

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