Posts Tagged ‘Indian Laurel tree’

The violent storms Oaxaca experienced in mid April brought down 30+ trees in the city, including one of her beloved old Indian laurels in Llano Park. And, when a tree falls in Oaxaca…

Left to right: Cuetzpalin/iguana; Coatl/serpiente/snake; Ocelotl/jaguar; Ozomatli/mono/monkey

Talented artist, Heriberto Castro López, grabbed his chainsaw and chisel and, with the blessings of the powers that be, turned the fallen tree into a public work of art, a language lesson, and a plea for help.


A monkey, a jaguar, an eagle, a rabbit, an iguana, and there’s a snake in there somewhere — all animals iconic to Oaxaca — emerged.


The animals seem appropriate, as Parque el Llano (aka, Paseo Juárez, El Llano de Guadalupe, and Alameda de Nezahualcoyotl) housed a zoo from 1945 to 1971 (dates not verified) — hence the gold painted lions at the four main entrances to the park.


However, this time the animals aren’t confined to cages — they are free and calling on us to save this planet we all call home before it’s too late.

Many thanks to Heriberto Castro López for his “Llamado de Auxilio” gift to Oaxaca.

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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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Instead of the coming of age novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, we have the real life drama of a tree falls in Oaxaca.  Heading down to the mercado this morning, I was brought up short by this heartbreaking sight.

Large trunk of tree uprooted from ground.

According to reports, there were many present to hear and see one of the grand 130+ year old Indian laurels topple during a storm on Saturday night.  And, worst of all, ten people were injured, two seriously.  Trees in the city, including Indian laurels in the Zócalo, have been plagued by adversity.  A laurel in the Zócalo fell a few years ago, damaging a nearby building, and most recently in May 2011, I wrote about a laurel on the Alameda that toppled.  Resurrection was attempted and guy-wires remain to this day holding it upright.  I guess the experts decided this latest one was beyond rescue.

Large tree cut into pieces

Controversy reigns, as many assert that these trees should be able to withstand the rain and less-than gale force winds.  Thus speculation over the cause runs rampant.  Root rot appears to be the immediate culprit but the big question is, why?

Pile of massive wood logs

And, as Chris sadly noted a couple of months ago, regarding the diseased flamboyant trees in front of Santo Domingo de Guzmán, Any tree is hard to replace.

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With a little help from its friends, the Indian Laurel has risen — albeit with a Marine-style haircut.Severely pruned Indian Laurel tree propped up with two cranes.

Let’s hope it can, indeed, be saved!

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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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