Jorge Gómez Barata Read Spanish Version
traveling west from Havana, subtle topographical changes warn of the
proximity of the region called "the turnaround," Pinar del
Río, the westernmost and most modest province of Cuba, once
despectively called "the Cinderella province."
characteristic of Pinar del Río -- a land populated by honest,
hard-working and good people -- is the existence of unique landscapes
and areas blessed by exceptional microclimates. Among the latter are
the so-called "Monterrey Hollow," where the world's best
tobacco is grown, and a place called Soroa, in a small valley that
resembles a garden, where the climate is fresher, the air purer, the
breeze milder and the water more crystalline than anywhere else. The
color of the flowers bursts from the green meadows and, in the
countryside's inviolate silence, the song of the birds is heard with
in the course of almost 100 years, loving and expert hands nurtured a
beautiful garden, known worldwide as the Soroa Orchid Grove. It was
originally planted around the landowner's home, Tomás Felipe
Camacho, a native of the Canary Islands, and later was developed by
provincial institutions. Associated with the University of Pinar del
Río, it has become an important scientific center.
the grim moment that the winds of the hurricanes that flogged Cuba
swept over the region, the covered areas of the garden (which the
workers considered safe) and the open-air plantations contained about
700 varieties of orchids and 25,000 other ornamental plants, both
native and exotic.
plants that grow in flower pots or other containers were protected.
However, as is known, most orchids are epiphytes, that is, plants
that cling to trees that provide shade, moisture and protect them
from the wind. The trees are also home to the insects and birds that
feed from the orchids' pollen, pollinate them and fertilize them,
facilitating their reproduction.
the birds that carry out that natural task is the hummingbird, the
world's smallest bird. Weighing barely two grams, it is one of the
most fragile and beautiful creatures in existence. Guided by some
mysterious biological behavior, some of those little birds found
shelter and survived storm winds of more than 200 kilometers per
hour. Not so lucky were the trees and flowers that stood under the
open skies; they can only be saved with great care and the passing of
it is so small, flies at such high speed, and can remain motionless
in the air, drinking the flowers' nectar without landing on them, the
hummingbird burns up huge quantities of energy, which it must replace
constantly. Its adaptation to its habitat and its short range of
flight do not allow it to emigrate.
the hurricane had passed, as workers and scientists tried to save
what they could, they began to find dead hummingbirds. Because they
could not find flowers and feed from their nectar, the birds were
literally starving to death.
some workers continued their hard work, others lovingly prepared a
substitute flower nectar for the hummingbirds, bees and butterflies,
using boiled water mixed with sugar at room temperature.
the work and love of its children, wherever they may be, and with the
solidarity of people of good will, Pinar del Río will rise
again and Cuba will experience a regreening. The orchid -- grand dame
of the flower kingdom -- will again display its charms and the
hummingbird will once again fly.
and nobody is forgotten."
Gómez Barata is a Cuban journalist and professor who lives and
works in Havana.