Cuba in Defense of Its National Tree
Cuba works to sow this year over half million of royal palms in views to restore almost three thousand demolished by the powerful hurricanes Gustav, Ike and Paloma, besides enriching the forest patrimony of the country with that special tree for all the Cubans.
If someone asks any child of this Caribbean island what he knows about the royal palm, he will say without hesitations: it is our National Tree. But for me that I was also a boy - it is important to remember that the plant means much more.
I opened the eyes in a hut and that means that the walls and roof of my house were made of royal palm leaves.
Chencha, my mother, washed our scarce clothes in shallow pans, also made of royal palm and Mongo, my father, from time to time brought honeycombs in vessels of that type.
The royal palm also produced seeds to feed the pigs. We also use the vessels made of that tree to put the rice with black beans, lettuce salad, tomatooes, and yucca.
My mother used to make the cover of the delicious peanut cones with royal palm while her children pulled her skirt, crying of impatience, for the irritating smoke of the woody stove or due to the common habit of sobbing to obtain something.
Although my sisters can buy plastic brooms in any modern store at present, they must remember they swept the floor and the surroundings of the house with brooms made with the fibers of the clusters of the royal palms.
It is also imposible to forget that due to the lack of toys and more instructive hobbies, in many occasions my siblings and I went to slip down the ravine on a leaf of a royal palm.
But the royal palm is much more than those childhood memories, because that slender queen of the Cuban countryside also offers us wood of excellent quality for constructive, diverse ends, included the craft or artistic carpentry.
Since early times, the tender heart of the superior part of the royal palms, known as palm heart, is eaten in soups and salads. It even mitigated the hunger of those who fought for the independence of Cuba in the 19th century.
The oil extracted from the seeds has diverse uses, included the production of medications, soaps, candles, cosmetics, chocolates, margarine or butter, lubricant, and other products.
One of the big advantages of the royal palm is that it blooms and fructifies the whole year, and each plant can give in that period of time about 90 kilograms of seeds.
The royal palm is a tree that provides abundant nectar to the bees. It offers shade to the livestock and refuge to a diverse fauna. It protects the soils and the hydrographic basins against the erosion. It contributes to the ecological balance, while its leaves are used to attenuate the direct solar radiations on the vegetables, the tobacco, and other cultivations.
For those explained reasons, I think that all the Cubans are happy to know that the State is boosting a program to foment the royal palm, project to which we should help with the sowing of seeds and postures, as well preserving those there are in the country.