Maniaca and Loco

Report #5 from Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador

Making plaques for plant identification in the Maria Auxiliador revegetation park now officially named Bosque en Medio de Las Ruinas (Forest in the Midst of the Ruins) has started. The newspaper announcement of a contest to design a logo offering a $10 prize was a total bust. No entries. Amparo Aviles, the genuinely inventive owner of Arte Mania (Art Mania), a narrow storefront that combines art classes with a workshop for producing visual objects, suggested asking Victor Villegas to help. Victor is an expressively inspired person who plays guitar, sings dozens of songs from both the coast and mountains, creates art pieces of various kinds with a scary facility, wears an emerald around his neck that his mother gave him because they are from the city of Esmeraldes, and plays in Veronica Tamariz’s (Flor Maria Duenas’ daughter) rock band Luz Verde (Green Light). He listened to the three requirements for a logo and rapidly developed a design with a computer that incorporates a plant, a ruin, and the spirit of restoring Bahia in an ecological way. He put a broken brick wall at the bottom with a tree held by a pair of hands growing out of it into the blue sky.

The paths in the park need clearing already so I’ve hired a nearby invasion (squatter) dweller named Pico to help. He and his sons worked previously on the site for Claire and in between the multiple ways he invokes “bueno” as a way of marking the passage of time we talk about her present whereabouts, how beautiful it is to walk in the woods in the morning, or the possibility of a new El Nino. The fact that parts of the site that were scalped down to bare dirt two years ago now require extensive cutting back of vegetation is stunning, and it is epitomized by a truly awe-provoking phenomenon. About one-third of the moyuyo stakes that hold log steps for the paths in place have begun to sprout leaves. To keep the stairways clear we’ll eventually have to trim the interior branches but I want to keep the exterior sides growing so that live roots underlay and secure the steps. This means that the stairways will ultimately become enclosed as tunnels through the plant growth! No one ever imagined this outcome.

Amparo has been dubbed “maniaca (mad woman)” and she calls me “ecologisto loco (crazy ecologist)”. We have become an insuperable team for producing the park plaques. She spent her lunch hour riding with me to a lumber yard (ironically the same one owned by the errant landlord whose mill saw ripped through the nights and mornings at the former office/apartment in Leonidas Plaza). She negotiated non-gringo rates for ten blank hardwood sign boards that fit specifications of forty-five by thirty centimeters (each involved joining two pieces and only cost $1). Maniaca then took a single look at Marcel Luque’s hand written list of plants and their descriptions intended for reproduction on the plaques and demanded that they be type-written so that she wouldn’t be responsible for errors. Six years of working in a natural science museum had made her gun shy. The list of plant names follows, spelled correctly perhaps for the first time, and in unrepentant Spanish without an English translation (if you aren’t bilingual try reading it anyway).



(Ceiba Pentandra)
Troncos presentan coloracion verde.
Lanas utilizados para fabricacion colchones.

Paja Macho

(Panicum Laxum S.w.)
Hierba de hasta 90 cm. de alto.
Buena planta contra el erosion.


(Caesalpinia Corimbosa)
Tronco de gran dureza.
Hojas trituradas curan las erupciones de la piel.


(Piscidia Carhaginensis)
Arbol con hojas terminadas en punta.
Utilizado para combatir los insectos.


(Muntingia Calabura L.)
Arbol con frutos pequenos rojos.
Frutos como fuente alimenticia.


(Prosopis Juliflora L.)
Arbol con fruto en forma de una legumbre.
Exelente comida para el ganado.

Floron Mata Cabra

(Ipomea Carnea Jacq.)
Planta sin hojas en la estacion seca.


(Tecoma Castanifolia)
Arbusto con fruto ovoide de color blanco.
Del fruto se extrae un liquido gelatinoso para pegar papeles.


(Spondias Mombin)
Arbol de hasta 7 m. de altura.
Frutos son apetecibles presentando sabores agrio y dulce.

Palo Santo

(Burseras Graveolens)
Arbol que carece de hojas durante la estacion seca.
Quemado ahuyenta a los mosquitos.

While I reduced Marcelo’s copious options concerning physical and useful descriptions to a single line each, and checked the spelling of Latin scientific names, Amparo and a friend began stenciling and hand coloring the logo circled by the name of the park onto blank plaques. It shouldn’t be a surprise that they finished in two days during breaks between art classes and did at least as professional and definitely a more soulful job as could be expected in a more industrialized place. After all, there are metal machinists that work on the sidewalk here to reproduce precision parts for new post-modern designed constructions, and I was able to obtain a totally respectable birthday cake for Amy Jewel’s party from six that were being created simultaneously on a woman’s kitchen table. Maniaca has now begun stenciling and drawing in the common and scientific names, and descriptions for the plants. She described the whole project to someone today complete with detailed descriptions of the paths and different areas of the park, evidence that she’s become more than casually involved. The job will be half-finished Thursday in time for display at the large meeting we’re planning to read and absorb public suggestions for the environmental plan that will guide Mayor Leo’s remaining three and a half years term in office.

We’ve been planning this event for two weeks and have an agenda which allows input in discussion groups with common affinities from everyone attending. Regardless of our labors to create participation, it will be a feat to bring out the public in large numbers for this open meeting. Amy was interviewed for newspapers and radio, and also printed up flyers and distributed posters. Along with invitation letters sent by Patrick of the Department of Tourism and Environment, this might ordinarily be enough, but we are repeatedly told that this is coastal Ecuador where individualism is paramount. The meeting will be at ten in the morning at the fourth floor public hall of the Municipio (City Hall). Those two specifications alone might keep people away as easily as attracting them. The meeting is a high-minded endeavor, which could repel some by conflicting with their sense of immediate financial problems in this economy-busted country. So while only hoping for thirty, we’re re-inviting all of the principals and asking everyone else we know to come to the one hundred person plus capacity hall. The eventual turnout will be intriguing. (The next report will cover the meeting and aftermath.)

What comes next is an unrelated commentary written for the sake of arranging my own collection case of comparative values. Hopefully it can be useful to fellow activos.

Reader Interactions

Leave a Reply