Issue - April 2010

April 2010


In this edition, Emma Pedersen puts down on paper her interview with the artist Alejandra Dorado; Husein Meghji gives an insight to his meeting with the past at the Museo Arqueológico; Ed young tells us about the history of aviation in Cochabamba; Paola Garcia Ovando invites us to visit the exhibition of the last two centuries Bolivian sculptors at the Cultural Center Simón I. Patiño ; and ultimately Walter Sánchez lets us know about the traditions and history revolving trees in more...

April 2010

Trees in Cochabamba

Until the middle of twentieth century, the most outstanding willow could be found in Regocijo Square in the small town of Cala Cala

Walter Sanchez

If there is one enduring image of the Cochabamban countryside that really evokes the feeling of the area in pictures and literature, it’s the trees. For their majesty and beauty, el ceibo (chillijchi) and the willow stand out. Although they are no longer commonly found, these trees dominated the countryside until the middle of the twentieth century.

The first description of these trees in the central valley of Cochabamba appears in the work of Nataniel Aguirre. In his novel, ‘Juan de la Rosa’ (written in 1885), an area of Cochabamba is described: “Between the tall spines of the ‘Castilla’ willows, over the tops of the most beautiful native willows and fruit trees, its white towers stand proud with the red roofs of its many houses. At the top of the city, separated by the Rocha river bed, its fertile waters exhausted by irrigation of the area, it extends, finally, to the foot of the mountains, advancing at the same time to the Taquiña gorge and the leafy orchards of Cala Cala. Over its woods of eternal happiness, two or three grand, centuries-old ceibos rise up.” One of these ceibos was found in an idyllic place called El Rosal. In his ‘Diccionario Geográfico del Departmento de Cochabamba’ (1901), Federico Blanco referred to this extraordinary tree: “Rosal – area in the region of Santa Ana de Calacala, province of Cercado…There’s a beautiful, elegantly constructed villa

villa with a public chapel here, and we also find the mighty ceibo, ‘the town’s tree’ whose trunk measures 14 fathoms* in circumference.” The other majestic, century-old ceibo, known as ‘the tree of freedom’, was found on the road between the Rocha River and Regocijo Square in Cala Cala at the intersection which years later would become Av. Libertador Simón Bolívar and Av América. Both trees disappeared in the twentieth century; the first struck by lightning, the second a victim of human action in the 1970s.

One morning,the big willowin RegocijoSquare; prideof Cala Cala,was foundablaze

Until the middle of twentieth century, the most outstanding willow could be found in Regocijo Square in the small town of Cala Cala. In her story, ‘Violín y guitarra’ (appeared/printed 1901), Adela Zamudio offers a first-hand account of this tree: “The big willow that rises in the middle of Regocijo Square (is) a silent witness to the loves, hatreds and intrigues of ten successive generations who have come every November to whisper in its shade.” Its trunk also bears the marks of disputes between the ‘spa towns’ of Cala Cala and Quero Quero that came to a head in 1880: “One morning, the big willow in Regocijo Square, pride of Cala Cala, was found ablaze. An incendiary sheet had been put in the hollow of the trunk and putting out the fire was no easy task.” Despite this attack, this tree remained standing through the first few decades of the twentieth century. Years later, José Aguirre Achá remained impressed by its presence and by the stories woven underneath its branches. In his book ‘De los Andes al Amazonas’ (first edition 1901, republished in 1929), he speculates: “There is no love story in Cochabamba that doesn’t feature the thick woods and flowered paths of Cala Cala. How many golden dreams have been confided in the leafy willow in the square? How many melancholic young people have been soothed by the murmur of the streams that wind between the rose bushes that surround the garden?”

But beyond their visual impact, the trees of Cochabamba also form part of the history of the people. Dreams, feuds, affairs, rituals and grudges were all lived out in their shade. The subjective, emotional and ritualized bond between people and trees started to be lost in the 1950s when, as a result of the 1952 Revolution, the people of the city severed their ties with the countryside. Younger generations today see trees as ornamental, or in some – better – cases, as a living element that we need for a good environment that supports all life and helps to counteract climate change. In today’s rational world, the tree has a vital function.

This new appreciation of trees is framed by a global movement to protect and care for our natural environment. For the people of Cochabamba, this vision is also associated with attempts to repair the damage caused by rapid deforestation, which has been accentuated by the arrival of many thousands of immigrants who have a different mental landscape in which trees are not important.

The world is a different place now to that of the nineteenth century and first half of the twentieth century and in order to maintain this awareness of trees and their importance, we need to take action. The first step could be to commit ourselves to the preservation of our trees, acknowledging that they not only form part of our ecological history but also of our personal heritage. In any case, a key measure should be to catalogue and develop an inventory of all the emblematic trees currently standing in Cochabamba. To this effect, a key action is the location of all the exceptional trees found in public and private spaces. Once found, a register of trees should be created, detailing where they were found, their age, any illnesses, structural balance, the degree of risk for the trees that are exposed, the type of work needed, any stories about the tree, photos and text about them and any other information that indicates their value. Ultimately, a select committee – which should include members of the community – should choose the most ‘patriotic’ trees which, being representative of other similar trees, which could be protected by municipal regulations that allow Cochabambinos to enjoy their countryside heritage.

Calendario Abril 2010

Martes 20:
La chirola

Miércoles 21:
Los bolivianos / Le Rideau de sucre

Jueves 22:
Un día más / Un coupable ideal

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