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Nature and Art Path for African and Taíno History Interpretation

Caguas Botanical Garden’s Flora, Sculptures and Guide Lead the Way
Publication of Discovery: Sept. 30, 2021
Issue: September, 2021

Nature and art commingle in Caguas Botanical Garden’s pathway for visitors to amusingly gain knowledge about history and culture details regarding Puerto Rico’s African and Taíno ancestry. During a pleasant guided walking tour in this natural area in the Municipality of Caguas, Puerto Rico, description of sculptures and identification of flora served as prelude to such learning.

“Arboleda ancestral africana”, the botanical garden’s area that commemorates Puerto Rico’s African heritage, is home of two artistic creations made by Samuel Lind. We could not stop staring at a sculpture named “Osaín”, which has an outstanding carved figure of an African with huge tree roots as legs and over the body. Our tour guide, Lisjanelle Ortiz, said that the roots represent mangroves which are related to African slaves in Puerto Rico who escaped and hid in mangroves. She further showed vejigante mask and drum figures carved in such sculpture and which are emblematic of Afro-Caribbean culture in Puerto Rico. According to Samuel Lind, an artist who has devoted his life to honor Puerto Rico’s African heritage through artwork, the Osaín sculpture represents botany, medicinal herbs, and all nature. Osaín is a divinity of Yoruba religion native of Nigeria, Africa, that is invoked as healer. + We also looked closely at an artistic bench where African symbols are depicted on its back and Africa’s figure is creatively shown in the handrail area.

In addition, vegetation native of African countries and grown in Puerto Rico have been planted in “Arboleda ancestral africana”. Lisjanelle showed the flamboyant, African tulip and tamarind trees, plantain plants, and coconut palms as she said that such were imported by Spaniards to this Caribbean island during the Spanish Crown ruling era. This plant life can be seen in numerous spots while exploring Puerto Rico. On the other hand, the tour guide showed a distinct tree native of Africa which is not regularly grown in Puerto Rico: the sausage tree (Kigelia africana). Its fruits resemble a russet potato.

Afterwards, we walked in “Arboleda ancestral taína”, a natural area where Taíno indigenous people’s customs are recognized. Lisjanelle pointed out stone sculptures made by local artisan Juan Santos Torres also known as Picapiedras de Guavate. The sculptures represent Taíno indigenous females and males doing routine chores. While looking at these, the tour guide said that Taíno women normally engaged in cleaning, planting, and taking care of and feeding their children while Taíno men were the ones who hunted and fished. She added that Taíno women joined the men in battle to combat their enemy during war times between indigenous tribes. Nearby this spot, the tour guide showed an achiote tree and said that Taínos used achiote fruit to prepare a natural sunblock and its natural pigment to paint their faces for purposes of battle or areito costumes.

As we walked further, we saw the reproduction of a batey. As Lisjanelle showed petroglyph imitations carved on limestones and volcanic rocks, she mentioned that batey is the area where Taínos performed areitos (ceremonial dances involving chants) and played a game known as batú. One of the stone artworks represents the chair where a cacique (Taíno chief) would sit down and watch areitos or batú games.

Then we had very special experiences on two spots. The first one was when we reached a place where we relaxed while appreciating Caguitas River and its natural surroundings. Lisjanelle mentioned that petroglyphs can be seen on some huge rocks in this location. The other one occurred when we walked a trail and noticed that part of a tree trunk has the shape of an African face’s side view. It is stunning! You can look at the picture in our photo gallery.

Our story highlights how art and nature contributed for an interesting history and culture interpretation in Caguas Botanical Garden. However, the guided tour encompasses visits to additional points where more information about Puerto Rico’s history is given. Those interested in a guided walking tour may contact the Caguas Botanical Garden at 787-653-0470.

+ Escultura Osaín. Department of Cultural Development, Municipality of Caguas.

http://caguas.gov.pr/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Informaci%C3%B3n-de-la-Escultura-Osa%C3%ADn.pdf

tour provider: Caguas Botanical Garden
book here
where the crew ate: At Home
photograph by: N. Michelle Rodríguez

Note: This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all details with the pertinent businesses before planning your trip. Please be cautious. The company behind this publication assumes no responsibility for your safety when participating in the activities mentioned in this article. You are responsible for confirming whether you are capable of participating in any of these activities or tours, regardless of the effort level or any other information provided in this website.

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ecotreasures ® staff: “A guided walk in Caguas Botanical Garden is a distinctive way to immerse in Puerto Rico’s culture.”

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