The Flamboyant Tree's Emblematic Representation of Puerto Ricans' Heart and Soul
Warmth, Radiance, Appreciation and Strength
By N. Michelle Rodríguez Amadeo
Issue: July 2019
The flamboyant tree, also known as the flame tree or royal poinciana (Delonix regia), is a 20-to-50-feet high tree native to Madagascar that stands out for its grandiose umbrella-shaped crown with gorgeous bright red-orange flowers, 40-to-60-feet branch spread, and voluminous trunk or trunks that grow up to 50 inches or more in diameter. +
For decades, the flamboyant tree has been a characteristic flora of Puerto Rico’s tropical colorful scenery. Yet, I appreciate this tree as a symbol beyond Puerto Rico’s beautiful nature—I believe the flamboyant tree to be a vivid representation of Puerto Ricans per se.
Below I share my interpretation as to why I esteem the flamboyant tree as a true emblem of Puerto Ricans’ personality and character, considering symbolic similarities between three main features of the flamboyant tree and Puerto Rican people.
A) The Flamboyant Tree’s Splendor
The flamboyant tree’s glamorous and radiant red-orange blossom represents overall Puerto Ricans’ warmth, lively spirit, and passion for their culture. In general, Puerto Ricans are well known for their friendly and kind attitude towards people whether these are fellow Puerto Ricans, immigrants or travelers. Also, they tend to be energetic and show lots of enthusiasm towards having fun. Traditional festivities, music and dances, such as salsa, plena and bomba, are evidence of Puerto Ricans’ cheerfulness and vigor.
B) The Flamboyant Tree’s Surface Roots
The flamboyant tree’s surface roots are strong enough to lift sidewalks. + These powerful roots represent the basic deep-rooted moral values and virtues that typically characterize Puerto Ricans as good and tenacious people. Examples of these values and virtues are explained as follows:
(1) Kindness- Overall, Puerto Ricans are sympathetic people who care for people’s general well being.
(2) Compassion- Puerto Ricans tend to show awareness of others’ misfortunes and a true desire to relieve people from pain and suffering whether these are related to family matters, health conditions, excruciating circumstances or other adversities.
(3) Generosity- Puerto Ricans are known for providing help to those in need even if it means making sacrifices or sharing their own resources.
(4) Humility- Puerto Rican people as a whole do not think they are better than others. They do show pride for their country, culture and moral values, but commonly they are not egocentric or arrogant.
(5) Respect- Puerto Rican people ordinarily show respect towards their country per se, people, free speech, and patriotic matters such as Puerto Rico’s culture and history.
(6) Fortitude- Normally, Puerto Ricans courageously confront adversities or hardships.
(7) Perseverance- Puerto Ricans generally do not give up on their efforts to achieve their goals and objectives in spite of difficulties.
C) The Flamboyant Tree’s Ability to Strengthen and Recover
Though the flamboyant tree’s branches are susceptible to be broken, pruning prevents their breakage and fosters the development of a strong tree structure. Also, the flamboyant tree recovers quickly after losing some limbs. +
The flamboyant tree’s capability to undergo a process so that the tree fortifies represents Puerto Ricans’ resilience: the capacity to adjust and stand during times of misfortunes and extreme hardships beyond control, emotionally recover afterwards and even become stronger souls.
In sum, the flame tree is an emblematic representation of Puerto Ricans’ heart and soul made of love, respect and courage. Puerto Rican people’s essence and resulting moral values and virtues draw on the energy that has distinguished Puerto Ricans worldwide.
As you will never forget the beauty of a flamboyant tree, you will always remember Puerto Ricans’ radiant and vibrant identity.
Note: A variety of Delonix regia tree is the Delonix regia var. Flavida, which blooms yellow flowers. (Source: https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/18521)
+ Sources: (1) Gilman, E.F., and Watson, D.G. (1993, Nov,) Delonix regia: Royal Poinciana, U.S. Forest Service Fact sheet ST-228; (2) Gilman, E.F., Watson, D. G., Klein, R. W., Koeser, A. K., Hilbert, D.R. and Mc Lean, D.C. (1993, Nov., Rev.: 2013, Feb.) Delonix regia: Royal Poinciana, Environmental Horticulture Dept., IFAS Extension, Univ. of Florida, Pub. ENH387, (3) Royal poinciana, IFAS Extension, Univ. of Florida, Gardening Solutions website, Retrieved from http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/trees-and-shrubs/trees/royal_poinciana.html, and (4) Little, E.I. and Wadsworth, F.H. (1964, July) Common Trees of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, Agriculture Handbook No. 249, Forest Service, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, p. 176.
Photo by N. Michelle Rodríguez Amadeo
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