Live death of a banana tree

The new lava flow from the volcano descends rapidly towards the sea and, from the mountain of La Laguna, Antonio Ángel Brito, 69, silently watches how the 2,000-square-meter banana tree that he managed to gather between what he inherited from his mother and “others bits ”that he bought from his uncle is about to disappear. The river of lava, which moves silently when it engulfs houses or roads, goes crazy when it comes across plastics from greenhouses, chemicals that were not removed in time from plantations or water from cisterns and underground pipes. Then, a chain of explosions and fumaroles of different colors warns of their arrival. Brito, who has a weathered face and pale eyes, observes the disaster and tries to keep the emotion short. “I’m having a hard time,” he admits, “but in front of the family I have to restrain myself. When they don’t see me, I fall apart ”.

A couple from the Civil Guard evict, around noon, the onlookers who have hunted to the top of the mountain to observe an overwhelming spectacle. To the left, about four kilometers wrongly counted, the volcano is still unleashed, spewing fire and chunks of lava the size of buildings, roaring mercilessly. Although the day is bright on the island of La Palma, the ash-laden smoke creates a shadowy space over the volcano only broken by the incandescent wound from the wash. The agents let the neighbors stay a while longer, who, like Brito, have come to bid farewell to the lands that are also their livelihood and legacy. “Here it is customary,” he explains, “for parents to distribute what they own equally among their children, either a plot to build a house or a farmland. I have two daughters, and I had already written down what corresponded to them from the banana plantation. Now you see… ”.

View of the Cumbre Vieja volcano yesterday from the town of Tajuya.
PACO PUENTES (EL PAIS)

While the lava continues to approach his banana tree, Antonio Ángel Brito sums up his life in four strokes: “I have worked since I was little. At the age of 13, the father fell ill and I had to help. I even left the books at school, I didn’t even go looking for them. Since then I have dedicated myself to agriculture. My father was a good dexter and it can be said that I inherited his ability. Deshijar – Brito hastens to explain before the evident ignorance of the peninsular reporter towards a word that is still used in the Canary Islands and America and even comes in the dictionary of the RAE – is to remove from the plant the children that do not serve and leave only one for May the following year bear another fruit ”. In case there is any doubt, Brito crouches on the ash-mixed earth and draws a picture. Then he continues: “The truth is that I was good at it and they even called me three times from Madeira to teach the technique, and also the farmers’ association here on La Palma hired me to give some courses.”

The fact is that, among some things and others, the farmer who could not go to school to help his sick father, managed to buy some land in this fertile area of ​​Todoque, not far from where the first lava tongue buried Two weeks ago the entire neighborhood, with its parish built in the 1950s – not by the episcopate or by a rich blessed, but by the efforts of its peseta-peseta neighbors, who had them, and if not their work – with his school, his outpatient clinic, his supermarket, his hairdresser. “I shouldn’t complain too much,” Antonio Ángel Brito ditches, “because I’m not better than anyone else, and the volcano has left others with nothing.” He says goodbye with a handshake just as the lava from the volcano is about to erase his 2,000 square meters of bananas forever. He walks away from the mountain surrounded by several friends, without looking back.

At the summit, only a wide assortment of security forces remains. Soldiers from the UME, local police from El Paso, civil guards who are also neighbors and other younger ones, stuffed into their black uniforms from the special groups. There are also some people from a drone operator who are doing tests to tie water and food to one of the devices to try to get them close to dogs that have been trapped – or abandoned, who knows – between plantations isolated by two tongues of lava.

Not far away, on the esplanade of the church of Tajuya, Noelia García, the mayor of Los Llanos de Aridane does not move away from her binoculars, oblivious to the commotion generated around her by the visit of the Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles. García is concerned about the speed of the lava flow, the difficulty of guaranteeing the water supply, because there are no arms to remove the ash from the roofs, and because, with the fall of the last house, the Todoque neighborhood now only exists in the memory of your neighbors.

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