Our local coconuts
Discovering a sign on a nearby house that reads (in both Spanish and English), “I am home between 2 and 4. I hope you are too” has got me wondering about the secret life of Barra. I’m looking for overgrown alleyways, rumors and misinformation. Adam comments that the largest coconut plantation in the world is right here—“I heard that somewhere.” One evening we visit his friend Armando, who lives on a dirt road at the edge of town in a shed filled with wood and tools. A profusion of basil grows up around an abandoned hatchback near the tarp that covers the entrance. The shed verges on an expanse of grass and tall coconut trees. When we arrive, Armando is out hacking down weeds with a machete to reduce the mosquito population in his living space. This evening he is given to sudden, apparently incongruous suggestions. Would we like some fresh bread—very fresh and hot? Turns out he’s heard the approach of the minivan that brings pan dulce and bolillos through the barrio. As dusk falls, we eat rolls and drink milk from plastic cups. When he was a boy, Armando worked husking coconuts—before all the turistas and jubilados (which means retired people!), coconuts were the main industry around here, and their husks were used for charcoal. Armando says that he hears coconuts fall in the night. He machetes some open for us and makes a spoon with the husk to lift out the meat. “Give me this baby and make yourselves another one,” he says tenderly as we consume our coconut, holding her posed in the crook of his arm. The conversation turns to milk, and what happens when cows get into the chiles: leche chileada. I start thinking about the possibilities. Then I wonder if the cows don’t get really uncomfortable. Armando considers the question and offers that if cows find some limes, they won’t eat just one, they will eat a whole tree. So chiles probably don’t bother them either. Later he hikes out into the green and finds the coconut he heard falling last night—a young one, right where he thought it would be.
Doors made by Armando, appreciatively documented by Adam