Live death of a banana tree

Antonio Ángel Brito contempla la nueva colada de lava llegando ayer a su finca de plataneras en La Laguna.
Antonio Ángel Brito contemplates the new lava flow arriving yesterday at his banana plantation in La Laguna. PACO PUENTES (EL PAIS)

The new lava flow from the volcano descends rapidly towards the sea, and from the mountain of La Laguna Antonio Ángel Brito, from 69 years, silently watch how the banana tree of 2. 000 square meters that he managed to gather between what he inherited from his mother and “other 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 evicted, around noon, the curious people who have hiked up 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 … ”.

Vista del volcán de Cumbre Vieja ayer desde la localidad de Tajuya.
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 with four lines: “I have worked since I was little. At 13 years the father got sick 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 and managed to buy some lands in this fertile area of ​​Todoque, not far from where the first lava tongue buried the entire neighborhood two weeks ago, with its parish built over the years 50 —not by the episcopate nor by a rich blessed, but by the effort of his neighbors peseta by peseta, who had them, and if not his work, with his school, his outpatient clinic, his supermarket, your 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 forever. 000 square meters of bananas. He walks away from the mountain surrounded by several friends, without looking back.

At the top, there is only a wide assortment of security forces. 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 young people from a drone operator who are doing tests to tie food and water 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 Tajuya church, Noelia García, the mayor of Los Llanos de Aridane She turns 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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