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Entries in Vieques (8)



Beautiful scrap of pottery from the Taíno culture (692 B.C. - 1492 A.D.) in the tiny musuem of Esperanza, Vieques (see Vieques and Descontaminacíon, Rescate, Desarollo) in the northeastern CaribbeanThe museum is operated by the Vieques Conservation and Historical Trust, which was founded in 1984 to save the island's bioluminescent bays. [NOTE: The little clay head is about the size of a nickel].  


Tiles From Warm Climates

Lovely, hand-painted tiles produced by school kids on the island of Vieques (see Vieques and Descontaminacíon, Rescate, and Desarrollo). Starts to get really cold in New York and my thoughts turn to Caribbean islands. [NOTE: I especially like the tile on the upper left with the sea serpent].


Re-Stocking the Shelves

Went to the one relatively large grocery store in Esperanza, Vieques to buy some eggs, but couldn't get in because they were using a fork lift to bring in a new shipment of goods (Coca-Cola) through the front door of the store. And this was the only door. And there was very little clearance (both on the sides and the top). And it took over 15 minutes. [NOTE: I hung around taking pictures (see Descontaminacíon, Rescate, Desarollo) and chatting with the locals, and finally got in to buy eggs.]


The Ceiba Tree

There is a large, beautiful ceiba tree (Ceiba pentandra (L.) Gaertn.) growing in a park on the northern coast of Vieques near the airport. It is reported to be over 300 years old. I was unable to find out anything about the origin or local significance of this tree, although everyone said we should go see it. What I do know is that Ceiba pentandra is a unique species that occurs in all three tropical regions of the world, i.e. neotropics, tropical Asia, tropical Africa, is culturally important to many ethnic groups, e.g. the Maya, and produces fluffy seed fibers ("kapok") that are used to stuff pillows and wrap around blowgun darts - among other things. 



Mangroves are pretty fantastic.  They have adaptations that allow them to live in saltwater. They exhibit vivipary, i.e. the seeds germinate while still on the plant and the propagules fall into the water as fully formed seedlings. They keep the coastline from eroding away. They provide a unique habitat for scores of animals. By trapping sediments in the roots, they actually make new land (a useful characteristic given rising sea levels). Unfortunately, mangrove ecosystems throughout the world are being decimated by coastal development. Go here or here for more about the currently dire situation with mangroves. 

Vieques still has some beautiful stands of red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle  L.), and slight trails have been cut through some of these so that you can skim through in a kayak. Which is how I got this video. [NOTE: The lovely bird hopping through the thicket of mangrove roots (starting at 0:34) is a green heron (Butorides virescens L.).]


Descontaminac√≠on, Rescate, Desarrollo

As is shown in this wonderful mural in one of the neighborhoods of Esperanza, there are still several issues to deal with now that the US Navy has stopped bombing the island.  In particular, the residents are re-organizing to push for the decontamination (descontaminacíon) of the soils and habitats on the eastern and western parts of the island, to rescue (rescate) the land tenure they lost in 1941, and to promote sustainable development (desarrollo) on Vieques, i.e. to not follow the uncontrolled development path of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. [NOTE: I love the creepy U.S. soldiers depicted in the background.]


Punta Arenas

Slow pan off the beach at Punta Arenas (Green Beach) on the western side of the island of Vieques. Couple of points of interest. Notice the beautiful Caribbean Blue color (Pantone®284) of the water. And the shadows of the numerous coral reefs close by. And the fact that there is absolutely no one else around. We found some beautiful shells on this beach. [NOTE: That's Puerto Rico off in the distance (starting at 0:40).]



Have just returned from five days on Vieques, an island municipality of Puerto Rico in the northeastern Caribbean. Wonderful trip with the family.  Beautiful beaches and coral reefs, the world's largest and brightest bioluminescent bay,  super-friendly people, delicious food, and all of this crammed into the central third of the island. Lot of stories here.

U.S. Navy buys the entire eastern and western part of the island during World War II. Local sugar industry collapses. Navy continues to use the island as a weapons dump and a firing  range. People get killed and huge parts of the island get contaminated and littered with unexploded ordnance. After a series of peaceful protests, the Navy withdraws from the island in 2003 and the eastern and western parts are designated as National Wildlife Refuges. 

The beaches within the NWR are lovely, but you don't want to go any further inland. [NOTE: Go here for the official Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR) for Vieques.]