Sunday, September 4, 2011

Jardín Botánico La Laguna

I knew I couldn’t spend the day in front of the computer, so I decided to visit the Jardín Botánico La Laguna, in Antiguo Cuscatlán, right next to San Salvador.

This is a place that Beth and I enjoyed a lot when we worked here. The botanical garden, of which a small but well-planted part is open to the public. It’s a refuge of green, of tranquility, filled with plants, insects, birds and sometimes even animals. There’s a little irony in this because, although I’ve always liked Antiguo Custcatlan—at least passing through on the bus—it always seemed so well-maintained and community-oriented, at least in appearance—the garden is in an industrial area—big cement plants, grain plants, industrial nursery. You have to walk through that area to get to the entrance, but once inside you’re in a different world.

When we were here for six months as Fulbright scholars, we even bought plants from their big nursery for our little back yard.

When Beth and I were here, though we certainly loved seeing birds, we weren’t the more serious bird watchers we were to become. Today, I went to the garden in large part to see if I could find some interesting birds.

I got there by filling my pocket with “coras” and taking two buses in each direction—the buses haven’t changed much in these years, though the minis have. On many, of not all routes, there are both “regular” buses—a lot of them old school buses, or buses of that style—and mini buses that run the same route. They are not from the same company, but are in competition with each other, and they show it. They race to pass each other to get to waiting passengers first.. These days, the mini buses are a lot more comfortable than they used to be, though still very crowded. It’s clear that they’re much more controlled than they used to be, and have to pick up passengers at bus stops. What a concept! They tried to enforce that a couple of years ago in Bogotá, but gave up…

What is different is the music the drivers play—now I hear a lot of reggaeton (a sort of hip-hop strongly influenced by reggae, or perhaps vice versa), and I’m not sure it even existed 16 years ago. Or if it did, we didn’t hear it much.

When I first got to the park, I felt a little frustrated—I could hear a lot of birds, but they were well hidden in the thick foliage. And they were new birds to me; I didn’t know the songs—except for House Wren and Great Kiskadee. But in the end I got some help from a few birds called Rufous-naped Wrens. A small group—maybe four or five— were making a terrific racket, making what were clearly alarm calls and acting very agitated. Their behavior started to attract other species of birds. Later, they did the same thing. So I did get to see a few birds—though a fellow I talked to there told me I should come back some day just before they close in the afternoon to see more—maybe.

Anyway, here are some pictures from the garden—I hope you like them.

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