Managua hasn't yet returned to the state of nature, but it does turn out that people love trees -- they give shade and fruit -- and prefer to keep them around given the opportunity. Although people love trees, developers don't. Trees complicate electrical cables and water lines and cut into the profit margin, which is why housing developments in the U.S. always seem to scrape the land bare before they start building. When we visited San Salvador, that city also seemed to be a concrete jungle, clearly more developed and wealthier than Managua, but much less green.
That first week, we were also amused to find out that the street we live on was divided in two by an enormous mango tree, planted right smack dab in the middle of the road, preventing any through traffic. (The other entrance to our street is blocked by a memorial to a local kid who died fighting in the revolution.) Cars and motorcycles do come down the street, but it isn't easy. Here too, history is important. Our neighborhood was built back in the '60s, and originally the narrow streets were designed as pedestrian alleys or walking spaces. Many residents used the common space for trees or gardens or public sitting areas. As cars have become more common, many of these andenes have been paved over, little by little with a patchwork of varieties of hand-mixed concrete. All so people can park their car right next to their house. A friend who lived here years before us told me a story about the civil disobedience carried out by some of the neighborhood abuelitas when the decision was made to pave over their gardens.
mango (Mangifera indica) here and ours is the type that doesn't usually get sold in the markets. But it is still pretty delicious, and once they ripen, every chavalo in the neighborhood seems to be climbing trees (or throwing rocks) to bring down the harvest. The peak comes in March, and usually comes too fast for us to consume all the bounty. In fact, there are weeks where we are mostly concerned with carting sacks of rotting mangos out to the trash pickup. I never would have thought I could get sick of eating mangos, but the smell of rotting fruit can do that to you.
Of course, California is a desert; things work differently in the tropics, where water is abundant and bursting fecundity is the rule. And sure enough the neighbor's palo grew back in no time. This past week the grand-daddy mango in the center of the street came due for a haircut. The trimmers came and cut it back to a stump the shape of a gnarled fist (at right). We also gave our two mangos a bit of a trim, although not as drastic. Right now there is hardly any shade on our house and we can feel the difference. So once again we're hoping that the rains come soon and the trees re-sprout, putting forth shady, leafy green once more.