top of page

What’s up in that tree?

Sharon - Coconut 79

Guests who come to New Cambium are often curious about the unusual “gourd tree” that grows in Palm Gardens.  It’s the tree that looks like it has green cantaloups growing off its branches. Those gourds, called Higueros, have an interesting history.

Once upon a time, before European colonizers arrived and called this island “Hispanola” the indigenous Arawak, Taino people called this land Ayti Kiskeya-Bohio, which translates to “mother of all lands”.

In Taino mythology the Higuero represented the womb of mother earth. That means we have “the womb of the mother of all lands” right here on New Cambium land.

Last year we invited Mary Jane Garcia, a lovely woman of Taino ancestry, to visit New Cambium to share a Higuero making ceremony with us.  Through story, ceremony, song - and a little work - we each came away with a little glimpse of the Taino culture and special Higuero bowls that we’re now using around our homes.

The Higuero has many practical uses including food storage, water vessels, utensils, and ceremonial rattles.  To the Tainos it was also seen as sacred. The Higuero is woven into Taino creation myths, with the symbolic meaning of being a carrier of life.

As a carrier of life, the Higuero is a womb which carries seeds and is symbolized by the maraca, a musical instrument, you might be familiar with. As a water vessel, the Higuero is also seen as a carrier of life since water is essential.

Mary Jane also shared several of the medicinal uses of the Higuero pulp but I don’t think any of us have been daring enough to try those home remedies out.

When walking along the river keep your eyes open, in addition to that well-known Palm Gardens tree, New Cambium is home to several more Higuero trees.  And you just might spy some Higuero lamp shades, candle holders, serving bowls, and bird houses when you come to visit some our homes. 

bottom of page