The last three street names in the old part of Puerto Vallarta , Colonia Emiliano Zapata, were named for the beauty and utility of three trees; the jacaranda, the naranjo and the camichin. All three of them run north-south, parallel to Insurgentes and east of it.
Calle Jacarandas honours the beauty of the blue-flowered jacaranda tree (Jacaranda mimosifolia ) which grows throughout the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. These beautiful trees grow up to sixty feet tall and just as wide at their crown and have two outstanding features: their unparalleled blue trumpet flowers that grow in clusters and their finely cut, fern-like, dark green foliage.
In Argentina, writer Alejandro Dolina, in his book Chronicles of the Gray Ange, tells the legend of a massive jacarandá tree that grew in Plaza Flores in Buenos Aires and was able to whistle tango songs on demand. I’m sure if you stroll along Calle Jacarandas in Puerto Vallarta late at night that you’ll hear the strains of mariachi music coming from the trees. Same thing?
To the east of Calle Jacarandas is Calle Naranjo, which is named after the orange tree, (Citrus X sinensis). Orange trees were originally grown in China, spread west along the trade routes and, in ancient Greece, were known as the fruit of the gods and believed to be the “golden apples” that Hercules stole. According to impecable sources that famous explorer, Chrsitopher Columbus, brought the first orange seeds to the New World on his second voyage in 1493.
The fragrant orange blossom has been used in decorations at weddings for millenia because this lush evergreen tree can simultaneously produce flowers, fruit and foliage and symbolises fertility and procreation. At the other end of the lifeline, orange trees can reach thirty feet high and live to over a hundred years. Amazing but true!
Of course the best part of the orange tree is its fruit and it’s excellent health properties. If you’re looking for fibre at breakfast, eat an orange. It gives you the same amount of fibre that seven cups of Mr. Kellogg’s corn flakes does and its juice gives you enough Vitamin C for the whole day. No wonder they named a street after this miracle of nature.
Or maybe they didn’t. There’s another meaning of the word “Naranjo”. It is the Pre-Columbian Maya city in the Petén Basin region of Guatemala which was occupied from about 500 B.C. to 950 A.D. and is the second largest Maya city in Guatemala after Tikal. Among its preserved monuments are pyramids, ball courts, observatories, a hieroglyphic stairway, and stone palaces filled with carved sculptures and polychrome stucco. Surviving stele and altars narrate the history of an ancient pilgrimage route that included Naranjo and other cities in modern-day Guatemala and Belize. This city was built between 500 B.C. and A.D. 950 and its buildings are organized into six acropolises. There are 900 other structures so far unearthed from the jungle indicating that an enormous amount of wealth was amassed from numerous military victories.
Archaeologists suggest that Naranjo’s downfall may have been the result of political turmoil and a severe drought .
Naranjo has been part of the Yaxha-Nakum-Naranjo National Park in Guatemala since 2004 and, two years later, was placed on the World Monuments Watch for its cultural and architectural significance.
To the east of Calle Naranjo in downtown P.V. is the last street you reach before crossing Highway 200 and reaching the river; Calle Camichin. Again, this street is named after a tree: the Camichin. It is an excellent shade and ornamental tree, has small, edible, fig-like fruit and is the same kind of tree that Eve and Adam found in the Garden of Eden and who used its leaves to cover their nakedness. Hmmm. Really?
What can we find in the way of sustenance in this part of Colonia Emiliano Zapata? Near the river at Jacarandas and Francisca I. Madero is the Escondida Sports bar where, on the last Sunday of November, the TVS are tuned to watch the Grey Cup (CFL fans note!). At Lázaro Cárdenas 520b is Chenan2, one of my favourite restaurants in town and, of course, there is the Mercado Municipal on Lazaro Cardenas which has everything you need: restaurants with home cooked meals, meat and seafood shops, freshly made tortillas, vegetables and fruits and much more. It’s highly recommended for those who want fresh food instead of the, mass-produced, homogeneous, supermarket variety.
Next week we will explore other street names of the city. Until then, happy exploring.