Charity and Painting: 02

El Farito

About the Painting

“El Farito,” as it is known in South Florida within the Latin community, is the beach at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State park in Miami. The park’s best known feature is a lighthouse, hence the nickname. It was built in 1825. As a kid, my extended family would gather at the park and have daylong cookouts. They were unplanned family reunions of sorts. My parents would drive up to the main entrance early in the morning before the park even opened. Surprisingly, several other families had the same idea and were in line already before us. We all wanted a prime location with benches and a grill under the shade of tall Australian pine trees. Fresh tropical fruit, chips, hot dogs, burgers and, of course, “carne asada” were served up and devoured. My cousins and I would navigate to avoid the tiny, painful pine cones that riddled the floor under the tree canopy as we sprinted to and from the water. We played at the beach; built sandcastles, which were mere lumps of sand; and snorkeled the rocky jetty next to the lighthouse to look for tiny colorful fish. The days felt short even though we stayed until the park closed at sundown.

We no longer have those impromptu reunions.

It is tough to pinpoint a reason why we no longer do that. One reason may be the park’s destruction by hurricane Andrew in August 1992 which kept us away. I visited the park a few years after Andrew. It was not the same. The benches and grills were there. But the tree canopy was gone. In its place were seedlings. Ironically, those pine trees with the spiny pine cones were of a non-native species in Florida. Andrew got rid of trees that park rangers and environmentalists had tried to get rid of for decades. Thank you Mother Nature.

Another reason why we may have stopped the gatherings at the park could be that “the kids” grew up, assimilated and are now raising families of their own. Some are now living in different areas of South Florida. Others live out of Florida. At the time, we were newly arrived immigrants. The reunions were like support groups for the grown ups. They shared their individual experiences as they learned how to navigate this new world.

It was about a decade after my initial visit after Andrew that I visited the park. My wife and daughter accompanied me. Those seedlings are now beautiful mature trees. Gone are those painful pine cones. Kids could run around barefoot without the fear of those dreadful pine cones. The beach is more beautiful than I can recall. We explored the rocky jetty, as I did when I was a kid. The tiny colorful fish were still there.

If you would like this painting, donate to the Coral Reef Alliance and be the first to contact me with proof of the donation. You can e-mail me or message me via Facebook.

About the Charity

This week’s charity is the Coral Reef Alliance. The Coral Reef Alliance works with different groups from around the world to restore and protect coral reefs. It partners with the communities living near the reef to ensure success of the programs. Some of the specific work they do is improve water quality, as coral reefs need clean water to thrive; ensure sustainable fisheries by establishing Marine Protected Areas — overfishing can harm the reef ecosystem; develop sustainable financing so that the local organizations they work with can pay for the conservation activities; improve reef management so those responsible for the creation and enforcement of the protected areas have the tools they need.