Papa Rubio’s Farm in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic by Melany Garcia Abreu
Updated: May 20
When I was 12 years old, I traveled to my grandparents’ house in the Dominican Republic with my mother for two months during summer vacation. It had been years since my last visit and I was excited to experience life on a smaller scale, compared to my life in New York City. Going to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic meant that I would endure extreme heat by a blazing sun that could only be cooled by the taste of sweet juicy mangos and the calm wind in the evenings as I rocked in the rocking chairs on my grandma’s front porch. Being a city girl, there were lots of things I was not used to in the small barrio my mother grew up in. Every few hours the electricity would cut out and I could hear my neighbors yell out “se fue la luz! ” During these hours I would sit on the front porch, watching the people on foot and motorcycles, making their way through the streets.
One day in August, my mom and I accompanied my grandpa, Papa Rubio, to his farm in San Cristobal. We traveled there on Papa Rubio’s camioneta , with the windows rolled down to enjoy the humid island breeze and the smell of fresh earth. My grandpa’s piece of the farm was mountainous and filled with tall green trees, bushes, and a pumpkin patch. He had pigs, goats, chickens, and horses as well. As he showed us around the land, I remember being impressed by the richness of it all. There was something different about Caribbean nature that I had not experienced before: the air was fresher, the colors more vibrant, and the fruits were as natural as can be. I saw large green pumpkins, small green bananas called rulos , limes, avocados, and mangos. My grandpa’s farm workers were busy tending to the land as we walked around, they all made sure to say hello to us and answer any questions we had about the crops. At the time, I didn’t know there were other kinds of platanos , I thought there was only one kind, but I learned that rulos were a smaller version of these. They are prepared by peeling the skin, boiling the fruit and accompanying it with fried salami and cheese or eggs cooked in different ways.
I remember being afraid of walking through the farm because of the steep hills. I thought I would fall if I took one wrong step. My grandpa was in his early eighties at the time, he was tall and skinny for the most part, with a round belly. He wore a short-sleeved light blue shirt, dark grey slacks, sneakers and a Yankees cap. Although he wasn’t as strong as he used to be, he reached out his hand to me and helped me walk down the hills so I wouldn’t be afraid of falling. We took lots of avocados home that day, enough for at least a couple weeks lunch. After that visit to my Papa Rubio’s farm, my connection to food and the earth in my mother’s land grew deeper, I truly learned the beauty and value of the earth.
A few years after our visit to the farm, my grandpa decided to sell his piece of land. He came to this decision because he was getting older and he could no longer visit the farm as often as he did before. My mother and aunts would not take on this responsibility either, so it was best to just sell the land and let someone else enjoy its fruits and vegetables. It was tough for me to hear that the farm had been sold but I resigned to the reasoning behind the decision and was happy that another family would benefit from such a lush piece of land. Although I doubt I’d ever own a whole farm, I still hope to continue my family’s connection to agriculture in the future through gardening.
Pictures from top left to bottom: Rulos growing on a palm tree, a landscape view of part of the farm, another view of the farm, a picture of twelve-year- old me with some pigs and chickens.