Our Cupey Belts have finally arrive to our e-store! Some of you have been asking about the Cupey tree. I must confess until artisan Isaac Laboy entered my life, I had no idea what a Cupey tree was. I knew of the Cupey neighborhood in San Juan Puerto Rico where boxer Tito Trinidad is from. However, a tree that not only Isaac used but the Taino indians in Puerto Rico used for centuries? How come I had no idea? Growing up in Puerto Rico no one taught me about the versatility and wonders of the Cupey tree. Well, I guess is all part of growing up in the oldest colony in the world. Education about Puerto Rico’s natural resources is very limited in the island’s schools because it is associated with subversiveness and rebellion instead of sustainability.
The Cupey tree can grow up to more than 60 feet tall. It is known in English language as the Pitch Apple tree because of the “apple like” fruit it produces. It is endemic to the Caribbean. It has a fruit that is apparently poisonous to humans. However, fruit bats love to eat it. The leaves are thick and indians used to employ them as some sort of paper. The flower is beautiful and the fruit looks like a flower when it opens. Once the tree is adult it develops these aerial roots that sort of “strangle” other trees, but it does not kill them. The Taino indians used the tree resin of the leaves as glue to build play balls. They used its aerial roots to make different items employing different basketry and weaving techniques. Some of them were similar to the ones used by Isaac Laboy to weave our hats and belts for Spring 11. The more I know aboyut this tree, the more fascinated I grow by it. Next time I go to Puerto Rico I will document my visit to Isaac’s studio. In Quebradilla’s where he has his studio, there is some of the oldest Cupey trees in the island. In the meantime, here are some of the fruits of my research: