PARADISE IS AN ISLAND
“Then a finch, quite daring, landed on his finger. He was not surprised because he had heard many stories of finches that landed on the head and hands of people to drink form their glasses or do whatever. So he decided to enjoy this welcome to the islands. He kept his hand motionless and said softly to the bird: Which of the thirteen species of finches do you belong to?”
Before the original sin, the Bible tells us, Adam and Eve strolled contentedly and always very uncomplicated by that beautiful garden. The animals, innocent, without caution, approached them to eat from their hands and that was precious. Then, as you know, everything went to hell -never better said-, with the apple that Eva -the woman, always the woman- fed her dumb husband. With the expulsion, which is already ugly in itself, they not only became exiles, something worse happened: human-nature harmony was lost and the following generations of children of the first exiles had to get used to scary, elusive and distrustful animals.
Whether or not we believe in this story -maybe it’s better not to because we’re going to talk about where Darwin got the idea of the theory of evolution- the truth is that the Garden of Eden has always been painted like a fantastic place, wonderful, magical, for the abundance of life and its innocence. That was lost with sin, what a disgrace.
Except in one place.
Galapagos Islands preserve that marvel of paradise that is neither its landscape nor its vegetation, although they are too, but it is mainly the confidence and tranquility that fills all the forms of life that live there. They are, without fear, what they have come to be in the world. Believe me, there is not a more extraordinary sensation than watching animals with no fear in their eyes. Because yes, you can see all the species of the world in a big zoo, but a zoo is not a place for an animal, and everyone, even if we go, and even enjoy it, deep down we know it. If we look closely we will see sadness and fear in their eyes.
Galapagos` animals, the true owners of the Enchanted Islands -what an appropriate and beautiful name-, live their lives exposed to the fascinated scrutiny of visitors: they give birth, eat, feed their young, fly, crawl, swim, fight, sleep, sunbathe and play, yes, they play with each other. This is the only Sea World in the world where nobody has taught animals not to be afraid. There, in those volcanic islands, birds, mammals and reptiles have no predators and go through the stages of existence with a forceful and enviable peace.
Ask whoever has been there: the magic, the charm, the prodigious thing is the calmed beauty of its fauna. When you least expect it, for example at a dock or in San Cristobal Plaza, you will find sea lions taking a nap on public benches. When you least expect it, for example during breakfast, dozens of birds will come attracted by your bread or fried plantains. When you least expect it, too, a sea turtle will munch from the grass at the bottom of the sea in front of your eyes -eyes with a visor, of course- with that tranquility of them, so prehistoric.
In San Cristóbal, there is no need to go anywhere to see its most famous inhabitants, the animals: you get off the plane and walk a short distance to the sea and there they are. Living prodigy, the beach, where you will find dozens of sea lions of all ages and sizes as tourists who rest under the tropical sun (no, they do not need sunscreen) and swim in the Pacific, agile and elastic as experts in synchronized swimming, along with astonished visitors. This Island would not be as beautiful and unforgettable without its fauna. This Island would be something less than Paradise if they did not coexist so naturally with people.
Although they have been living there without fear for thousands of years, and, as Kurt Vonnegut wrote in his extraordinary novel called Galápagos:
“I could stay here another million years and all that time, I’m sure, it would not be enough for the dumb birds to come to understand that people are dangerous. Yes, as I said, they still dance and dance in the mating season.”
Let’s dance, then, like them.