Caminemos la senda, la senda hermosa,
la senda hermosa del amor a la naturaleza.

Los árboles mis hermanos, nos dan su aire y fuerza.  Sus hojas llaman la lluvia,
bendición del planeta Tierra.

Caminemos la senda, la senda hermosa, la senda hermosa del amor a la naturaleza.

Desde tiempos ancestrales, somos una gran familia: la tierra, el viento, las aguas,
las plantas, los animales.

Caminemos la senda, la senda hermosa, la senda hermosa del amor a la naturaleza . . .
María Benedetti

foto: Karla Claudio

María Benedetti is an ethnobotanical researcher and educator raised in New York City.  A student of anthropology, linguistics, literature and the art of writing, she has worked as an educational journalist (culture, ecology, environment, botanical medicine) since the 1980s.  Her maternal family left their native city of Mayagüez during the 1920s in order to start anew in Manhattan.

 

Deeply identified with Puerto Rican music, food and family celebrations, María studied Spanish in New York and Sevilla.  She also studied Puerto Rican literature, history, culture and folklore at Hunter College.  She combined these interests with her love for nature, cultivated by her father’s Hungarian/Irish family.  After ten years of ethnobotanical studies in New York with Susun S. Weed, "Wildman" Steve Brill and with Hudsonia – an environmental education NGO associated with Bard College – she travelled to Puerto Rico for the first time in 1987, eager to learn about and write about the Puerto Rican tradition of botanical medicine.  This experience is documented in her first book, Earth and Spirit: Medicinal plants, remedies and spiritual healing from Puerto Rico (¡Hasta los baños te curan!)

 

Upon moving to Borikén in 1989, she began work at the Sea Grant Program at UPR, Mayagüez campus, where she acted as the writer/editor of Sea Grant in the Caribbean and principal journalist for El Boletín Marino.  She also produced the book Palabras de Pescadores: Entrevistas con Pescadores artesanales de Puerto Rico 1991-1995.

 

Thanks to support from the Centro de Investigación y Desarrollo of UPR Mayagüez, she also produced Sembrando y Sanando en Puerto Rico: Tradiciones y visiones para un futuro verde (1996).  That same year, Benedetti moved to Matrullas, Orocovis where – with sustainable farmer Pablo Díaz Cuadrado – she practiced beekeeping, woodland coffee production and ecological agriculture (greens, root vegetables, medicinal plants).  She also began to offer workshops and courses as part of the agro-touristic project known as Verde Luz.  She soon produced Bendiciones Botánicas para Boriquén en el 2000: un almanaque de ciencia y folclor, sponsored by the School of Pharmacy of UPRS’ Medical Sciences Campus.

 

In 2001, she moved to Cayey and began to study Plant Spirit Medicine with Eliot Cowan, master of classical Chinese medicine and shaman of the Huichol tradition.  She translated his book Plant Spirit Medicine into Spanish (Alma Verde: Chamanismo botánico para la sanación spiritual).  

 

In 2004, Benedetti began to work as part of the research and planning group for the Botanical Garden at Caguas.  There, she did five, in-depth ethnobotanical studies about the trees planted at the Garden.  Abbreviated versions of her work were published in Spanish as guidebooks for the Taíno, African and Hacienda arboreta.  There, she also planned and co-directed (with the farmer and master craftsman José Rivera Rojas) the “Jíbaro House” or Casa Jíbara, its ecological family farm and the guariquitén of SembrArte, PT on an acre within the Garden.  She was president of SembrArte, PT, a worker-owned corporation (2008-2010) and edited José Rivera Rojas’s book Desde Borinquen Atravesada: Apuntes para una sustentabilidad jíbara.

 

In 2009, Benedetti began to collaborate with artist and Montessori educator Jacqueline Negrón Flores.  Together they created an interactive book about the value of 12 common tree species in Puerto Rico.  This book, 12 Árboles Amigos: Juegos y retos etnobotánicos para Borikén, is dedicated to Puerto Ricans aged 7 to 107, and integrates botanical and anthropological knowledge with island history, art, geography, math, community studies, home remedies, crafts, reading, writing, games and much more.   Her latest book, a novel: Dolores y Milagros, about cultural history, integrity and healing, is being translated into English during 2017.  

 

Today, María Benedetti directs BotaniCultura.  Her educational offerings include lively conferences, plant identification excursions, meditations with trees, hands-on workshops, empirical folklore exchanges, and a 25-hour “fundamentals and certification course” (Bendiciones Botánicas) focused on the recognition, understanding and uses of Puerto Rico’s medicinal herbs, bushes and trees.  She also offers an on-line/ersidential course for Puerto Ricans living off island. (See workshops).

 

María Benedetti enjoys collaborating with diverse groups committed to ecological, cultural and spiritual evolution (Casa Pueblo, la Feria de Agricultura Sana y Alimentos Alegres, Casa Pueblo, la Cooperativa Orgánica Madre Tierra, la Chiwinha, el Llamado del Caracol, Arboladas, el Departamento de la Comida, La Cosecha y el Mercado Natural del Viejo San Juan, among others.   She is a founding member of Cayey para el Mundo, created to promote green, sustainable development in Cayey.

foto por Raisa Bonnet

foto por Raisa Bonnet

foto por Thais Llorca

foto por Angela Mari

foto por Raisa Bonnet

foto por Raisa Bonnet

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