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"When a man moves away from nature, his heart becomes hard"
This work "Saguaro" addresses important and urgent issues related to climate change, poaching and the preservation of a sacred plant for the Native Americans. The survival of Saguaro cacti and the overall ecosystem and biodiversity are being significantly impacted by climate change. Poaching in the animal and plant kingdom fuels a criminal market that ranks fourth on the list of illegal trade, following weapons, drugs, and human trafficking.

We left NYC in the grip of the cold while Phoenix welcomed us in a humid and sultry embrace. Tomorrow we travel north on a route barely traced by Google maps. A few miles with an dedicated underlying playlist are enough to realize that Arizona will have an indelible impact on us. As expected, the few plans on our travel itinerary end up getting lost on other routes.
Nature on this latitude has shaped geological masterpieces of ineffable beauty which seem like an alien planet, it is a succession of heterogeneous rock formations, some erected in improbable balances. White rocks, yellow dust, earth so red that it seems soaked with the blood of the Apache who fell there. It is up to future generations to protect those historic places and fight battles without axes and scalps, as was the case with the "Indian Freedom Religion Act" - passed in 1978 by the US Government - which allowed them to reclaim their ancient spiritual roots founded on the sacredness of the Earth, on everything that originates and lives within it.
Someone told us about the energy vortexes of Sedona, cosmic forces, and encounters with real shamans, becoming a powerful New Age destination. The mysticism that transpires from these places is undeniable; it makes you want to raise your face and talk to the sky, which seems even bigger from here.
We cut Route 66 to push south; a primal call towards the desert, the heat makes you lose your senses, forcing the mirage to waver on the horizon. It is here, on the border with Mexico, that our road trip ends and the one with the Saguaro or Carnegiea Gigantea begins, a giant cactus endemic to the Sonoran Desert, which, in addition to inspiring and dazzling us visually, leads us to considerable facts that fuel our photographic series.
On the red list drawn up by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), it appears as a vulnerable plant, while a third of existing cacti are at risk of extinction. The Saguaro is protected in reserves and national parks. Venerated by the Papago or Tohono O'odham (people of the desert) as a being endowed with personality, they dedicate songs to it, and from the pulp of its fruits, they ferment a wine used in many of their shamanic and propitiatory ceremonies, including the burial of the placentas at the base of the trunk to ensure long life for newborns, they believe that the saguaro has the power to provide protection, guidance, and healing to those who respect it.
The Saguaro suffers from climate change, which forces it into persistent drought, favoring the growth of "alien" species such as the African Cenchrus Ciliaris, which is easy to ignite and causes fires. Threatened by poaching, by those who use it as a target to unload bullets, and by a fortified wall, called the "wall of shame," erected to prevent clandestine migration flows from South America. A barrier that cuts the nation of the Tohono O'odham in two, violating and defiling those ancestral territories, theaters of annual celebrations, magical and secret rites.
Along the fence’s interrupted stretches, abandoned materials rot, complicated to remove and dispose of. The construction methods, the wall, and the remains, in addition to constituting a sacrilege for sacred sites, endanger the existence of plant and animal species of an ecosystem recognized as unique in the world.

Carnegiea Gigantea is one of the most iconic plants on the planet, a symbol of the southwestern desert. It grows slowly and only after about 75 years does it extend its first bizarre, vaguely anthropomorphic branches. It can live to be as much as 200 years old and reach up to 50 feet in height. Majestic and robust, it is capable of adapting to inhospitable environments, but defenseless against the greed of a market that compromises its existence. The desire to own it to decorate private gardens fuels an illegal trade they are stolen because the buyer aspires to mature and imposing specimens and obviously does not have the time to wait for their natural growth.
The poaching network encompasses the animal and plant kingdoms, placing it fourth on the list of the most profitable illegal markets after arms trafficking, drug trafficking, and human trafficking, wildlife illegal trade is worth between 7 and 23 billion dollars a year.
Institutions such as the Saguaro National Park, the Native Plant Protection Act, and native reserves contribute to the protection of this plant. Those who cut them down end up in jail, risking a maximum of 25 years in prison. Even just removing a specimen from your own land requires a permit. Any other form of vandalism, theft, or attempt to transplant the cactus can result in substantial fines and prison sentences.
Saguaro cacti are targets for the joy and practice of "shooters," and there is a folk ballad that tells a true news story of a man, David Grundman, who, due to the strange law of contra and patior, was fatally pierced by the thorns of the Saguaro he had just riddled and cut down, when he carelessly turned his back on it.

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The daylight was a'slippin’
Through the mountains to the east
He grabbed his guns and he mounted up
He was off to say the least
He drove along in silence
A chill was in the air
The monsters had to be cut down
Or they'd soon be everywhere

A menace to the west

His name was David Grundman
A noxious little twerp
Saw the giant plants as the Clanton gang
And himself as Wyatt Earp
So he drove out to the desert
They wouldn't come to town
And Maricopa County
He vowed to shoot them down

A menace to the west

Well he strode up to the first one
Not the largest of the lot
With a lightning move with sidestep
And killed him with one shot
And when the smoke had cleared, the cactus
Had lost that final round
Two hundred years of nature’s work
Lay splattered on the ground


He crossed a small arroyo
Oh the sun was in his eyes
He was looking for the leader
He'd know him by his size
When all at once upon a ridge
The squinting gunman saw
27 feet of succulent
Challenging his draw

A menace to the west

He was slightly disadvantaged
By the angle of the sun
But after all the cactus
Wasn't packing any gun
His finger twitched, he made his move
He drew, his guns did bark
And echoed with the laughter
As the bullets hit their mark

Well the giant cactus trembled
Then came that warning sound
The mighty arm of justice
Came hurling toward the ground
And the gunman staggered backwards
He whimpered and he cried
The Saguaro
Crushed him like a bug
And David Grundman died

Saguaro, Saguaro, Saguaro, Saguaro

David Grundman
A menace to the west

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