Playa Uverito, a long volcanic beach on the southern coast of the Azuero, has six or seven restaurants. It fills with music, families and fiesteros on weekends, but has only one place to eat during the rest of the week and no stores at all. In spite of this limitation, because the beach is so very pleasant it features some lovely homes and hotels, notably the elegant Villa Pelicano. And there is a tale behind its name.
Uverito means, literally, “little uvero.” An uvero is a sea-grape(coccoloba uvifera), which can grow quite large under the right conditions. Apparently there are such conditions at Playa Uverito on Panama’s Azuero Penninsula. The beach and its small village were so named because of a specific tree which, alas, is no longer there. Said tree was about 100 years old and shaded a chunk of beachfront. It was the target for perotes that danced all the way from Santo Domingo, where folks spent the day singing, dancing and drinking in its shade before dancing back home.
The sea grape (coccoloba uvifera) fruit is edible. Lots of the plant is supposed to be good for what ails you, if that something is diarrhea (boil some roots and drink the tea), a cut (the bark oozes an tannin-rich astringent substance), or a too-close-encounter with a stingray (make a poultice from the boiled leaves). I don’t personally know of anyone who has tried these remedies.
The fruit, while mostly pit, when reddish purple and ripe can be eaten raw and also makes a mighty fine marmalade according to some. I saw a mention of home-made wine as well, but, again, I know no one who has tried it.
Perhaps the wine thing is why the people of Santo Domingo make a party out of going to Uverito on the dancing pilgrimages they called los perotes several times a year. Quite the festival, the perotes often feature half or more of the town walking / dancing their way from Santo Domingo to Uverito where they used to stand under the famous centenarian uvero tree and sing tamboritos all day. They were accompanied to and from the beach by snack wagons selling beer and goodies to keep the vocal cords lubricated and fueled. More on perotes later.
What else is the uvero good for? Dye your duds. Red. With the sap.
Although that uvero tree is gone, there are still sea grapes in Uverito. Well, there is at least one. The owner of this sea-grape told MY neighbor that this is “the last uvero in Uverito.” We made a special trip to take the photo.
What a resource! Too bad “there’s only one left.”