“Walk through the flora of the islands as you seek out eight secret stations that each lead you closer to the mystery at the heart of this larger-than-life labyrinth.”


– Dole Plantation Official Website





. Start time: 6:17 pm 2/14/19 .


Part I

P I N E A P P L E . Fractal, noun: an infinitely complex, expanding pattern, in which each section of the pattern is identical to every other section across scales.

S U N . January 19, 2015. I bought a pineapple at the grocery store and I cannot eat it. I have kept this thing in my room with me, and feel a warmth in my soul when I look at it. I can start to smell the sweetness, a sure sign that it is getting too ripe. It is sitting by me on the desk now. What is so compelling about a pineapple, this scratchy thing? It is a heavy thing, a folded thing. The surface pinched and tucked in circles around the circumference, points turned outwards and upwards like layers of the smallest wings. Tough and spiky, wrapped in tight, dry folds. It is solid. A spiny heft of a hidden sweetness. The juicy insides I know will betray the early picking, the import, the travel, the displacement. Although sweet, I can already smell the tinge of an unnatural tang. I remember the pineapples we grew in our backyard. The palest green on the outside, the palest yellow on the inside. The juice was like honey. I ate until my mouth was raw.

P I N E A P P L E . The origins of the pineapple are believed to be in South America, in regions of what is now known as Brazil, Paraguay and Northern Argentina. The Tupi-Guarani Tribe lived in this area between the Parana and Paraguay rivers, and they were likely the first to cultivate and spread the fruit through migration and trading with other tribes.[1]

P A L M T R E E . Traditional Mexican Tepache.



  • 1 pineapple

  • 3 liters of water

  • 1 large stick of cinnamon

  • 8 whole cloves

  • 2 large black peppers

  • 2 piloncillo cones or 2 cups of brown sugar

  • 400 grams of barley (the sweetest the best)

  • 1 gallon fermenter jar (glass, plastic or clay)



  1. Wash the pineapple thoroughly, using dish soap and scrub it with a brush. Rinse and dry it.

  2. Discard the leaves, peel it, and cut the fruit in small pieces.

  3. Liquefy the fruit in a blender, using part of the 3 liter water.

  4. Wash the fermenter (I prefer to use a Mexican clay pot, it adds better flavor). Put the pineapple peels in the fermenter, add the puree from the blender, and the rest of the water.

  5. Cut the cinnamon stick in small pieces, add it to the fermenting mix, add the cloves and peppers. Stir.

  6. Cover with a cotton cloth, and secure with a rubber band. Place it in a dark, cool, and dry place away from direct sunlight, and let it ferment for 3 days.

  7. After three days, stir the mix, and add the piloncillo, broken in small pieces.

  8. Cook the barley in 1 liter of water, until the seed sprouts. Add it to the mix and stir.

  9. Let it sit for another 3 days. If it is not done, give it 1-2 extra days.

  10. It should taste sweet, sour, and fruity, but not like juice. Serve chilled, and enjoy!


-Fabiola Rivera[2]

F I S H . The year 1493, on an island in the Caribbean, named Guadeloupe by Europeans who think they’re in India. Christopher Columbus and his crew sample a fruit they have never seen before. It looks like a pinecone and the name sticks. Beginning with Columbus, Europeans take the Queen of Pines back to Europe as a prize of their “New World.”[3] It wasn’t just gold and free labor that the Europeans were after, but crops as well. Sweet crops were highly sought after because at that time sugar could only be acquired from the Middle East or Asia at incredibly high costs.[4] Five hundred years later, the Dole Company is calling pineapple “Tropical Gold.” In a letter dated July 7, 1503, Columbus wrote, “Gold is most excellent; gold is treasure, and he who possesses it does all he wishes to in this world.”[5] And Columbus did. During the same voyage in which he tasted pineapple for the first time, he also set up what he called “the tribute system,” in which every indigenous person in the region over the age of 14 was required to supply a specified amount of gold every three months. Individuals that were able to supply this amount were marked with an emblem they wore around their necks. The others, as Columbus’ son Fernando reported, were ‘punished by having their hands cut off’ and were ‘left to bleed to death.’[6]


P I N E A P P L E . Bromelain is an effective meat tenderizer – an enzyme found abundantly in the pineapple plant. This enzyme breaks down proteins and is popular in meat tenderizing powders. If you have ever eaten too much pineapple, you will know the first-hand effects of Bromelain as the flesh of your mouth becomes raw.  Americans consume more meat than anywhere else in the world, and we like our meat tender.


W A R R I O R . “See the difference Dole Slices can make in ham loaf or meat loaf. Taste the difference Dole Crushed pineapple makes in upside-down cake. In everything you serve, see the difference Dole makes! SLICED. CHUNKS. SPEARS. CRUSHED.”

-Dole Advertisement, 1957


F I S H . The year 1668. King Charles II serves pineapple at a banquet for the French ambassador. This was not only a great honor, but also alluded to England’s colonial prowess. To consume the exotic fruit was to savor the juices of the “New” World itself – an exclusive pleasure. Charles II also commissioned a portrait of himself being presented with the otherworldly bromeliad. It took English botanists nearly a century to figure out how to grow pineapples in their home climate, sheltered in heated greenhouses.[7]  

S U N . March 24, 2019. My sketchbook from last fall says, “Pineapple greenhouse – small, mobile, fits in a shopping cart? Cast off tops. City tap water.” The first pineapples I tried to grow were from Costa Rica, where my mom was born, in transit. In the pineapple industry, it is more efficient to propagate the pineapples instead of growing them from seed. The severed crown of the pineapple, when replanted, sprouts tiny rootlets.

F I S H . The English called their pineapple gardens “pineries”. The structures had a glass wall for sunshine and warmth. “Pits” for the fruit were built out of brick, about five by five feet, and were filled with dung, soil, and tanner’s bark. Stoves in the walls kept the pinery warm, and irrigation systems maintained high humidity.[8] The whole process was risky, incredibly expensive and could take up to three years for a plant to produce fruit if all went well. The manipulation necessary to produce fruit in these circumstances was celebrated as a participation in the natural and inevitable growth of empire. England’s elite competitively took on the challenge, and pineapple nurseries were erected on the finest estates. One of the most enthusiastic examples of these pineries is called the Dunmore Pineapple. The structure was completed in Scotland in 1761 for John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore, who later went on to be a governor for the state of Virginia. His three story pinery was topped with a sandstone pineapple fourteen meters tall.

H U L A G I R L . Spain was after gold in the Americas as well. Red gold. In the early 16th century, Spanish invaders in Mexico wrote home about the dazzling textiles in the Aztec marketplaces and the crimson dye made from the cochineal insect. Prickly pear cacti had been cultivated in Mexico as a host for the insect for centuries.[9] The female cochineal, when crushed, emits a vibrant crimson – a chemical meant to deter predators. The mysterious dye made from this chemical was more vibrant than anything produced in Europe and became one of Spain’s top exports from its American colonies. It was so valuable that pirates would take Spanish ships in the hope of capturing cochineal cargo.[10]

S U N . I step gingerly between the spiny blades of green, gripping the warm wooden handle of the machete. This one? I ask. We lean close to inspect the scaly fruit. Yes, this looks ripe, she says. I offer the machete and she takes a couple firm, calculated swings, neatly severing the pineapple at the base. We now have everything we need and rejoin our cluster of friends inside, squatting on the smooth, wooden floor with knives and bowls. Several cucumbers, green mangos, jicama roots, handfuls of chilies and roasted peanuts later, we have a large, luscious bowl of Rujak salad. I can’t understand everything that is spoken or cut a pineapple without mangling it, but they welcome me fully into this moment, sharing stories as we suck in air through our teeth after every bite, denying that it’s too spicy because we got carried away with the chilies.


[1] Collins, J. L. 1960. The Pineapple: Botany, Cultivation and Utilization. World Crops Books. London, L. Hill; New York, Interscience Publishers [1960], 34.

[2] Rivera, Fabiola. “Traditional Mexican Tepache.” Fabiola Rivera Official Website. (accessed April 9, 2019).

[3] Okihiro, Gary Y. 2009. Pineapple Culture: A History of the Tropical and Temperate Zones. The California World History Library: 10. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009, 82.

[4] Serda, Clyde. “The Story of the Pineapple, a Symbol of Hospitality.” Chef’s Blade. (accessed April 9, 2019).

[5] Plous, Scott. “Christopher Columbus: The Untold Story.” Understanding Prejudice. (accessed April 9, 2019).

[6] Tink Tinker, and Mark Freeland. 2008. “Thief, Slave Trader, Murderer: Christopher Columbus and Caribbean Population Decline.” Wicazo Sa Review 23 (1): 25, 25-50, 37.

[7] Okiriho, Pineapple Culture, 82-83.

[8] Gohmann, Joanna M. 2018. “Colonizing through Clay: A Case Study of the Pineapple in British Material Culture.” Eighteenth-Century Fiction 31 (1): 143-61, 152.

[9] Padilla, Carmella, Barbara C. Anderson, and Blair Clark. 2015. A Red like No Other: How Cochineal Colored the World: An Epic Story of Art, Culture, Science, and Trade. New York, NY: Skira/Rizzoli, [2015], 15.

[10] Greenfield, Amy Butler. 2005. A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire. New York: HarperCollins, 2005, 113.


End of Part I