Book VIII, Chapter XIII
Of the tree called guiabara, which the Christians call uvero (grape tree).
Translated by Carly Fajardo ’23
The Christians call uvero a tree that the Indians call guibara. This is a good tree with a nice wood, especially suitable to make charcoal for blacksmiths and silversmiths and other trades. Even though these trees are crowned and wide with thick, strong branches, these are not straight and so are not useful for constructing houses, since beams and crossbeams cannot be made from them; however, the wood can be used for butcher’s blocks and other things. The wood is very similar to that of the strawberry tree, and likewise red, but harder. The fruit are some sparse clusters of pink or violet grapes that are good to eat, although their pits are very large, according to the size of the grapes and how little flesh they have; the fattest are the size hazelnuts with shells. The leaf looks like I drew it here (Illus. 3.a, Fig. 5.a), which I included because it is such a different leaf from all the others, with the largest of them at a span wide or something more, and others smaller. During the times when there was still a war going on in this and other islands, and even in the Mainland, the Christians, having no paper or ink, used these leaves as they would paper and ink. The leaf is green and thick, and as broad as two ivy leaves together, with thin, red or purple veins. Using only a needle or a stiff pin you can write whatever you want on either side of these leaves while they are still green and just cut from the tree that day, and the carved letters appear white and so different from the skin of the leaf between the letters that what one writes on the leaves is very legible and clear—they would send the written leaves with an Indian to wherever the Spanish wanted, and whatever was written on the leaves would remain in good condition from one place to the other. Those veins they have, although the midrib that extends from the leafstalk is somewhat thick, the other veins are thin and so don’t hinder or obstruct one’s writing.
 Coccoloba uvifera, a species of flowering plant in the buckwheat family, Polygonaceae, native to coastal beaches throughout tropical America and the Caribbean; common names include seagrape and baygrape.
Image: Gravures de fluers by a french artist in the 1800s.