This evening we are driving around Mayaguez, stoping in a bookstore that has a coffee bar. Soon we are seated with our café con leches, talking, surrounded by books. Francisco disappears and returns with a book on native plants. We look at the gorgeous photos, admiring the beauty of this island. The front of the book is devoted to Agustin Stahl, pioneer botanist of Puerto Rico. In the mid 19th C he wrote the original notes, drew the original watercolors, made the original studies of the true bounty of the land. “Before the Overkill.”

“Look at this, mano. This is real world, our world. This is the book our kids should have on their shelves. Our birthright.” “So let's get it.” “Look at the price, man. $80! Even I won't buy it at this price. So our kids can buy the latest Batman for $2 and this, our heritage, cost $80. It's obscene. We need our own cultural heroes, individuals who were really dedicated to our here and now, and here is one of them, and it is priced $80.”

Meanwhile, I am looking with amazement at Stahl's drawings. “By the way, amigo, these are exceptional. We know botanic illustration, sturdy studies, functional. But these, these are very original. Look at the empty outlined spaces overlapping the painted forms.” This man had a real gift. Beyond this level the world of modern art begins, the spaces of Matisse, the elegant lines of Schiele and Klee.” Francisco looks at me. “I have never heard anyone speak that way of Stahl.”

Francisco Pabon owns a mountain side, at Montoso, in southwest Puerto Rico. The property is raw jungle and Francisco is working to preserve it as living history, a place to visit but not intrude upon heavily, “para un sentido, una experienca, de los Origenes.” Francisco sees that enthusiasm amongst the general population is essential if we are to preserve anything natural from total domestication. One possibility involves encouraging on site projects by artists and scientists.

Francisco is organizing the projects he supports around a recognition of the figure of Agustin Stahl, whose story illustrates the waste and lost opportunities typical of the recent history of neglect. Stahl was a dedicated scientist and a marvelous artist whose works were scattered and partly lost, and whose dream of a national cultural museum were frustrated.

Up at Montoso I drew with water on rocks in the cascading streams. My drawings are insistently transient, evaporating away leaving no trace on site. My images echo art expression of the deep past. Evanescent, they demonstrate the creative imagination at work in the world with lightness of touch.

Note: Learn more of Francisco Pabon's projects here. Follow the links and see the drawings of Stahl for yourself.

Robert Janz is a recent resident at the Montoso site. See his project on, click on Residencies. His main site is