On September 19, 2021, the first volcanic eruption in Spain in the last five decades was registered. Since then, the lava from the Cumbre Vieja volcano has left a bleak panorama on La Palma. On many occasions, experts have used the word ‘malpaís’ , and it is important to know what it means.
What is the bad country?
In simple terms, it is the terrain covered by lava after a volcanic eruption occurs. As defined by the Royal Spanish Academy, the ‘malpaís’ is a “tortuous, arid and sterile” terrain , on which it is impossible to cultivate or build. It is volcanic soil, so there is no soil for plants to adhere to.
When it cools down, it will be very hard rock . Under the lava will be the almagres, the current soil, buried and cooked.
The word ‘malpaís’ has as its origin the French volcablo ‘pays’ . According to the Historical Dictionary of Spanish in the Canary Islands, it was widely used from the end of the 15th century in texts written in America and the Canary Islands.
“Given the antiquity of Canarian documentation and its absence in other areas, it seems clear that we are dealing with a lexical creation carried out in the islands, immediately transferred to America and later used as a restricted technicality” , indicates the dictionary.
Will the land be fertile again?
Jose María Cebriá, researchers from the Institute of Geosciences (IGEO), explained, in statements collected by the newspaper ‘ABC’ that it will be extremely difficult for the lands devastated by the volcano’s lava to be buildable again one day .
Another option that some experts have raised is to cover the ‘malpaís’ with earth. However, for the land to be fertile, the process would be very long and, furthermore, it would not compensate from the economic point of view since several tons of land would be needed to cover a single hectare , according to José María Cebriá.
In the eruption of 1949 something similar was done, giving rise to the well-known banana trees. But, when another similar episode occurred in 1971, many lands were covered with lava and a protected area was declared. To this day, 50 years later, it continues to be an arid area .
Therefore, according to geologists, rebuilding or cultivating in the area is almost impossible .