Hopefully, even with all that has occurred with the Coronavirus (COVID-19), the opportunity to travel to Puerto Rico presents itself again in the near future.
“Discovered” on November 9th, 1493, San Juan, Puerto Rico is the oldest city in U.S territory. Puerto Rico is a commonwealth within the states. As one of the most densely populated islands in the world, it is only about the size of Connecticut! Although Christopher Colombus, also known as Cristobal Colon, landed in San Juan in 1493 during his voyage, the Island was established in 1508.
I visited San Juan over February break this year. Not only did I get tan and eat a lot of arroz con frijoles, but I learned a ton about my culture and where I am from. When I went to Puerto Rico with my mom, we got to see my family and a few friends who had visited at the same time as us. Did you know that Puerto Rico is the home to three out of five bioluminescent bays in the world? I saw one in Fajardo! I strongly recommend going if you travel to Puerto Rico. Although the process of getting there by kayaking through the mangroves to the lagoon is a bit of a challenge, it is worth seeing the glowing waters with the touch of your hand. Your hand cuts the organism in half which is what makes it glow- a must see!
There are many other beautiful sights to see on the island, even if they are still recovering from the earthquakes and hurricanes they endured. While walking through the city of Luquillo, we got to see the most beautiful beaches. People come from all over the world to surf these powerful waves! Latin Music was playing everywhere you went, but I couldn’t help but notice the broken down buildings and the people on the side road trying to sell anything they could to provide for their families.
For example, I was driving down the street with mi mamá and mi primo, and I saw a family on the side of the road selling coco frío. Coco frío is coconut water made out of a fresh coconut. Even though I don’t really enjoy coconut water, my cousin pulled the car over, and told my mom and I to always stop for the smaller locals rather than tourist shops. The smaller shops are the people who need money the most. I will always take what he said into consideration because I can see what the damage of this island did to the people of Puerto Rico.
Our trip to the city was a day to remember. We visited El Morro National Monument. Although this trip was not the first choice on my list, we still checked it off and I am beyond thankful my mom forced me to go! El Morro means “The Nose” in English. El Morro was a fort used to fight off enemy ships that tried to enter Puerto Rico’s bay. I was surprised that it stood strong all these years and remained a very important historical site in Puerto Rico. It is a world heritage site, along with the Pyramids and the Great Wall of China. I wish this was incorporated into the curriculum, but I am extremely fortunate to have learned this history and been able to see it with my own eyes.
The trip to El Morro led to a crazy night in Old San Juan. Don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful and filled with so many happy people. The area was extremely hilly, so I do not recommend it if you do not enjoy walking. But for my mother and I, we had a blast. This city reminded me of the Spanish cities we should see more of in our history books. The bright colored buildings and the smell of yummy food made me feel like I was at home. The store owners were always so encouraging to help us speak Spanish even if we butchered it. Little piece of advice… DO NOT STOP FOR THE PARROTS! I mean that!
While we were visiting a friends resort in Fajardo, we saw a giant iguana and wild dogs. You do not see that every day! I also went out of my comfort zone and played water volleyball with a bunch of kids.
My first time visiting the island was when I was two, so I do not remember it. For the first trip I remember, it was worth the anxiety on the plane! Puerto Rico felt like home to me. We did so much in just one week in only one part of the island. There is so much more to see, I can’t wait to go back! As the people in Puerto Rico say, please go visit the island. They need it more than you think!