December 31, 2007

New Year's in Puerto Rico and Calle 13's La Ley de Gravedad

New Year's... okay, it isn't so exciting, the celebration is about the same in PR as it is in the U.S. So I don't want to spend a lot of time on that. Instead, I'm going to talk about something else: shooting up in the air for the new year.

I think this also happens in parts of the U.S. and other countries, although Puerto Rico really makes a big deal of it, since it has killed quite a few people recently. Campaigns against it, however, have kept everyone safe the last two years.

Part of the campaigns included some help from Calle 13 (13th Street), a popular reggaeton duo. They're known for their witty lyrics mocking Puerto Rican society and politics. They released the song "La Ley de Gravedad" (The Law of Gravity) with some success in ending the unnecessary deaths.

Anyways, here is the song... along with the lyrics (written kind of strangely... I didn't do it) and a translation. Enjoy!

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La Ley de Gravedad

MUCHAS felicidades, Puerto Rico, le desea la Calle 13.

Vo' a tener que ponerme un casco e fútbol
Hasta pa' salir a comprar en el mall
Un casco e fútbol pa' salvar el melón
No disparen mejol vamo a hacer el amor

Ponte una chaqueta a prueba e bala
Un casco en la chola
Que la cosa está mala
Sálganse del patio vámonos pa' la sala
Y desde la ventana ven las luces de bengala
Uppss ¡cuidao! una bala
Por poco te raja el cholón

Puerto Rico lo hace mejol
Aquí en el mar y el sol
Disparar pa' arriba es un vacilón
¡Ja ja ja ja!¡Ja ja ja!
Hasta que le dé una bala a tu nena
Ahí te va dar pena,ahí tú llora

No te haga el macho ahora
Tú llora
Cualquiera llora
con tanta cara linda que hay en el barrio
pa' que venga un brutosaurio
guillao de mercenario
a cagar el arroz con dulce del vecindario
no te creas también los empresarios disparan
y esos sí que tienen chavos pa' gastar en balas
tienen chavos pa' emborracharse con coñac

Por eso, yo me siento más seguro en Irak que en Puerto Rico
droga, violencia y mucho alcohol
Puerto Rico lo hace mejol

Gobernador, aquí se hace lo que usted decida
Después que usted escuche al pueblo
Vamo a to'as por encima de cualquier godzila
Yo voy pa' encima
Vo'a salirme de la tarima
vo'a a llegarle al pueblo
Vámonos en fila
Le vo'a llegar con to' y mochila
Y aunque muchos quieran
yo no me vo'a callar la boca

Es más un guardia mal educa'o es una bala loca
Un chamaquito sin escuela es una bala loca
Un maestro sin práctica es una bala loca


Si le va tirar al ganstel tírale de frente
Pero no pa' arriba que te lleva al inocente
Yo sé qué decir esto es fuerte pero es real
Aquí hay gente que vive pa' matal
Lo tenemos que aceptar
La verdá con la mano no se pue tapal
Que vamo'a hacel
Si ellos tienen que matal pa' comel
Los sueños lindos pa' Disney World
Pero disparar pa' arriba eso es de puerco
Es como 20 contra uno
Es como robarle el desayuno a un tecato
Eso es de puerco

La verdad
Esto de lógica, la ley de gravedad
To' lo que sube de seguro va a bajar
To' lo que sube de seguro va a bajar
To' lo que sube de seguro va a bajar


Mejol dispares pa'l agua pa bajo pa los pecesitos
Te matas un par de peces, despues te los comes,
Unas morcillitas con pesca'o.

Calle 13, Calle 13, más te crece.
The Law of Gravity

CONGRATULATIONS Puerto Rico from Calle 13

I'm gonna have to put on a football helmet
Just so I can go out shopping in the mall
A football helmet to save my melon
Don't shoot; better yet, let's go make love.

Put on a bulletproof vest
A helmet on your head
Since things are so bad.
"Get out of the patio, let's go to the living room
And from the window watch the lights from the sparklers
Oops careful! A bullet!
It nearly split your head."

Puerto Rico does it better
Here lying in sea and sun
Shooting in the air is a trip
Ha ha ha ha, ha ha ha...
Until you knock off your daughter

That's gonna bother you, there you go crying
Don't act all macho now
You'd cry
Anybody would cry
With so many sweet faces in the barrio
Just so a Brute-osaurus can show up
Stuck up like a mercenary
To come shit on the neighborhood party

Don't start thinking that executives also shoot
And they're the ones who do have money to waste on bullets
They have enough money to get drunk off of cognac
That's why I feel safer in Iraq
than in Puerto Rico
Drugs, violence and a lot of alcohol
Puerto Rico does it better.

Governor, here we do what you say
After you start listening to the people
We'll go on top of any Godzilla
Me, I'm heading for the top
I'm going to get off of the stage
I'm going to come to the people
Let's leave in a line
I'm gonna bring me all and show you what I got
And even though they all want it,
I am not going to shut up.

Besides that, a guard without education is a loose bullet
A kid without school is a loose bullet
A teacher without experience is a loose bullet.


If you gotta hit the gangsta shoot where he can see it
But not upwards because you'll take the life of somebody innocent
I know that admitting this hurts but it's real
Here there are people who live to kill
We have to accept it
You can't cover up the truth with your hands
What are we gonna do,
if they have to kill to eat?
The sweet dreams of Disney World
But shooting up in the air is sick
It's like 20 against 1
It's like stealing breakfast from a bum
It's just sick!

The truth is
This is simple logic, the law of gravity
All that goes up must come down
All that goes up must come down
All that goes up must come down


Better yet shoot down in the water at the fishies
And then you kill a pair of fish, and you eat 'em,
Some blood sausage with fish.

Calle 13, Calle 13, más te crece.

December 28, 2007

More about Coquito and Christmas

I'm on vacation a few hours away from home, so I'm not going to say much tonight. But I did want to share two items. One is a blog post reviewing Coquito (with a recipe!) and other parts of Christmas, and the second is a reminder that the parties will continue in the island and this time they're in honor of Ricky Martin. Of course they are!

December 26, 2007

So, navidad is over... just kidding!

If you thought now it was time to throw out the tree, take down the lights, and move on from Christmas, think again!

Puerto Rico celebrates Three Kings Day (el Día de los Tres Reyes Magos), also known as the Epiphany. Christmas in Puerto Rico usually extends a bit past this date because of las Octavitas, an additional 8 days of Christmas (... kind of).

So, in honor of the continuing spirit of Christmas, here is a blog post by a Cuban discovering parranda music, with lots of it uploaded for your listening pleasure. Enjoy!

December 25, 2007

¡Feliz navidad! Merry Christmas!

For those of you not familiar with José Feliciano, he is indeed Puerto Rican!

¡Feliz navidad a todos!

December 24, 2007

Chickens in Puerto Rico... your new best friends

This isn't really related to Christmas or anything, but for some reason I felt like sharing this.

About a year ago while at my friend's house on the island, one of the neighbors' roosters came and stopped by a few times.

For those of you who don't know, roosters are really popular on the island. Cockfighting is still legal. I haven't been to a match but I definitely know people who raise roosters for that purpose. That's why it's hard not to hit them when you're driving around the island and being woken up by roosters in the middle of suburbia is common (well, it's happened to me anyways).

This little guy kept coming by the house and just hanging out. He's kind of cute, really.

He did, however, keep trying to get in the house (that's the front door to the patio, by the way) and had to be chased out several times, only to head into the neighbor's garage.

... okay that was silly.

December 23, 2007

More lechón!

I swear this is the last time I will write about lechón. Anyways, if you have iTunes, they're offering the contemporary salsero Victor Manuelle's song Lechón, Lechón, Lechón for free. I think it's been free for the last week so it'll probably be gone by tomorrow... go download it while you still can!

A Super Short History of Puerto Rico, Part 2

For part 1, click here.

So, the Spanish-American War ends after the U.S. blockades Puerto Rico for long enough that the people were very welcoming to the American troops. It doesn't help that they were promised the liberty that the Spaniards didn't give to them. Of course, as you might have noticed, that's not really what they got.

The first effect of the invasion was the complete devastation of the economy. Americans had no interest in Puerto Rico's strong coffee so almost all industry turned to sugar, causing the loss of a lot of jobs. American companies bought up farmland and forced many owners of small-property to lose their land and just added to the pockets of American corporations, who in turn invested their money back into the U.S. The population exploded because of new American medicines saving lives without anyone considering its effects or how to deal with consequences, particularly unemployment. The conversion from pesos to dollars was poorly organized and allowed many merchants on the island to charge up to 40% more for even basic foods. Even worse, food was increasing imported from the U.S., eventually making up about 75% of all food on the island, so even though PR could have grown a lot of its own foods it turned to more expensive American products.

However, it was the Americanization that really wrecked havoc on Puerto Rico. First off, all education was suddenly English-only, even though no one spoke English. Censorship began to silence newspapers. American governors disapproved of any thoughts of independence and encouraged Congress to think of Puerto Ricans as too racially impure to manage a government. Citizenship was imposed in 1916 with the Jones Act...

Let me take a moment here to explain. Citizenship was offered to Puerto Ricans as a choice, which is something that most people bring up when defending statehood. However, it should be noted, despite a tiny minority refusing it, most people were indeed forced to accept American citizenship, because no employer would hire someone without it.

Also... the Navy began to occupy large parts of the island around WWII and refused to leave afterwards since their bases were good training areas. This continued until 2004, when they finally left Vieques.

Puerto Rico at first attempted peaceful compromises with the American government but as Congress ignored them more and more many islanders became violent. There were occasional protests on the island, some of which ended in tragedy for a few nacionalistas. A few attacks also occurred on the mainland, like the 1954 shooting in Congress and an attempt on President Truman's life. In response, the FBI became heavily involved in the independence movement. They profiled and blackmailed many important pro-independence politicians. In a sense the FBI was very successful, as the movement for independence has faded away since the 70s and now lags behind statehood and continuing the Commonwealth.

Another attempt to solve the political status of Puerto Rico!

I know I haven't really brought up politics yet... it's a matter of time, since politics are such a big deal. Anyways, here's two articles, the first a short coverage of what's happening in Congress and the second a longer and more academic take on it which I really recommend. It supplies a lot of background information necessary to anyone trying to understand Puerto Rico's current views on its political status.

I'm also adding a link to the website Puerto Rico Lifestyle Magazine to the side, since it's pretty funny and has some different tourist information (they write about some places I've never even heard of!). Drop by.

December 20, 2007

Speaking of lechón and navidad...

So, in the same thread as yesterday's post, here's El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico singing "La Fiesta de Pilito", one of their classic songs about Christmas (and its food!).

"One of its most popular older hits, "La Fiesta de Pilito" ("Pilito's Party"), a Christmas party song, sells each holiday as if it were a new release, some record store owners say..."

December 19, 2007

Word of the Week: Lechón Asao... and other holiday foods!

So, what is lechón asao?

Well, it's pork. Specifically, the whole pig.

Basically, the pig is filled up with spices, put on a spit, and then turned over a fire for hours. Then it's cut up into pieces and everyone digs in!

I haven't had it before, because I'm vegetarian, but I've been assured that it's delicious. Not that I couldn't tell from the looks on everyone's faces anyways.

Other foods eaten for Christmas in Puerto Rico include some that are unique to the island and others that are eaten across the Spanish-speaking world, such as...

Arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon beans) -- pigeon beans aren't really eaten much in the U.S. but they taste quite good in this pleasantly-spiced rice.

Pasteles -- I'm not quite sure how to explain what this is... there isn't a word in English. Basically a bunch of cooked starchy vegetables mashed together, then separating them into large wads, filled with ground beef, and then put in plantain leaves, tied up, and boiled. They're quite good, what can I say. Just make sure they're not still in the plantain leaves before you eat them! If you google it you can find recipes and pictures easily.

Morcilla -- blood sausage. I, not surprisingly, haven't tried it, but it's supposed to be good.

Tembleque -- basically coconut pudding. Again, there are a million recipes on google.

Turrón -- sweet nougat filled with nuts.

Okay... I'm going to stop because I'm hungry now! ¡Buen provecho a todos!

Art in Puerto Rico

Done with school for a bit so I'll be posting, including more today. But right now I just wanted to stop by and show off this blog post about Puerto Rican art. It's brief but I think it introduces some of it better than I could... at least for now. Check it out!

December 13, 2007

Photos of Puerto Rico and Its Beaches

I know, I know, I've been silent. I thought instead I would share some of my photos of the island. I don't really have a nice camera but some of these photos are all right anyways (and I should be upgrading my camera soon, in time for the next trip... whenever that will be).

I hope that by looking at these it'll make the cold easier to bear for those of us in North America!
This photo and the next few are both from Condado, a popular beach for tourists in San Juan.

So blue!

And these are from Seven Seas, in Fajardo.

You should recognize this picture.

You could see through the water, it was really nice... and absolutely no waves!

December 11, 2007

Judaism in Puerto Rico

Seeing as tonight is the last night of Hannukah, I thought I'd take a moment to talk about judaism in Puerto Rico.

Supposedly Puerto Rico has the largest population of Jews in the Caribbean. That's not really saying much, though. There are about 3000 on the island. Out of a population of 4 million, that is not such a high number. There are a few synagogues in San Juan as well.

A friend of mine once met some flying to New York (and they were orthodox too!) but sadly that's the closest I've come to experiencing anything related to judaism on the island.

... that's about it. Sorry. If anyone has any more information, let me know!

December 7, 2007

Article: The island that never sleeps, Puerto Rico

Like I mentioned, final exams. So here is a really cute article. I actually liked this one (the author went scuba diving on Mona and Desecheo island! I'm jealous!).

December 6, 2007

More on Parrandas in Puerto Rico and missing the island

A friend of mine posted this in her livejournal...

Quiero dar una parranda
sparkofcreation's daily Christmas Carol posts got me to thinking about my own Christmas traditions. It's amazing how the same holiday can be celebrated so differently in different countries. Christmas in the US is so different from Christmas in PR and the people to whom I say that here don't really seem to understand me when I try to explain. It's not that I don't like Christmas in the US, it's just that I'm so used to the upbeat Christmas celebrations of Puerto Rico that I feel like I'm missing something here. My parents have friends who own houses in the mountainous regions of PR and when I was younger, they'd always take my brother and me to the Christmas parties they'd throw. There was always all this wonderful traditional PR food there, and they'd hire a band to play traditional Christmas music from PR. Everyone would be dancing salsa or merengue and singing bomba y plena and trullas all over the place. And even though I usually found it a drag to go there because all the guests were always my parents' age and there was no one my own age to hang out with, I really do miss the atmosphere of the parties. So, for those of you who are unfamiliar with our Puerto Rican Christmas customs, or those of you who are Puerto Ricans living away from home and want to reminisce and feel somewhat nostalgic, these are some video clips I found on youtube of people playing parranda music:

I miss my home!

December 5, 2007

Added some links to Puerto Rico-themed blogs

I found these great blogs so I knew I had to add them. Puerto Rico Day Trips and Visit the Coqui are both blogs about tourism in English, and Dondequiera seems as though it were supposed to be in Spanish but now is in English. And of course, you should already be familiar with Reggaetonica.

December 4, 2007

Recipe: Coquito

So, more in the spirit of the holidays, here's a recipe for Coquito. Coquito is ridiculously sweet if you don't include the rum; the first time I tried it (without rum) I had to take incredibly tiny sips of it and couldn't drink more than half a glass, and I love sweet food.

This is a the personal recipe of a friend's mother; other people include different ingredients, like chocolate and cinnamon and stuff, but it's better to try it "plain" first.

1 taza de ron blanco
6 yemas de huevo
2 latas de leche evaporada
1 lata de leche condensada
1 lata de leche de coco

Bate las yemas de huevo y mézclalas con un poco de ron.
Pon la mezcla en la licuadora y agrega el ron restante.
Añade la leche condensada, la leche evaporada y la leche de coco.
Licua, pon en una botella y deja enfriar.
Antes de servir agita bien.

1 cup of white rum
6 egg yolks
2 cans of evaporated milk
1 can of condensed milk
1 can of coconut milk

Whisk the egg yolks and mix them with a little rum.
Put the mixture in the blender and add the rest of the rum.
Add the other ingredients.
Blend, put in a bottle and place in the freezer.
Before serving shake well.

December 3, 2007

Words of the Weeks: Parranda and Aguinaldo

So staying with our Christmas team and in order to make up for missing last week, let's talk about parrandas.

If you speak Spanish well you've probably heard of parrandas before... I'm not sure how parrandas work in other countries but in Puerto Rico parrandas are a Christmas tradition akin to caroling, but more lively. Usually they consist of a group of people gathering together and singing for neighbors. Food is usually involved (I'll bring it up next week).

Aguinaldos are the songs sung at parrandas. They're usually more upbeat than typical American/English traditional carols. And while there are translations of American carols, most aguinaldos are from the island. Typical Puerto Rican instruments, especially the cuatro, maracas, and güiro, are brought along.

Here are the lyrics for a popular aguinaldo, Dame la mano paloma. Keep in mind that the the words can vary a little (or a lot).

Dame la mano paloma
para subir a tu nido,
dame la mano paloma
para subir a tu nido
que me han dicho que estás sola
que me han dicho que estás sola
y a acompañarte he venido,
que me han dicho que estás sola
que me han dicho que estás sola
y a acompañarte he venido.

En el pueblito de Ciales
hay una piedra bendita,
En el pueblito de Ciales
hay una piedra bendita
que la vieja que se sienta
que la vieja que se sienta
amanece jovencita,
que la vieja que se sienta
que la vieja que se sienta
amanece jovencita.

Dame la mano paloma....etc.

Muy viejo pensé en casarme
con una de veinte abriles,
Muy viejo pensé en casarme
con una de veinte abriles
consulté con mi almohada
consulté con mi almohada
y me dijo: ¡No te tires!
consulté con mi almohada
consulté con mi almohada
y me dijo: ¡No te tires!

If you want to get the melody, visit this website or watch the following video, starting at 2:30.

Gay tourism in Puerto Rico?

So, before I prepare the word(s) of the week(s) (my bad), just wanted to share an article about gay tourism on the island.

I don't know how I feel about this. Not that I'm homophobic (definitely not), but Puerto Rico isn't exactly a paradise for gay tourism.

Okay, that sounds kind of strange. There are pockets of gay culture in a few parts of the island, particularly in San Juan and Aguadilla on the west coast, but the rest of the island can be pretty homophobic. I've heard of some really rough treatment of gays on the island. Not to say that everyone is homophobic, either, but since a lot of people are religious it's very hard to find accepting people. And about a year ago an attempt to enact gay marriage legislation was overwhemingly shot down.

That said, again let me remind everyone that there are fantastic gay areas in San Juan and Aguadilla, and there should be no problem in any tourism spots. But outside these areas it's a bit more difficult.

Also, this article is just strange. Why are the Fantastic 4 going to Puerto Rico to fight the chupacabras? I don't read comics anyways so let me say... what?

December 1, 2007

La Navidad

Well, the decorations that started appearing in my neighborhood reminded me that preparation for the holiday season has probably begun on the island.

Christmas in Puerto Rico is important. Really, really important. A lot of people decorate their houses with lights and sometimes those giant obnoxious snowglobe and whatever blowup... things. Sometimes people go a little overboard. I'm pretty sure there are a few neighborhoods on the island that are brighter at night than during the day. I think by now that if you head into the suburbs you'll be sure to see some lights.

San Juan is also decorated, but I'd say it's a bit more... let's go with "classy". I'd recommend walking around Old San Juan at night, it's beautiful (and there are great parties in SJ, too).

I also found this article today about some Lifetime Christmas movie filmed entirely on the island. I don't really watch Lifetime but I might get around to watching this... and possibly winning a trip to the island might be good incentive as well.

I'll be talking about Christmas a lot, since there are a lot of different traditions linked with it. I know I've promised to go back to a few topics already, but this is really important.

November 29, 2007

Reggaetón blog

Sorry! I probably should have mentioned at some point that I'm a student and for the moment I'm in the middle of final exams. So there will be updates, but they'll be slow as I have to do quite a bit of work.

Anyways, I just wanted to share a delightful read about reggaetón with a bit of a different perspective. You can also read it in Spanish here.

I'll explain my own views on reggaetón later but for now I recommend you read the blog, especially since I adore the author's writing style, which is informative, fun, and catchy all at the same time. It should also be noted that she wrote the book New York Ricans in the Hip Hop Zone.

In other news, apparently Miss Puerto Rico may not have been a victim of pepper spray after all. You look at the pictures and judge for yourself. I'm not sure I would put it past her.

That's all for now.

November 26, 2007

Another Article: Attacking Beauty Pageants

This is the big news right now.

I'm laughing a bit at this... I mean, it's kind of true, but... couldn't they have phrased it better?

"Beauty competitions in the U.S. Caribbean territory — which boasts five Miss Universe titles, second only to the U.S. — are fierce, drawing boisterous audiences and accusations of rigged results."

A Super Short History of Puerto Rico, Part 1

All right, this is going to be Puerto Rican history in a nutshell.

Before Christopher Colombus arrived in Puerto Rico in 1493, the island, like much of the Caribbean, was populated by Taíno Indians. The Taínos became slaves for the Spaniards and were practically exterminated... there are a few different opinions to whether the Taíno is "extinct", I wrote a paper on this in Spanish so I'll be sure to upload that eventually. Anyways, in response to a lack of workers the slave trade was born. Other than this, Spain more or less ignored the island. It was attacked by the English, Dutch, and French for years and it was a popular place for pirates, notably Puerto Rico's own Cofresí.

About the time of the 19th century Spain began to get more involved with the island. At first they were heavily restricting freedom as all of their other colonies began to free themselves. To "end" unemployment and help out their sycophantical elite, Spain forced a really strange form of indentured servitude by placing imaginary debts on the peasants and forcing them to work it off. This was abolished in 1875, 2 years after the end of slavery. Meanwhile, illiteracy was at 83%, the highest in the West Indies. There was little electricity, almost no sewer system, a high death rate, and few roads. Not surprisingly, something had to be done.

The first consequence of this was El Grito de Lares, the rebellion of September 23rd, 1868 in the town of Lares. It was unsuccessful. I'll save the details for a later post since it's very important.

The second was the Autonomy Charter in 1897. It wasn't exactly because of Puerto Rico, but rather pressure from the United States worrying that problems on the island and on Cuba would affect the sugar market. The Charter gave Puerto Rico the right to vote for half of their parliament, free trade, creation of tariffs, and representation in Spanish Parliament. Most importantly, only the Puerto Rican legislature could change or remove the Charter. But only eight days into Puerto Rico’s first elected legislature, the U.S. military invaded Puerto Rico.

Well that's part one of this brief history of Puerto Rico. Part two should be up soon.

2 Articles: El Yunque and Fights in Schools

Sorry for the wait, I took a much needed thanksgiving vacation.

Here are two quick articles while I prepare a larger post.

This first one is about El Yunque, the rainforest park and popular tourist destination. I'm not going to pretend this is a well written article or that the pictures are outstanding, because they aren't. But it made me smile.

The second article is in Spanish about fighting in schools. I thought it was interesting how they're concerned more about people putting the videos up on youtube than about the actual fights, it seems. Oh, the first link they have up doesn't work, because that's how El Nuevo Día is. Here's the video. It seems pretty intense.

I'm not judging, since almost all high schools have fights. I just thought I'd share (and it's good Spanish practice, for those learning Spanish).

A few things you should notice about the video: they refer to the fight as motín, literally a mutiny. Also, they're outside. In high schools on the island, classes are "outdoors" (by that I don't mean that there isn't a building, but rather there are regular classrooms and covered walkways outside) and students (as far as I know) are allowed off of campus for lunch and might also hang around the front of the school before and after classes. And the final thing you should have picked up on: all the students are dressed the same. In public schools the students wear uniforms, unlike most of the U.S.

November 22, 2007


Today is el día del pavo, or el día de la acción de gracias. Puerto Rico celebrates Thanksgiving just like the U.S., but it's not as big of a deal as it is in the States.

I found this article, it seems a little exaggerated in the Puerto Rican-ness of it (dominoes and güiros are not an every day thing, and everyone eats turkey), but it does describe some other foods that might appear in the menu. So I thought I'd pass it along.

And to everyone else, ¡buen provecho! (have a nice meal).

November 20, 2007

Word of the Week: Bendito

Another word vital to understanding Puerto Ricans is "bendito".

Bendito (or ¡Ay bendito!) is an expression to express empathy for just about anything. Too much homework? Bendiiiiiiiito. Your mother die? Same thing (okay, maybe with some other words in there though). You get the idea.

It also can be shorned to just dito.

Here is a passage from a book called "Panorama de la Cultura Puertorriqueña" by some María Teresa Babín from 1958 about the word "bendito". It's a bit exaggerated and also references religion a bit, but it still rings true. Keep in mind that bendito does NOT just pertain to religious circumstances; it's really an everyday word for any problem.

"Creemos sin hipérbole que la vieja frase para
representar gráficamente la verdadera manera de ser y
de sentir de nuestra gente es el ¡Ay, bendito! La
proferimos a cada vuelta de hoja, ya sea para mostrar
pena o para mostrar cariño y solidaridad. Somos capaces
de perdonar las injurias más graves si echamos mano de
este decir en el cual se concentran las virtudes cristianas
que llevamos en la sangre. ¡Ay, bendito! es el grito
conmovedor que nos desgarra el alma y nos nubla los
ojos de lágrimas ante la injusticia. Es también el perdón
y la conmiseración. Esa frase nos identifica con el
semejante que padece y la damos de consuelo sin tasa ni
medida al que necesita alivio. Tal vez el deje con que
pronunciamos ¡Ay, bendito! tenga un tinte de
impotencia ante los designios del Cielo, y esté ungido de
conformidad, pero al decirlo lo hacemos sin
desfallecimiento, sino con humildad y fe. Rafael
Hernández, cantor sin par de la tierra, ha llevado a una
melodía la clave identificadora del destierro: "Los que
dice... ¡Ay, bendito!... ésos sí, ésos sí" son boricanos
inconfundibles. Podemos reconocernos en cualquier
sition unos a otros si escuchamos la expresión definitiva
de nuestro espíritu auténtico. El ¡Ay, bendito! no debe
considerarse un gesto de flaqueza; al conrario, creo que
encierra la simiente pura de la verdadera caridad, flor
de convivencia sin prejuicios y alborozada sonrisa
fraternal, sin algarabía, tibia y honda en el abrazo.
Acompañamos la palabra con un movimiento mesurado
de cabeza, los ojos a medio cerrar, en actitud orante,
casi de rodillas ante Dios, como si imploráramos al
decirla la intervención Todopoderosa, temblorosos ante
el misterio. Somos creyentes y somos gente de buena
fe. Nuestros alardes violentos no pasan de ser gestos
desesperados sin consecuencia moral, pues sabemos de
antemano que la razón la tiene finalmente el que espera
mientras lucha, no el que espera ociosamente. Así vamos
viviendo, alertas y sosegados, desenredando la maraña
del vivir con paciencia y esperanza, aliviándonos de los
dolores que nos va propinando la suerte con el bálsamo y
filtro del ¡Ay, bendito!, cocimiento de yerbas buenas y
yerbas brujas que han crecido en el huerto boricano
desde antaño."
I'm not going to translate it because it's a little too long and artistic, but even if you can't understand everything I'm sure that you'll get an idea of what's going on.

The island

Sorry if I update kind of sporadically. This weekend is Thanksgiving weekend though, so I'm sure I'll post a bit.

I thought that a quick guide to Puerto Rico's geography would also serve as a good introduction to the island (and really, is kind of important). I hope in some future posts to expand on different parts of each region and what there is to do in each.

This is Puerto Rico:

Sorry for the... low quality map, I was looking for one with all the regions divided up and this was all I could really find for the moment. I also think the "Metro" area is too big (Caguas is in it! Seriously?).

Anyways, a brief introduction to each...

"Metro" is (obviously) San Juan and the surrounding municipalities ("municipios"... it doesn't quite roll off the tongue in English but it's not so bad in Spanish). Big cities besides SJ include (well, at least in this map) Carolina, which is where the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport and Isla Verde are located, Río Piedras, where the University of Puerto Rico's main campus is, and apparently Caguas. I'm not really sure how to explain Caguas except that they have a web site talking about how great they are even though Caguas is in the middle of nowhere. I understand that they have a lot of industry going on there. I'm not sure. The only time I was in Caguas it was about 1 in the morning on Three Kings' Day (to be explained later) and we drove completely out of our way to try to see some house that supposedly was decorated with Christmas lights to some kind of record-breaking extreme. Of course, by the time we got there, there was nothing to see. I wish I were making that story up.

"Este" (East) includes cities like Loíza, the center of Black culture for the island, Luquillo, which has a nice beach (haven't been but I've seen it), Fajardo and Puerto Rico's smaller islands, Culebra and Vieques, and Humacao. There's also the famous park el Yunque here (in the Río Grande municipality).

"Sur" (South) is known for Ponce, the second largest city in Puerto Rico after San Juan. It's drier and hotter here in comparison to the rest of the island.

"Centro" (Center) is mostly mountains. It includes Utuado, Lares, where Puerto Rico's failed revolution, el Grito de Lares (the Shout of Lares), took place, and a few other smaller cities like Jayuya and Aibonito. It still hangs onto its Taíno and jíbaro roots.

"Oeste" (West) is a popular spot for tourists, particularly in Rincón, a gringo enclave and a surfing spot. It also has Mayagüez, a fairly large and pretty city, Cabo Rojo, which has a lot of beaches and the "Los Morrillos" lighthouse, and Aguadilla, which has some more nice beaches.

"Norte" (North) has Arecibo with its famous observatory and the world's largest radio telescope.

Keep in mind that this is just a very rough guide to the major cities. Puerto Rico, with a population of 4 million people in a tiny island, has a lot of interesting suburbs and rural areas that should be seen as well.

November 15, 2007

Article: "Choose Your Own Adventure in Puerto Rico"

I saw this article today and I thought I'd pass it along. I don't know anything about the site but I liked the article all right. It basically introduces a few other, more adventurous, options for visiting the island, like going to Camuy Caves and camping in el Yunque. Actually I have to confess that they had me with "Few Caribbean islands offer as many outdoor adventures as this popular destination." What can I say? I couldn't resist.

Word of the Week: Boricua

At this point I think it's time to start the Puerto Rican word of the week, especcially since there is the potential that the blog could be read without understanding its title!

Boricua is another name for Puerto Ricans. It derives from Boriken/Borinquén, the Taíno Indian name for the island.

Taínos will be subject for another post (or a lot), but until then just understand that they were the main people of the Caribbean (along with the Caribs, who gave us the name for the Caribbean and the word cannibal). Their other names include Quisqueya/Aytí for Hispaniola and Xaymaca for Jamaica.

It may also be of interest to know there's a Boricua College in New York City. I've actually been since they have a museum adjacent to the school. I can't vouch for its quality, however.

Culebra Blog

Since I got a comment from the blogger of Culebra Blog I thought I'd return the favor and get him some promotion.

For those of you who don't know, Culebra is a tiny island belonging to Puerto Rico. It's only a short ferry ride from Fajardo on the eastern side of the island (or plane ride from San Juan, if that's preferable for you). The author of this blog, Mark, has moved to Culebra and is running the Palmetto Guesthouse, I believe, which seems to be a nice deal, I wish I were living there.

I recommend his blog since it describes Culebra and tourist things you can do there. Really useful if you're planning on stopping through Puerto Rico sometime and want to go somewhere quieter (perhaps recover from a hangover? Well... getting there might not be good though). I have to say though I don't know much about Culebra... the one time we were going to go, we got there at 6 in the morning to get tickets for the 9 o'clock ferry but they sold out before we got one! So instead we went to Seven Seas beach in Fajardo (coincidentally, that's where the picture in the banner is from). I've been meaning to try to get there again but no one has the time, usually. But I'll get there someday.

Anyways, check out Culebra Blog!

November 14, 2007

Speaking like a Boricua

Sorry for the long pause between posts, this will be updated regularly once I really get it started. I've been putting off this post for a while because it's one of the most important ones.

Puerto Rico shares several attributes with Caribbean Spanish in general. These include:

  • S /s/ > j /h/ or nothing
This is absolutely vital for understanding Puerto Rican Spanish. Basically, any "s" at the end of a syllable turns into the same sound as "h" in English. Thus, ¿Cómo estás? becomes ¿Cómo ejtáj? (or just ¿Cómo 'táj?), español becomes ejpañol, etc. Also, ¿Qué es eso? (used often in PR; not sure about other places) sounds more like ¿Qué jeso?.
Also keep in mind that occasionally the s can be completely left out, but I think this is more Dominican than Puerto Rican.
  • D /d/ is dropped to make dipthongs

This is mostly used with adjectives: cansao (or cansá), aburrío (or aburría), enfogonao (or enfogoná--this means angry, by the way). B can also be dropped in speech, as in "Dia'lo" instead of "Diablo"

  • J /x/ > /h/ (English h)

None of those Spanish jotas for Puerto Rico! It sounds identical to the H in English.

  • Final R /r/ > /l/

This doesn't ALWAYS happen. Basically, r's at the end of a syllable sound like l's. This mostly occurs in verbs, like estar (ejtal), buscar (bujcal), etc. Notice you can't use this with words like hablar, because it sounds strange.

And the change that is unique to Puerto Rico is...

  • RR > /x/ (as in Spanish j)

This isn't used very often anymore, and if you use it you'll sound really jíbaro (to be explained later!). But you'll still hear it occasionally. Therefore, arroz becomes axój (or ajó', if you prefer to think of it like that).

And that's it!

I tried looking for a video to show this off, particularly with English or Spanish subtitles, but it's a little difficult. I'm sure I'll find something soon and when that happens I'll pass it along.

October 29, 2007

Why Puerto Rico?

So, as we get started, maybe you're wondering what is so exciting about Puerto Rico, anyways. Why aren't I writing about Mexico or Chile or Spain instead? And why should you be interested in going?

Well, the island is very accessible, particularly for Americans. Since it's a territory, it's convenient for Americans. It's only a few hours away from the East Coast, and tickets are cheaper than most international flights. Puerto Rican currency is the dollar, and many islanders speak English.

But those are the practical reasons. What's really attractive about Puerto Rico is the culture. I think I've really gone crazy for it. To me it's fascinating, and quite honestly, I don't think I'll be able to explain why, but I'll give it a shot. There is this great mixture of African, Taíno (Indian), and, of course, Spanish influences, plus a bunch of American thrown in. On top of this is just... Puerto Rican-ness. After all, people assume that Puerto Rico is like any other Spanish-speaking country, or that it's very Americanized, or that there are a lot of Black or Amerindian people. None of these is entirely true. It's a mixture, more successful than America's "melting pot" in many ways.

My favorite thing about this is how it manifests in the music. Puerto Rico has no film or telenovela (soap opera) industry to speak of. The literature is not as well known as Cuba's, much less Spain's or Argentina's. But I would bet that there are more musicians in each square mile than in any other country of the world.

Now, for those of you who don't like reggaetón, this can be hard to fathom. But reggaetón is just an additional part of Puerto Rico's music that has developed from as far back as the Taíno areytos. Meanwhile, reggaetón, whether you like it or not, is one of the largest musical waves in Latin America as well as the US, and it is nearly exclusively a product of the island.

I'll be sure to delve into music again, in less general terms. For now that should be fitting.

I guess something else that I love about the island is the speech, which is the point of this blog, after all. Puerto Rican Spanish is one of the most difficult varieties of Spanish to understand. Once you can understand it, however, you get to experience the fun of speaking it (because turning your s's into j's really is fun) and the richness of the culture that has seeped into it. A lot of very strange slang has origins in culture, and without knowing both the slang and the culture, communicating comfortably with Puerto Ricans becomes much harder. But the slang isn't necessarily difficult to learn and it certainly is interesting.

I could go on with this, but those are my two biggest reasons. I think any another incentives will reveal themselves after time. Hopefully I can cover the island enough in order to appeal to everyone. But let me say this again: this is my passion. I love this island and I love the people, quirky and irritating as they can occasionally be (don't take offense, no culture is complete without idiots). I just hope my enthusiasm can be shared with others.

October 26, 2007


Welcome to Speaking Boricua. Here I hope to introduce Puerto Rican speech to you, as well as culture and other fundamentals necessary to understand Puerto Rico.

You, the reader, are:
- An American learning Spanish who wants to be able to understand (difficult) Puerto Rican Spanish
- An American just interested in other cultures in general
- A Spanish-speaker of another country interested in Puerto Rico
- A Puerto Rican living on the mainland wanting to learn about your/your family's culture
- A Puerto Rican on the island hoping to correct me (which is fine)

I, the author, am a university student who is fascinated by Puerto Rico, particularly the language. I study various languages but my passion will always be Puerto Rican Spanish. I've traveled multiple times to the island, staying for various amounts of time with friends and their families. I also spend a lot of time stateside with my good friend, who is Puerto Rican. I hope I'll be able to share this amazing language and culture with you.

Some things I'll be writing about: use of language (obviously), culture, history, music, politics, food, and more. I plan on using youtube to demonstrate some of this, as well as my own personal photos, experience, and research.

Also, this blog is in English, since it is intended mostly for English-speakers learning about Puerto Rico. However, I'll also include materials in Spanish, hopefully with a synopsis in English.