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.