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.