July 31, 2008

The coolest thing I've seen so far today

As you may or may not know, for a long period during Spanish colonialism Puerto Rico was home to contraband and pirates, the most famous one being one named Cofresí (heard of him?). It also was a very important for stops coming from Spain for a while.

The reason I mention this is that they have found parts of a sunken ship, complete with human bones, right by the very popular Luquillo beach.

Read about it here on the marvelous Dondequiera blog, or on the Associated Press if you prefer.

Honestly, that's pretty cool.

July 30, 2008

Words of the Week: Pari and more

Per request I'm tackling some English words used to pasarla bien... nothing complicated, just a few words in case you want to go out. This isn't a complete list by any means (or really even a list), mostly because I'm hardly mentally conscious at this point, but I wanted to get something up anyways. Please add your own.

As you know English has had a profound effect on the island's speech, particularly slang. However, I'm not really up to getting into a whole linguistic and cultural analysis at the moment, although I'm not sure there'd be much of one. It's not uncommon for one language to adopt slang or vocabulary from another, particularly in cases like that of Puerto Rico where there is a close, sustained relationship with another country, its language, and specifically its media (American television and movies usually do the trick). Puerto Rico has constant exposure to English and countless words are Spanglicized each year. So I'm sorry, Janine, but tracing pari/party to its original Spanglish roots (as in when it made the transition from English to Spanish) would require great etymological feats that I am simply incapable of performing. Regardless, this does merit a bit of reading on the topic in general, so I'll see what I can find next time I'm on the island.

Just a couple words in the meanwhile to whet your appetite:

  • Pari - From the English "party". While it can be written any combination of ways (party, parti, pari, pary, etc.), particularly online, generally the t is not pronounced. Other words from pari are parisear (to party, not surprisingly) and pariseo (from the verb).
  • Janguear - From the English "to hang (out)". While hanging out in English isn't necessary thought of as partying, generally it does here. The verb form is janguear.
  • Chilin - From the English "chilling". It's usually spelled "chillin" but I decided not to confuse anyone with the double l here. For whatever reason every time I've seen it it's only been used as an adjective, as in "'Tá chillin"... the best way I can think of to translate it is "It's pretty sweet" or something to that effect. Suggestions?

July 27, 2008


What with all the hype about the Batman movie, I thought I'd remind people of a couple things.

  • Movies in PR generally open a day or so earlier than in the U.S. If you are a film buff and like seeing a movie as soon as it comes out, or if you have a friend who does and you can brag that you got to see it first, you may want to move.
  • Caribbean Cinemas is the main movie theater chain. They show all the main movies in the U.S., sometimes a couple foreign ones in Spanish, and whatever Puerto Rican movie is out (if there are any). Also, ticket prices are $5.50 and I think Wednesday is "Ladies' Night", with tickets only $3.50. The first showing of each movie Monday through Friday is also only $3.50.
  • Unless the movie is already in Spanish, it will have Spanish subtitles. Popular movies are often shown both in English and dubbed in Spanish in another theater. The Spanish dubbed versions don't sell nearly as many tickets as the originals, so if you're desperate to see a movie and it sells out, try that.
As I'm sure you can imagine, catching a movie is a great (and in Puerto Rico, relatively inexpensive) way to avoid the heat. Or giant killer clouds of dust.

July 24, 2008

Puerto Rican Coffee, or why you've never had any

Before the Spanish-American War, coffee was one of the strongest industries of Puerto Rico. Along with sugar and tobacco, it dominated exports. So why is it today nearly unheard of?

One of the most abrupt changes that the war brought was the devastation of the industry. This can be blamed on a few factors: 1, the U.S. had already entered in a deal with Brazil for their coffee, 2, the taste of Puerto Rican coffee was too strong for most Americans (most of its success was in Europe), and 3, American interests in the Caribbean laid mostly in the sugar industry, as seen with Cuba. Sure enough, the sugar industry exploded overnight, causing ruin for most coffee-growing families who could no longer export to Europe or the U.S.

Despite this, the coffee companies have hung on. On the island, there are a few companies that keep their products on local shelves. Sadly, however, quite a few of these include coffee from outside the island. Both output and demand aren't high enough to change this.

Yauco Selecto has previously been reputated to be an excellent coffee, equal to Jamaican Blue Mountain and Hawaiian Kona (some of the most consistently high rated coffees in the world), although apparently quality has been hard to maintain lately. Right now, according to Coffee Review, the best coffee Puerto Rico has to offer at the moment is something called CaféBello, which I've never heard of before. Sounds good though.

Coffee, by the way, is definitely one way to Puerto Rico differs from the U.S. It's usually enjoyed in small cups with milk (and sugar, if you want), making a perfect café con leche, common throughout Latin America. Extremely bitter black coffee is called café puya (in comparison to café prieto, which is sweetened) and is also popular. Starbucks and the entire idea of fancy coffee drinks is really unpopular, kind of startling considering Puerto Rico's incredible sweet tooth. Cold coffee is a no-no and milk will often be heated up on the oven as well. Apparently warm coffee is seen as rude gesture in restaurants. So if you have guests over, don't give them cold coffee! Not that anyone would do that on purpose...

Generally whenever I get read to leave I make sure to pick up a little coffee to take with me. It's difficult to get it away from the island otherwise.

July 23, 2008

More on Milk, which would hit the minimum hourly wage except...

As suspected, the price of milk is increasing tomorrow, 8 cents.

Also, minimum wage might be increasing from $6.55 to $7.25. I am going to take a bet and say this is heading towards disaster, seeing as the increase isn't high enough to satisfy the people who need it, while being high enough to discourage American companies (particularly with factories on the island) that Puerto Rico is too expensive, something that is already happening with devastating results.

If you have asthma, beware!

From what I've heard, a volcano has erupted in Montserrat, so the air is filled with dust again not unlike the Sahara dust from before. It's really severe and I know it's causing some people I know there to really suffer. So if you have asthma or another condition and are traveling to the island, please be careful!

July 21, 2008

Thinking of Puerto Rico

Out of curiosity, when you think of Puerto Rico, what image pops into your head? Is it one of the countless beaches? Maybe the jungle and el Yunque? Las garitas in San Juan (a popular one off and on the island)? The city of Old San Juan? Salsa dancing? Cacos and their reggaetón? A specific dish? A specific person?

For me, it's always the houses. The combination of gates everywhere, cement, rooflessness, and bright colors guarantees that the houses are always going to be what I think of first when I hear "Puerto Rico". Maybe it's just because I spend a lot of time in them.

How about you?

July 20, 2008

Total Defeat

So Puerto Rico, after a victory over Slovenia, and a loss to Greece, has now lost to Germany, eliminating them from the Olympics. Too bad...

July 16, 2008

No freaking way

Apparently there is a very high possibility of the price of milk rising even more.

If you haven't been keeping up with the island in the last year or so, you'd probably have no way of knowing that the price of milk has risen exponentially, making it out of reach for most Puerto Rican budgets. Right now, according to the article, a gallon of milk costs on average $5.30. In comparison, in the states it's at an average of $4.00, with prices around $5.00 in some areas. Factoring in the huge difference of incomes, clearly the prices are ridiculously high. That's why most families have stopped buying milk.

So I find it shocking they can even consider rising the prices more than what they already are. At those prices, you may as well buy your own damn cow and raise it in your cramped backyard (or at least a goat, if I'm going to pretend to be halfway realistic).

July 14, 2008

And by "Yeah Puerto Rico!", I meant... not so much

Miss Puerto Rico, in case you are not Puerto Rican and hence weren't glued to your TV sets last night, did not win Miss Universe. Actually, she got cut the very first round (or whatever it's called).

How are they taking it on the island? I'm thinking not well.

It doesn't help that the DR and Venezuela both made it to the end, with Venezuela winning. That means that Puerto Rico and Venezuela are again tied for 2nd place for most winners (both have 5, as compared to the U.S. in the lead with 7 ).

Here is part of El Nuevo Día's bitter response (along with a translation, of course):

De inmediato pasaron a las preguntas finales. Ninguna pregunta impactante y tampoco las respuestas.

They suddenly skipped on to the final questions. There were no shocking questions or answers.

-Miss Colombia ha sido feliz toda su vida. TODA.*

-Miss Colombia has been happy all of her life. ALL OF IT.*

-Miss Venezuela cree que las mujeres no van directas al punto.

-Miss Venezuela believes that women aren't direct.

-Miss República Dominicana se ha tenido que sacrificar bastante en la vida, pero todo ha valido la pena.

-Miss Dominican Republic has had to sacrifice a lot in life, but it was all worth it.

-Miss México entiende que las mujeres están completamente satisfechas cuando tienen una vida balanceada entre la familia, el trabajo y la comunidad.

-Miss Mexico understands that women are completely satisfied when they have their life balanced between family, work, and the community.

-Miss Rusia está clara en que las mujeres cada vez son más fuerte y más inteligentes.

-Miss Russia is sure that women just keep getting stronger and smarter.

I warned you it was bitter.

*This part cracks me up.

Yeah Puerto Rico!

My friend caught this commercial for me on TV and had to send me the link... then I was forced to post it. First off, it's hilarious, and second, it's so true. This is the essence of Puerto Ricans, I think: they don't always win (or it's a smaller victory; hey, it's a small island you know!), but they're damn proud and enthusiastic anyways. Good stuff.

July 13, 2008

How to Beat the Heat, or, Words of the Week: Manteca(d)o and Piragua

It's not really that much hotter in Puerto Rico now as it is the rest of the year, but it's summer here, hence I'm reminded of these things. And it still is pretty hot right now on the island anyways.

Air conditioning is something confined to public spaces rather than private, generally speaking, which basically means the best way to get some is to head to the mall rather than hide in the house. Unless, you know, you're in a hotel, but then why are you staying in your room on vacation? If it's too hot to hit the streets of Old San Juan, there are plenty of museums around to check out. Or you can get a free ride to the beach (until the end of August, anyways).

The vast majority of houses, however, do not have air conditioning. Most do have those window air conditioners (although many times in the wall rather than in a window) or fans. Side note: if you stop using those a/c units, they fill up with cockroaches. You've been warned.

Anyways, if you do decide to go out, there are a couple good ways to handle the heat. Which brings us to the words of this week, which are mantecado and piragua.

Unlike most Spanish-speaking countries, Puerto Rico doesn't use the word helado for ice cream. It's mantecado. They'd figure out you wanted ice cream if you asked for helado, I suppose, but go with mantecado.

Piraguas are basically tropical snow cones. I'm not sure how to explain them more than that. They have them all over Old San Juan in little carts and they are great--my favorite flavor is coconut. The word supposedly comes from the Taíno word for some kind of long boat, but now they're snow cones.

So enjoy your vacation, and keep cool!

July 12, 2008

Let's talk competition for a minute

So the Olympics are rapidly approaching and, if I'm right, so is the Miss Universe contest. I don't really know much about either sports or beauty competitions, but things look promising for Puerto Rico. Miss Puerto Rico Ingrid Marie Rivera (famous for being victim of sabotage in the last beauty competition) is rumored to do very well, and the basketball team, despite losing to Slovenia recently, did beat the U.S. last week--but then again, they do have superstar Carlos Arroyo on the team. And let's be honest here, Boricuas are amazing at boxing and I'm expecting a lot from them.

I do have one hesitation about all this though--what is this outfit?! Traditional costume of Puerto Rico my ass! It's a Pocahontas-Rio de Janeiro hybrid, neither of which is Puerto Rico. Give me a regular old jíbaro outfit instead, at least it'd be halfway accurate. And it's not such an impossible idea. Although then again, it could be worse. It could be this.

July 10, 2008


What can I say, I've been busy. I'll catch up this weekend I suppose.

In the meantime, here is another very informative, and still fun, post on dengue fever (what it is and why you are going to get it) by Renee. There are also tips to avoid getting it... which basically amount to that you are going to get it if you're going to get it and unless you're a recluse you don't have much of a choice. I mean, chances of getting it are still kind of low, although, as Renee oh-so-correctly pointed out, last year there was a crazy epidemic and I was pretty much afraid for my life (not really!)... I don't know what it is with gringo skin, but every single time I get bitten up countless times more than any Puerto Rican I know. Maybe all the mosquitos are just pipiolos and they want the Americans out...

Okay, bad joke, really lame. Sorry.

July 6, 2008

Café Salsa

Que le pongan salsa, Que le pongan salsa, Pa' mojar pa' mojar Que le pongan salsa...

This weekend I went to old town Alexandria to celebrate the 4th. And of course, what do I run into but a whole bunch of Puerto Ricans... including a Puerto Rican restaurant! I could have sworn there weren't any around DC at all.

Of course we had to go. Even if my friend is returning to the island in less than a week.

Café Salsa technically calls itself "Nuevo Latino" cuisine but it mostly draws from Puerto Rican food, plenty of Cuban and a couple other things as well. It's a pretty small place but the food isn't bad. Here come the pictures...


July 4, 2008

The blog

Also, you might have noticed, I'm working on a new layout. Expect a couple more changes soon...

More Daddy Yankee

Those of you who suffered through the only slightly over-dramatic Daddy Yankee post (and the new video) will be happy to know that he has a new single out and it's much better. I mean, it's no classic (does reggaetón even have classics?) but it's a huge difference.

Here's the video.