September 29, 2008


Click to see it larger...

September 28, 2008

20 more years of flooded streets?!

Puerto Rico anticipates 20 more years of flooded streets

PONCE, Puerto Rico (AP) — The director of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it will take another 20 years before it can control Puerto Rico's infamous flooding problem because no money is available.

Jose Manuel Rosado says more than $1 billion is needed for flood-control projects.

He says he anticipates the U.S. government will pay for at least four projects that will cost up to US$20 million each. He says the majority of San Juan, however, remains vulnerable to flooding.

His comments come as Puerto Rico struggles to repair roads and clean homes after it rained 24 inches (61 centimeters) in one day.

Rosado made the comments Saturday during an interview with Catholic Radio of Ponce.

Seriously, what? "There's a problem but there's nothing we can do about it so let's just not do anything!" Why did they even put up this article? It's not shocking enough to scare anyone (if anyone reading even cares about Puerto Rico anyways) and doesn't propose any solutions, not even suggestions for the people who might be faced with flooding due to the problem. It's useless!

September 26, 2008

El Grito de Lares, Part 2

I hate to admit this, but after Tuesday's lame Wikipedia cop-out, I started to feel a little guilty. Surely I had much more to say about El Grito de Lares than that! Granted, I was really busy when I posted it, but some of goals for this blog are to find better sources that Wikipedia, because, as I mentioned, it's lame, as well as potentially sexual in some contexts if I got lazy and left of the "pedia" (can't help it, I think it's funny), and I also try to make this blog as personal as possible. Because in the end you could learn plenty about Puerto Rico through Wikipedia and other websites, but, aside from the fact that you have to know it exists to be able to look for it, simply reading an "unbiased" page (we know it's not but it certainly is more unbiased than mine) will not attach you to the subject. Not that I'm expecting anyone to become deeply enamored of Puerto Rico through reading this, especially since most people who are already know at least of Puerto Rico (again, you have to know it exists blah blah...). But for many of the things I talk about here, I've had very strong personal experience with, some of them quite emotional. My poor attempts at conveying them, since I'm going for honesty here, are not going to convert anyone to Puerto Ricanism, but ideally I'd want the personalness of this blog to inspire a space where people discuss their own experiences as well. That said...

El Grito de Lares is an ambiguous holiday, hard to understand for those not growing up with it. For one, the word "holiday" implies some kind of celebration and fun-filled festivities, which don't really exist in relation to el Grito de Lares (except for maybe in the town of Lares, but that's another story). It's akin to holidays like Memorial Day, observed but not necessarily a "happy" occasion. It also is equivalent to an independence day without, of course, actually being an independence day. The purpose is the same though: a sense of pride for the struggle for independence. However this was a failed effort, so the significance changes. Rather than being a celebration of failure (as I'm sure a couple of you guessed), however, it's a sort of nostalgic look back at what could have been.

That's the funny thing about El Grito... even though it's very essence is political, it's been absorbed into the culture without that. While it can be interpreted politically, and used as a political symbol, and it is very often, it doesn't have to be. Anyone and everyone references and seems to respect it, no matter what party.

It's this attitude that generally explains Puerto Ricans' view towards independence. Now, before anyone misinterprets that, let me explain. Independentistas are undoubtedly a minority, many people vehemently hate the party, and there exists plenty of fear about the idea itself (Would an independent Puerto Rico be able to support itself? Would it turn into a state like Cuba overnight? I know it sounds unlikely, but people legitimately voice that fear every day). To say independence is unpopular would be a huge understatement.

But poll numbers cannot represent an ideology, it being a complicated and ever-changing creature. Remember that the first half (give or take a few decades) of the 20th century was almost entirely devoted to the independence movement. The American (or FBI), as well as Puerto Rican (Luis Muñoz Marín), efforts were very successful at diminishing the movement's power, but completely erasing it was impossible. It still lingers even in the most passionate estadistas. Few people deny the vast cultural gap between the states and PR; the Americans will always be separate, the other, even while the island absorbs everything they produce. There is still some affiliation with them, and even some patriotism, but it is often followed by expressions of disrespect. It's a bit too complicated for this post at the moment, but I go into the contradictions of it a little at the end of this post. Needless to say, Puerto Ricans proudly affirm and jealously maintain their own identities separate from America.

Thus it would be fair to say that despite whatever party is currently in office and despite any and all plebescites, Puerto Rico has independence at its core. In a year Puerto Rico could become the 51st state, and independence would still be present as a concept. Unless Puerto Rico undergoes a drastic and deliberate homogeneization process to assimilate with the United States, it will always be its own being. Independence is no longer the result of an election (in today's Puerto Rico, anyways)--it is a value. Hence El Grito de Lares will survive as a manifestation of that crucial and impenetrable value.

For more thoughts on Puerto Rico's attempts to stay separate culturally from the United States, read this essay. I also go a little more into history here, including some about the independence movement.

September 23, 2008

Happy Grito de Lares! ... or something like that

I don't feel the need to describe el Grito de Lares here, seeing as Wikipedia does a decent job of describing it. Instead I thought I would just put the original lyrics for La Borinqueña, written in 1868. The lyrics used now for the anthem have been edited (or censured, if you prefer) to exclude the revolutionary feel of the song. English lyrics courtesy of Wikipedia (again)...

¡Despierta, borinqueño
que han dado la señal!
¡Despierta de ese sueño
que es hora de luchar!
[Arise, boricua! The call to arms has sounded! Awake from the slumber, it is time to fight!]
A ese llamar patriótico
¿no arde tu corazón?
¡Ven! Nos será simpático
el ruido del cañón.
[Doesn't this patriotic call set your heart alight? Come! We are in tune with the roar of the cannon.]
Mira, ya el cubano
libre será;
le dará el machete
su libertad...
le dará el machete
su libertad.
[Come, the Cuban will soon be free; the machete will give him his liberty, the machete will give him his liberty.]
Ya el tambor guerrero
dice en su son,
que es la manigua el sitio,
el sitio de la reunión,
de la reunión...
de la reunión.
[Now the war drum says with its sound, that the countryside is the place of the meeting.]
El Grito de Lares
se ha de repetir,
y entonces sabremos
vencer o morir.
[The Cry of Lares must be repeated, and then we will know: victory or death.]
Bellísima Borinquén,
a Cuba hay que seguir;
tú tienes bravos hijos
que quieren combatir.
[Beautiful Borinquén must follow Cuba; you have brave sons who wish to fight.]
ya por más tiempo impávido
no podemos estar,
ya no queremos, tímidos
dejarnos subyugar.
[Now, no longer can we be unmoved; now we do not want timidly to let them subjugate us.]
Nosotros queremos
ser libre ya,
y nuestro machete
afilado está.
y nuestro machete
afilado está.
[We want to be free now, and our machete has been sharpened.]
¿Por qué, entonces, nosotros
hemos de estar,
tan dormidos y sordos
y sordos a esa señal?
a esa señal, a esa señal?
[Why then have we been so sleepy and deaf to the call?]
No hay que temer, riqueños
al ruido del cañón,
que salvar a la patria
es deber del corazón!
[There is no need to fear, Ricans, the roar of the cannon; saving the nation is the duty of the heart.]
ya no queremos déspotas,
caiga el tirano ya,
las mujeres indómitas
también sabrán luchar.
[We no longer want despots, tyranny shall fall now; the unconquerable women also will know how to fight.]
Nosotros queremos
la libertad,
y nuestros machetes
nos la darán...
y nuestro machete
nos la dará...
[We want liberty, and our machetes will give it to us.]
Vámonos, borinqueños,
vámonos ya,
que nos espera ansiosa,
ansiosa la libertad.
¡La libertad, la libertad!
[Come, Boricuas, come now, since freedom awaits us anxiously, freedom, freedom!]

September 18, 2008

Racial, regional, and political satire--all in one!

This article by El Ñame (Puerto Rico's response to The Onion) is probably the best I've ever read. It is simply hilarious. You must go read it!

September 16, 2008

Puerto Rican Spanish "Mistakes"

I found this and I thought it'd be worth looking at. It's a "Glossary of Doubts and Difficulties regarding the Spanish Language in Puerto Rico". It's not complete by any means, since that'd be impossible, and there are at least a couple I would argue with, but it's still interesting nonetheless.

September 15, 2008

Pueblo - Luis Palés Matos

Because I can. And because I think this poem is quite important still today.


¡Piedad, Señor, piedad para mi pobre pueblo
donde mi pobre gente se morirá de nada!
Aquel viejo notario que se pasa los días
en su mínima y lenta preocupación de rata;
este alcalde adiposo de grande abdomen vacuo
chapoteando en su vida tal como en una salsa;
aquel comercio lento, igual, de hace diez siglos;
estas cabras que triscan el resol de la plaza;
algún mendigo, algún caballo que atraviesa
tiñoso, gris y flaco, por estas calles anchas;
la fría y atrofiante modorra del domingo
jugando en los casinos con billar y barajas;
todo, todo el rebaño tedioso de estas vidas
en este pueblo viejo donde no ocurre nada,
todo esto se muere, se cae, se desmorona,
a fuerza de ser cómodo y de estar a sus anchas.

¡Piedad, Señor, piedad para mi pobre pueblo!
Sobre estas almas simples, desata algún canalla
que contra el agua muerta de sus vidas arroje
la piedra redentora de una insólita hazaña...
Algún ladrón que asalte ese banco en la noche,
algún Don Juan que viole esa doncella casta,
algún tahur de oficio que se meta en el pueblo
y revuelva estas gentes honorables y mansas.

¡Piedad, Señor, piedad para mi pobre pueblo
donde mi pobre gente se morirá de nada!

September 13, 2008

A comment

Hey everyone, sorry it's been so long. I've been really busy! As of right now I can't promise to be posting a lot either... we'll see what happens.

As proof of that I'm still checking on you guys, I thought I'd share this comment I got on this post. It's from Vicious Misfit.

Great blog. Really glad I found it. I just returned from my 2nd trip to San Juan (between hurricanes), and I was able to adventure out from Santurce this time around. And being a redhead, I found your commentary entertaining.

However, I actually found that once I left Condado, people were happy to converse with me in Spanish, once I'd responded or initiated a conversation in the language, although they tended to ease off the accent and expressions. Those that I met loved to talk, which seems to be yet another source of pride. Just asking for street directions could prompt a 30-minute conversation which wanders off into stories, politics, and usually will engage other bystanders. Sometimes the conversation would drift in between languages (I'm not fluent by any means), but there didn't seem to be a particular preference other than simply communicating in the way they felt would be most helpful/effective.

As for their English fluency in general, even in the tourist areas, I've only met a handful of people who speak English beyond a functional or informative level. And as far as I can tell, while English is taught throughout school alongside Spanish, it's the latter that is used in instruction and other school functions. Once I wanted to discuss opinions or anything in depth, Spanish was a necessity.

I was pleasantly surprised. As you'd stated, the culture is essentially from Taino, African, and Spanish influence, and I think it's great that the language has not succumbed to English due to U.S. occupation. To be honest, I was a little apprehensive to travel there initially for fear that the guides were right about all locals being fluent in English. I was worried to find something like Hawaii, but that can't be further from the truth.

And to get back on topic (sorry for rambling), I agree the "Boricua Spanish" is too often discounted because it deviates so far from the academy. And there's something about the tone and rhythm of the speaking which I now miss, having returned back home.
I don't really have much to say about this, except yes, guidebooks lie, and they lie viciously. And the last sentence also rings true for me. To me, Puerto Rican Spanish sounds kind of soothing and comforting (depending, of course, on who's talking--some people are really nasal and it kind of hurts).

Thanks for stopping by, everyone. Hopefully we'll get more material up here soon!

September 5, 2008


Hurricane Ike should be passing north of Puerto Rico tonight and tomorrow, which means there will be lots of rain. That, plus the fact that it's been raining a lot there recently anyways, made me want to share this little warning with all of you...

When you lose power, especially if there is a hurricane (God forbid), don't expect to get it back right away. With big rains it may be a couple days; bad hurricanes, a couple months.

September 4, 2008

Say it ain't so, Héctor el Father!

According to El Nuevo Día, reggaetonero Héctor el Father has decided to devote his life to Jesus and retire from reggaetón. (Those of you who are lost at this point, stick with me)


Not only did Héctor el Father (formerly known as Héctor el Bambino... guess he grew up) have a large role in the reggaetón genre, he also was a producer for a lot of other reggaetoneros. So his presence will be missed.

If you were a fan, he's having a farewell concert the 25th of October in the Choliseo (you can get tickets on For those of us who can't really make it to the island then (or--ahem--don't really care), you can just watch the Dale Castigo video over and over again. Warning: it's a little strong.