Getting to Know the 51st State

While chatting with one of my friends on Skype, I suggested we take a trip.

Friend- Uh, like to where?

Me- Someplace crazy and exciting!

Friend- Cedar Point?

Me- Hmm…I’m thinking Puerto Rico.

Friend- (Pause…..) Ok!

Yes! That was the most sporadic trip planning I had ever done. And the best part….someone fell for it! The next Skype date was spent booking tickets to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Most of my traveling has been done in Asia, so I was excited to have an adventure in a place with a Latino culture.

As Americans, we tend to be blissfully ignorant about Puerto Rico. I knew it was a commonwealth of the US, but what does that even mean? Well, they answer to the US government. However, they can’t do things like voting for the president. They have their own democratically elected governor, much like any other state. Yet, they aren’t considered a state. They are United States citizens.  They are represented in congress, but their delegate can not vote. Some islanders themselves think Puerto Rico should be a state. However, some like it the way it is. And then there are some that want full independence. Apparently there is a cask of rum that was set aside in 1942 with orders to be opened when (or if) Puerto Rico becomes an independent nation.

I like the way the travel guide “Lonely Planet Puerto Rico” (my favorite set of travel guides!) describes Puerto Rico: “an island the size of Connecticut with the diversity of a small continent.” I was surprised to see that Puerto Rico has it all- beaches, mountains, rain forests, and many other types of terrain. Hints of Spain (from colonization), pieces of America (from current jurisdiction), the Caribbean  (the location), and native Taino (the people original to the island)can be seen in the architecture, the language, and the food. What a wonderful mesh of culture!

Interesting facts:

-Had an asylum policy in 1700 and 1800’s to give freedom to fugitive slaves.

-Because of its connection to the US, Puerto Rico is one of the most well-off islands in the Caribbean.

-Plantains are so in demand that they must be imported from the Dominican Republic.

– The headquarters for Barcardi Rum is located on the island

– San Juan is the 2nd oldest European settlement in the Americas

I’m going to do a few more posts with some interesting places to visit in Puerto Rico along with some photos I took there. Until then, enjoy these photos!

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