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Puerto Rico an Enchanted Island

Updated on August 16, 2011
El Morro
El Morro

Enchanted Island

I just returned from the place where I grew up. I spent my childhood in Puerto Rico and left once I graduated high school. At that time the mainland had much more to offer a 17 year old in search of herself and bigger and better things. I’d almost forgotten what a perfectly enchanting little island Puerto Rico really is. Only wish I had had more time to spend, rediscovering it.

Such a modern, relaxing and familiar place in the North Eastern Caribbean. Puerto Rico is known as “La Isla del Encanto” in Spanish it means - Enchanted Island. It is a captivating tropical paradise offering all the commodities we are accustomed to in the U.S.

Puerto Rico was discovered in 1493 by Christopher Columbus or Cristobal Colon (his Spanish name). It is an island measuring just 100 miles in length by 35 miles in width. Although small by comparison , it is more than large enough to house the 3.6 million residents that live there.

Puerto Rico is composed of an archipelago that includes the main island of Puerto Rico and a number of smaller islands, the only other two inhabited ones are Vieques and Culebras

Unlike other Latin American countries, Puerto Rico has a high standard of living. Puerto Rico became a US territory in 1898 and as a commonwealth of the United States shares plenty with the mainland. The island adheres to the same monetary exchange, the same phone service , same quality of water and electricity standards, same rules of the road and Spanish and English are spoken fluently by most. It is rich in culture and history. The people are simple and pleasant, eager to please with their hospitality and willingness to show a visitor a good time.

El Yunque Rainforest
El Yunque Rainforest
El Yunque Waterfall
El Yunque Waterfall

A Little P.R. History

In the beginning Tainos inhabited the Island. They were a peaceful people that lived off corn, tropical fruits and seafood . The Spaniards later on introduced beef and pork and began planting sugarcane. They lived in small villages lead by their chief or “cacique” . They numbered approximately 50,000 when Columbus first showed up on his second voyage from Spain to conquer the island. The Tainos were welcoming and apart from showing hospitality they made the mistake and also showed the large gold nuggets lining the river beds and told the Spaniards to help themselves.

Unbeknown to the Indians that would be their last taste of freedom. Indians soon became slaves and forced to do all the manual labor. By Columbus’ third voyage the Indians had been decimated and ravaged by disease.

Columbus originally named the island San Juan , he named the main city Puerto Rico. “Puerto” meaning “port” and “Rico” meaning “rich”, Rich Port. Over time the names were inverted and remain as we know them today.

La Nina, La Pinta and the Santa Maria Ships - Watercolor
La Nina, La Pinta and the Santa Maria Ships - Watercolor
Old San Juan
Old San Juan
Old San Juan Streets
Old San Juan Streets
Paseo de la Princesa
Paseo de la Princesa
La Fortaleza
La Fortaleza

Columbus was a visionary, he saw Puerto Rico for what it was then and still is, an impressive island abundant in natural resources and beauty. Crystal blue beaches outline the island, varieties of tropical fruit trees grow wild throughout, mountains and rivers at every turn add to the subtle charm.

Puerto Rico has the only rain forest in the USA , great caves, and adventure activities for thrill seekers.

Due to its excellent potential San Juan soon became the most important military outpost for the Spaniards in the Caribbean.

To this day you can see remnants of the old colonial style which is Old San Juan, a 500year old city. The cobblestone streets and the protective forts constructed by the Spanish army are well preserved and serve to attracts locals and visitors alike.

Culebras and Vieques

Culebras - is about 19 miles east of Fajardo, P.R. It is an arid little island 7 miles long by 3 miles wide. Since it has no rivers or lakes, all water is brought in from Puerto Rico via Vieques island. You can get there by air or ferry. Peace and tranquility are the order of the day if visiting here as there is no nightlife. The clear and crisp waters more than make up for that in this natural paradise. The ferry runs everyday for about $2.50. For an extended visit to this island you can pack your vehicle and load it onto the ferry. Many visitors pack all their camping supplies and head to the beach.

 

Vieques - For many years the US Navy occupied this island to conduct military drills, since the their departure in 2003 after heavy protests, Isla de Vieques has become the new hottest Caribbean destination and seen an increase in the number of tourists. Enormous changes have already taken place. If you want to experience the uncrowded, peaceful, and virgin side of the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico, plan on visiting soon because as it becomes more and more popular it may not stay this way for long. It is just 6 miles off the southeast coast of Puerto Rico and may be reached by ferry or short flight.

Asopao
Asopao
Arroz con Gandules
Arroz con Gandules
Mofongo w/Shrimp
Mofongo w/Shrimp
Yummy Pina Colada
Yummy Pina Colada

Puerto Rican Cuisine

A great bonus of visiting P.R. is the cuisine. At any given corner or town locals have their restaurants set up right in front of their residence as a means of deriving extra income. I suspect the FDA would have a fit if they actually had to go around inspecting each one of these little hole in the wall eateries. The best part is, because they don’t have to deal with this department they can concentrate on quality food and ingredients, served by family members at an affordable price. Some of my favorite foods from the Puerto Rican cuisine :

Asopao - soup made out of chicken or crusteceans and rice with a special blend of herbs and flavors. Perfect comfort food.

Pernil - Slow roasted pork shoulder.

Arroz con glandules - rice with green pigeon peas.

Mofongo - fried green plaintain mashed together with garlic, olive oil, and pork cracklings or bacon bits and typically formed into a ball. A variation of the mofongo dish is the mofongo relleno which means stuffed. The mofongo is shaped with a hallow inside to stuff with chicken, crab, shrimp, beef, or vegetables.

Bacalaitos - deep fried battered mixture with cod fish .

Pina Colada - Tropical pineapple, coconut crème and rum mix drink. Rum and rum drinks are favored on the island. The pina colada was invented here in P.R. at Caribe Hilton Hotel.

Music

 

Another good reason to visit P.R. is the contagious beat of the music. Latin salsa and merengue bring life to any event, especially in the evenings. There are plenty of casinos, bars, discos and clubs in Old San Juan, Condado and Isla Verde if you are up to experiencing the nightlife. If you prefer theater, opera or ballet you can book musical concerts too.

The music of Puerto Rico has influences from as far as Africa, Spain , the US, Panama, Cuba and Dominican Republic. Today their music is a delightful mix of all which is heard throughout the Caribbean and beyond.

Ricky Martin - The Cup of Life

Marc Anthony - Valio La Pena

Olga Tanon

Daddy Yankee - Lo Que Paso, Paso

My Favorite Puerto Rican Singers


1. Ricky Martin - got his start with the pre-teen boy band “Menudo“. They were a huge success and the most wanted poster in every young girls room. When he outgrew the band he went solo and has remained an icon for 30 years within the latin american music industry. His good looks and dance moves alone are enough to captivate but we have the good fortune of also being able to enjoy his voice . His genres - Pop, Latin Pop, Reggaeton , Dance Pop and Pop/Rock .

2. Marc Anthony - was born in New York City to Puerto Rican parents. He is the top selling tropical salsa king and has sold more that 10 million albums worldwide. He is a winner of 5 Grammy awards. He is currently married to Jennifer lopez after divorcing his ex-wife , former Miss Universe Dayanara Torres with whom he has two sons.
His genres - Latin, Salsa, Pop and Latin Pop .


3. Olga Tanon - born in Santurce, Puert Rico she is the youngest of four children. She is a two time grammy award recipient and three time Latin Grammy winner for Merengue and Latin Pop. This lady has a phenomenal voice, talent , beauty and dance moves. Her daughter Gabriela is one of only 50 people in the world that have Sebastian's syndrome, a rare disease. Her plans are to keep touring and donate some of the money that she earns to find her daughter a cure.


4. Daddy Yankee - Ramón "Raymond" Luis Ayala Rodríguez was born in Rio Piedras, P.R. He is a Latin Grammy Award winning Puerto Rican regaetton recording artist. He became interested in music as a youngster. Although he played baseball, and aspired to become a Major League Baseball player. His baseball career was cut short when he received an injury to one of his legs. He then dove in and became involved in the regaetton rap movement while in its early stages in Puerto Rico, later known as regaetton.

I’ve let too much time pass before returning to this enchanted island. Now that I’ve rediscovered it , I plan to take some time to really visit and stay a bit longer . No work, just sheer pleasure. Puerto Rico - My Enchanted Island.

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