San Juan, Puerto Rico – March 19-21, 3013
Puerto Rico was one of the few places I was really eager to visit on the second half of this journey not only because of the food, but also because I wanted to get a real sense of how the Puerto Ricans felt living in one of the few remaining “colonies” in the world.
Unfortunately, we would only be spending one full day and as a result, I only got to visit Viejo San Juan (the historical part) for a half-day. Luckily, I was able to reserve a space on a food & cultural tour provided by Flavors of San Juan (check out this link for the posts regarding that: (http://tmblr.co/ZaF47ugtbcFv AND http://tmblr.co/ZaF47ugteyJy)
The tour didn’t start until late afternoon giving me about 3 hours to walk around and explore the city on my own. Old San Juan consists of several hundred restored buildings from the 16th and 17th century Spanish colonial period with much of the cobblestone streets and edifices intact. Despite being a city in the Caribbean, you can still feel the old-world and European influence prominently.
One of many ice cream carts: piña and coco ice cream. Served in a plastic cup, cold and delicious
Cuatro Sombras – excellent coffee shop serving local Puerto Rican coffee that is freshly ground every morning. One of the best lattes I’ve ever tasted, cute server, and air-condition to escape the hot sun.
Puerta de San Juan – built during its colonization period in the 16th century, this gate served Spanish dignitaries seeking safe voyage blessings from the San Juan Cathedral and was one of five tightly controlled gates. This gate was considered the city’s formal and symbolic entrance.
El Castillo de San Felipe del Morro – aka “El Morro” - Constructed to defend the San Juan coastline during the 17th and 18th centuries, this dramatic fortress rises 140 feet above the sea on a rocky promontory, and is composed of six huge levels of ramps, barracks, dungeons, turrets, towers and tunnels. The expansive lawns and walkway up to the fortress holds spectacular views and is well worth the walk.
Flavors of San Juan - food tour! Check out the links I posted above.
Hiram provided a great deal of insight into the economy, politics, and cultural of Puerto Rico as well as explanations of the architectural significance of many of the buildings we passed by. I would be doing his “storytelling” a grave injustice if I attempted it here so you will all just have go to Puerto Rico yourselves to experience it.
One thing that I didn’t really expect about Puerto Rico was the extreme prevalence of drug smuggling and prostitution rings. Corruption is rampant and is mainly because even though Puerto Rico is part of the US, they have to “re-import” everything that they produce. For example, I believe that most of the US’ supply of Xanax is produced in Puerto Rico. However, they have to export it back to the continent and then import it back at almost triple the price. Absolutely ridiculous.