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Dorado, Puerto Rico

A Month in Puerto Rico Part I: Home and thereabouts

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I have spent about a month in Puerto Rico, mostly taking care of some family affairs like helping to take care of my mom and watching, with a lot of pride, my niece graduating from high school. In between family engagements, however, I was able to do some other fun things. I would like to tell you a little bit about my stay.

From Toa Baja to Toa Alta
From Toa Baja to Toa Alta

When people think about Puerto Rico, they think beach, sun, drinks, and fun, and that is certainly what most tourists ever get to enjoy of our island, but there are other things. For starters, although we have an abundance of world-class beaches and the blessings of a tropical weather to spend time in them, there are other, simpler aspects that always strike me as overlooked beauty: the mountains, valleys, and other ‘secret’ corners of the island. Puerto Rico is a strange, magical place, really photogenic; officially only 9,104 square kilometers due to its rugged topography is bigger inside and more varied that most people know.—Just ask any visitor who ever decided to take a drive in the by-roads of the central mountains and couldn’t find their way out without the help of locals.

Toa Alta, Puerto Rico

Toa Alta, Puerto Rico

For many years, I took the route shown in the picture above coming from the town of Bayamón, through Toa Baja, and descending into my hometown of Toa Alta; almost every single time I wondered about the spectacular view of the humid hills of the North and the central mountains—Cordillera Central—and vowed one day to take a picture. It was more difficult than you’d think because while I was the driver, or while the view passed too fast for me to whip out my camera, I could not take a sharp enough photograph. Perseverance pays off, though, and now I am able to share this nice picture with the world. It still doesn’t do justice to the view but it is good enough for people to get an idea of this ‘secret’ natural beauty spot.

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Trinitaria (bougainvillea) in my mom's house

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Mortal enemy

At home, when the light filters through drifting, spongy clouds, every humble corner has something to show, like this photo of the bougainvillea in my parent’s house, always around, un lagartijo. Everything is aggressively alive, the flowers, the fruits, a dizzy yellow butterfly flying too fast for my camera, the hot breeze pushing greenery and humidity around, and of course, my most mortal enemy: a free-ranging chicken—don’t be deceived by its placid attitude, it is vicious.

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Lagartijo in the window

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Greenery and flamboyán (royal poinciana)

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Avocado tree

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Pavona amarilla (yellow hibiscus)

I get drunk and dizzy with the greenery and the heat, like a yellow butterfly in the garden, and forget other places and other things. Once, in France, I was proudly showing pictures of all the natural beauty of Puerto Rico to some friends—who bore it with good grace and fortitude—until one of them exclaimed something to the effect that it must be wonderful to live in such a wild, unspoiled place, without cities, traffic jams or tall buildings. Ups! We have some of those too, but not too far away from nature.

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Quenepas, a sweet tropical fruit

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Quenepas, close up.

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Just behind San Patricio Plaza

At home, my family and I took turns to take care of my mom—who is having some health issues—reminisced about the remote and the recent past, played dominoes, and I was able to verified that my eldest brother, indeed, makes the best habichuelas guisadas of the Northern hemisphere, and possibly, the world.


That is all for now. In the next part, I will let you know more about other things that I did, great food that I ate, and what happened when my awesome husband (AwHus) flew down from Qatar to join me in Puerto Rico.

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