My visit to 🇵🇷Puerto Rico🇵🇷 was driven by my desire to explore a connection with an incredible woman that I fell for back in Puerto Escondido in the summer of 2016.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned while traveling, it’s this: Nothing ever works out exactly how I plan, but more often than not, things usually find a way to turn out infinitely better that way in the long run.
During my 40 day visit to La Isla Del Encanto I was delighted to have experienced so much more than I had originally bargained for.
What I have come to realize is that one of the greatest personal benefits I receive from traveling is the deepening of my knowledge regarding the history and anthropology of each region I visit from the people who have lived their most of their lives. That said, I was delighted to find the Puerto Rican people to be among some of the friendliest I’ve come across in my travels throughout Latin America thus far. At every stop in my tour of the island I was greeted with a smile, open arms and a plethora of food… usually in the form of pork and plantains.
However, when it came to conversing with the Puerto Rican people in their native tongue it didn’t take long for me to realize that Puerto Ricans speak their own unique brand of Spanish. When attempting to speak their language, I was told that I talk like a Mexican. Well… at least I’m doing that right.😊
Besides the people, the gorgeous landscapes and natural resources of the island have proven to be one of its most exquisite assets.
El Yunque Rainforest:
El Yunque is a sub-tropical mountainous rain forest located on the eastern end of Puerto Rico, where the trade winds first meet the island and dump the rain.
The Puerto Rico rainforest is a unique part of the U.S. National Forest System.
Christmas this year was spent wading through the drowned forests of La Parguera in the southwest coast of the island.
El Rincon, the surfer’s part of the island, hosts beautiful coastlines and many beach-side restaurants.
ART & MUSIC
It is now incredibly apparent to me that art comes in many forms and I recently had to rethink the way I encapsulate it. If you asked me how I would define art, my answer would be this: Devine love transformed into a tangible gift for the senses of others. When a musician performs from their heart, those lucky enough to bare witness feel it stir something deep within themselves. This was a pleasant surprise for me on more than one occasion during my time in Puerto Rico.
Ileana Mercedes Cabra Joglar aka ILE (of Calle Trece)
After hearing recordings of her angelic voice fill the halls of the Sanctuary back in the summer of 2016, I moved my arrival date to Puerto Rico up a week so that I’d be able to catch this incredibly talented and beautiful artist perform live at Teatro Tapia in Old San Juan. Although she’s only 27 years old, she has an incredibly mature talent with a fan base that spans several generations.
Lucky for you, I recorded a portion of my favorite song from her performance that night back in December 2016.
Roberto Roena (The Puerto Rican Godfather of Salsa)
When it comes to salsa music, it’s not usually my go-to genre, but I will say this: Roberto and his band know how to absolutely rock a packed club!
Claudi of Pinc Louds
One Sunday morning we went to an event, Hangover Brunch, where her friend was performing and I was surprised to find the artist, Claudi of Pinc Louds, from New York City was also performing in the hipster region of Rio Piedras, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The Street Art of Avenida de las Artes in Santurce Arts District
The arts district starts at ‘Stop 12’ in Miramar and continues for approximately 4 miles with the largest concentration of arts, culture, nightlife and entertainment in the Caribbean! We made sure to spend some time in this area to behold some of its breathtaking street art.
I just wanted to add this little tid-bit regarding men’s fashion in the Caribbean as I find it to be fascinating. Being considered a stylish man anywhere in the Caribbean is actually quite simple. All you need to do is wear a short sleeve button down shirt with four pockets on the front. Make sure there are FOUR pockets! I cannot stress this enough! That’s it. You are now a Carribbean fashion icon!
CULTURE, HISTORY & POLITICS
Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastian
As divine timing would have it, the final weekend of my visit just happened to be the biggest party weekend in Puerto Rico. That’s right, I was there to experience the San Sebastián Street Festival in Old San Juan. On this long weekend in mid-January from Thursday to Sunday all the roads in Old San Juan are closed off to motor vehicles. Over 200,000 people were shuttled in by the busload and the entire city becomes one giant festival filled with music, dancing, food and of course drinking.
For those who don’t know, San Sebastián was this bad-ass from the third century AD who was crucified by the the Roman emperor Diocletian’s reign during the persecution of Christians. He is commonly depicted in art and literature tied to a post or tree and shot with arrows. Despite this being the most common artistic depiction of Sebastian, he was, according to legend, rescued and healed by Irene of Rome. Shortly afterwards he went to Diocletian to warn him about his sins, and as a result was clubbed to death. He is venerated in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches and celebrated in the streets of Old San Juan for one weekend every year.
Promise Law: From my understanding, Promise Law in Puerto Rico can be summed up like so: Seven people from the United States come to the capital of Puerto Rico to decide what is best for it’s people. The governor basically gets their coffee and/or any snacks they require and then proceeds to tell the Puerto Rican people that all is good.
I would like to point out two things regarding Puerto Rico’s economy. First of all, Puerto Rico is in serious debt. Secondly, one of the major catalysts for this are taxes that the United States imposes on them grossly outweigh the financial benefit they receive in return as a colony. The American Revolution was started because of taxation without representation, so it’s no surprise that many of the Puerto Rican people want to either be their own country or become the 51st state.
Whilst in a bookstore, I happened upon a book entitled “Free Puerto Rico”, so my curiosity got the best of me. I flipped to the first page and this is what I found:
The Pardon of Oscar Lopez: For those who don’t know, he was one of the leaders of FALN (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional). His Presidential pardon occurred during my visit in the twilight of Obama’s presidency. Oscar Lopez is to Puerto Rico what Guy Fawkes is to England and the rest of the world.
I feel this is an important part of history to reflect on to better understand how imperialism, colonization and policing the world have proven time and time again to be major catalysts in the rise of radical terrorist activities worldwide.
One artist in a gallery I came across in Old San Juan had an interesting take on American foreign policy in a vivid portrayal shown in the painting below.
It’s incredible how perceptions change when you look at something from the outside rather than from within. This holds true not just for nations, but for relations as well.
LOVE❤️ & LETTING GO😢
Distance is an interesting thing. The well-known and somewhat trite saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder” has time and time again proven to be true throughout my life.
My favorite 19th century poet and writer, Kalil Gibran, paints a much better picture with his words when he speaks of togetherness in his masterpiece, The Prophet:
Let there be spaces in your togetherness.
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each others’ cup, but drink not from one cup.
Give one another your bread, but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the Cyprus grow not in each other’s shadow.
The time I spent in Puerto Rico was without a doubt one of the fastest 40 days I’ve lived so far on this earth. I now have a much deeper understanding of relativity after my visit.
It’s a beautiful thing to be lucky enough to have someone in your life that you can miss when they are not in your presence. It’s even more beautiful feeling as if they are right beside you even when you are thousands of miles apart.
My appreciation and understanding of art has grown exponentially in recent years. If I had to choose my favorite medium, it would be the ephemeral human being as it flows graciously through life.
I see art in watching someone lovingly dance through the kitchen as they prepare a delicious meal. There is art in transforming the tears of screaming toddlers into smiles and laughs through song. Art can be stepping into a house full of strangers from all corners of the world and immediately inquire if those preparing dinner would like any help. And of course, it truly is an art to breathe new life into the heart of another that lost its way not too long ago.
I’ve experienced so much from so many different relationships in this life to perceive love the way I used to. The most profound lesson I’ve integrated is understanding the difference between love and co-dependence. The easiest way I could exemplify the difference between the two is thus:
- Co-dependence says “I need you and can’t live without you.”
- Love says “I want you in my life but I wish you the the greatest happiness possible in yours, even if it isn’t with me.”
It wasn’t that long ago when I mistook co-dependence for love. I was however lucky enough to discover the remedy for this common misconception; that being self love. It is only when I learned to truly love myself that I was able to fully embody the love of another.
Now I have no intention of bestowing upon you all the juicy details of my love life, but there some less intimate parts that I am more than happy to share.
There was one thing she said to me last summer that still rings true in my heart today and I’m sure it always will. Six little words that completely changed the way I look at love and relationships in general.
I don’t want to own you
After hearing that, I took some time to reflect on all of my previous relationships and had a major revelation as to where they had all gone wrong. Each and every one, in its own way, felt like a mutual ownership of the other person’s free will. It was almost as if I signed up for some form of consensual slavery. Whenever the relationship ended, after the grieving portion at least, I always felt a deep sense of freedom wash over me. This major realization changed everything. I have the utmost of gratitude for the opportunity to break free from these mental chains I’ve carried with me throughout most of my life.
Though our time together was short-lived, having it come to an end hurts in a new and beautiful way. It was the first time I shared a mutual love with someone where we could appreciate each other for exactly who the other person is at their core. The major reason for this being that I only recently figured out who I really am.
It was only when I started to understand, appreciate and love myself that I was truly able to welcome the same from another. Reaching this milestone in my ever-expanding emotional maturity has forever changed me and I am eternally grateful for the experience.
So what’s next for us?
Facing the fact that we would once again be separated for another extended period of time, we both decided not to continue the same long-distance relationship path that we had for the 5 months before my visit.
Living this new reality hurt us both deeply, but we welcome the pain with all its intensity. What better way to grow and evolve than to allow all the feels to wash over us.
A dear friend and one of my life’s greatest teachers once said:
Sometimes it really sucks being a human
I couldn’t agree more. The bright side of the less desirable moments of life is that the pain we feel in the wabi sabi of life helps us grow, evolve and make the pleasurable moments that much more enjoyable.
Though we are no longer together, I have absolutely no regrets regarding the time we invested in each other. In being with her, I gained a much deeper understanding of what love truly is.
In this particular case of love and letting go, I plan on taking the alchemist’s approach to coping with the pain.
So, what will I create? I have a good idea thus far, though I’m not yet ready to share it, and am always open to new avenues of inspiration. Lucky for me, my third backpacking trip through Mexico has begun. What better way to heal a bruised heart and find the missing pieces of our soul than to travel?
And what better next stop after a break-up than Cancún?
I’ll leave you now with a few select lyrics and a link to the video of a very special song that I’ve had on repeat for some time now. No other lyrics at the moment more accurately capture my feelings and state of mind after leaving La Isla Del Encanto.
The road will teach you how to love and let go
It can be lonely but it’s the only thing that we’ve ever known
I’ve traveled half way across the country and back
Only to find love undefined and I’m okay with that
‘Cause I’m gonna be a guardian
Be a man among men
Be a guardian
Be a man among men
Or be a woman among women
Be a guardian
Be my friend
~Nahko & Medicine for the People – Wash it Away~