Puerto Rico next week!

Vieques at night.

I’m living in the sweet anticipation of impending travel.

I am taking an overdue week-long vacation starting Wednesday next week, and I’m really starting to feel the excitement.

I have my airfare booked, my Airbnb is super busy with upcoming bookings, and I even have a fishing trip booked and paid for my girlfriend and I.

The Caribbean, Puerto Rico, but more importantly, Vieques and Culebra Island are my destinations. I was last in the area two years ago, and there probably hasn’t been two weeks that have gone by that I haven’t thought about going back. Now I get to go with the woman I love, and really take it all in happily.

I also have that impending travel nagging worry. Will I get caught in rain every other day like the last time I went? Will I catch the fish I want? Will I get hung over from too much Rum and waste a day lying around? Trivial things really, but the worry is there.

The rain so close to the equator is heavy, but usually brief. The times I got caught in the rain two years ago, it never rained long enough to soak me through, and a hangover is my own fault. As for fishing, at least I won’t be at work, I’ll be a quarter ways around the world from where I am now, and in a place that will be vaguely familiar to me. For the last two years, it’s only been a memory, and a big photo album of pictures from a place that seemed like a dream.

I’m also lucky enough to have booked the Vieques Culture festival for the second time, which I hope to cover in-depth here. There really isn’t a lot of coverage of the island’s events, outside a blog aimed mostly at locals. The history of the place was eye-opening for me, and made history come to life. I’d always heard about the US occupying small islands for testing, and for use as bombing ranges, but to visit one where the history and events were still palpable was magical.

Puerto Rico too, is full of a rich history, conjuring images of giant sailing vessels pulling into the harbor, laden with slaves and looking for sugar cane. When I read about slave trade, I often learn about how in the Caribbean the conditions were much worse than in the temperate US. Malaria, Dengue, heat, working to death, the area was hell for the slaves, but deemed necessary because it was such a cash cow for the rich. Now, Puerto Rico is filled with the descendants of the slaves and the traders, making for a people who are darker than any Mexicans I know, but speak a crazy fast Spanish with pride and gusto.

Also the music, oh man I can’t wait for the music. Being on the island, I was finally able to really grasp how much of an influence African drums had on Spanish music to create the driving, hip moving beats of the Salsa, Merengue, and even the reggaeton the people absolutely LOVE. It really is the heartbeat of the place, and to feel it in your bones is to know you have something in common with these people. Maybe it’s the Spanish side in me. Maybe there is some tropical Latino blood in me too, I don’t know. My grandmother on my father’s side had flaming red hair, and very dark skin. Who knows what all I’ve got mixed in there. My grandmother on my mother’s side was from central Mexico, and after trying to trace my family back as far as I could, using an ancient family tree I have, (If anyone out there can help me with this, I’d really love it! There’s a whole giant Mexican family waiting to learn more.) I was still unable to get as far back as to my European roots. I could be from anywhere! Mexican is all I’m sure of. I do fee I have a lot in common, but all these cultures have their differences too.

The food is different, the culture is different, these people are not Mexican. Growing up in Los Angeles, it’s easy to forget that there are Latinos other than Mexican or Salvadoran. It’s fascinating to me to learn about these people, born of hardship, but proud and obstinate with all the struggle they have come through. They were extremely welcoming the last time I was there, even opening a museum for me after hours so I could get a deeper sense of the history of the island and people. The curator was kind enough to walk me through all the exhibits, and made sure I had a firm understanding of all the people had gone through. Accommodating  isn’t quite strong enough a word, but it definitely applies. Not to say that Mexicans cannot be accommodating, mind you, but the people I met worked hard to make sure I understood them.

Anyway, that’s what’s coming up for me, and for my little blog. I hope to get some good coverage of the island so more people will understand just how different we are, but how much of a common thread we all carry in us.