Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Many Colors of Puerto Rico

I knew that Puerto Rico would be beautiful. I've seen the beaches. I've observed the Puerto Rican Day parades. I even love Rosie Perez and Ricky Martin. 

On a mission to see the "REAL" Puerto Rico.
But my visit to Puerto Rico is more than pop culture stereotypes and cruise ship destinations. I wanted to see the "REAL" Puerto Rico. The one that we won't find in the tourist brochures or in my helpful Lonely Planet Guide book on Puerto Rico.

The many identities of Puerto Rico
I started off in San Juan with a little yoga on the beach. 

Yoga Led by Zulma Sanabria
San Juan is modern, gorgeous and very easy for most tourists. After getting my fill of the big city, I ventured 20 minutes out to Loiza. Known for it's traditional "Bomba" dance, Loiza is also home to the largest number of Puerto Ricans descending from West Africa.
Lind and Anacostia Yogi in front of his artwork
Loiza is vastly different than San Juan offering very little for tourists. I had to search high and low for signs of "Afro" Puerto Rican culture. And then I found Samuel Lind
Samuel Lind shares his creations
Samuel Lind is an international famed Puerto-Rican artist with a focus on capturing elements of Africa in Puerto-Rican culture. He connects femininity, nature, self expression and history through a vivid collection of sculptures, paintings, posters and mixed media.
Oferensa de Frutas 

Sameul Lind self portrait

"Osain" Commissioned Sculpture in Caguas Botanical Gardens
My favorite piece of work was his amazing "Osain". The sculpture reflects an African man emerging from a mangrove with leaves as fingers and tree bark embedded into his skin. "Osain" is the visual manifestation of an ancient legend of Africans transforming themselves into mangroves to escape Spanish captivity. Lind's piece is on display at the Caguas Botanical Gardens in Puerto Rico.
Samuel Lind artwork depicting Traditional Fiesta
La Bomba dance instrument made its way from Africa to Loiza.

Annual celebration of "La Bomba"
After enjoying an exclusive preview of his latest artwork, I purchased a print and headed to El Sazon de Sylvia for some local cuisine.
Loiza eatery "El Sazon de Sylvia" Ask for Raul
The standard Puerto Rican fare is fried patties or mofongo. I was relieved to eat something unheard of. I tried a catfish stew-soup in palm oil with beans and squash. The catfish was flavorful and slightly boney. The beans were delicious and offered a great deviation from the fried food found throughout most of the food shops.
Catfish Stew with rice, salad and squash
After Loiza, I headed to the island of Vieques to kayak on the bio-luminescent bay and enjoy locally grow local fruits and vegetables
Fresh locally grown avocado (aguacate)
Sunbathing in Vieques
Cooling off with the sand in my toes
Puerto Rico is a beautiful country with a fascinating history. The uncommon blend of U.S. mainland comfort with Caribbean style flare makes for an easy getaway from the of cold November. It is easy to get stuck in the tourist trap. But just a short drive in any direction will lead you to a new discovery into the many colors of Puerto Rico.
Beaches of Puerto Rico

Anacostia Yogi Puerto Rico Travel Tips

Caribe Hilton, Condada Lagoon in San Juan

El Sazon de Silvia (Loiza) or Los Raices in Old San Juan

Off the Beaten Path:
  Samuel Lind Art Gallery in Loiza, Caguas Botanical Garden

Away from the beach: 
Vegan Eating: 

Tego Calderon (Rap & Reggae)

Books and Essays: 
Black Puerto Rican Art, Oro Taino by Dr. Louis Roure (Spanish)

History of Loiza


Anonymous said...

Nice to know you enjoyed the travel, and nice work in promotitng Loiza.

Alexis said...

I traveled to San Juan and Vieques in 2009. I was able to kayak in the mangroves, and swim in the biobay- I love it. Vieques is one of my favorite spots on planet Earth. Glad you had a great time :)

Sariane Leigh said...

Puerto Rico was so much fun! Alexis, I am contemplating a yoga retreat on la playa!