cab driver: vacación?
me: ahh, si.
cd: uno dia?
cd: bien. Friday… Puerto Rico… Party… Saturday… Puerto Rico… Party
So anyways, I got to my guesthouse, which is the most ghetto I’ve ever seen. How ghetto? The lock on my door is a padlock.
I got settled and took off to start getting my bearings. My guesthouse was in old San Juan, which was the colonial Spanish part of the city. Like Boston, San Juan is definitely a city of neighborhoods. You can spin in a circle and tell by the architecture and feel of place where you are. Viejo San Juan has tight cobblestone streets and beautifully colored buildings with gorgeous balconies. The neighborhood is on a peninsula with walls on two sides (they demolished the other two sides in the late 19th century) and two big forts in the two corners on the Atlantic side. A couple quick notes on some interesting planning things: The peninsula is on a hill, with the highest point being in the northwest and the lowest being in the southeast. If you walk on any of the north-south streets you climb at a pretty steep grade, however if you walk east-west and then back west-east and continue doing that, you can make it to the top without ever walking up hill. The second cool thing was that the heights of the buildings made it so that at least one side of the street was shaded all day.
I walked around for awhile and then made my way to a cemetery that I saw on a map, where I was joined by an old fellow from Tennessee who was in San Juan on a Caribbean cruise. He had the annoying characteristic of using good-ole-American-common-sense to point out the stupidity of other cultures. Example: “Why’d they put a cemetery here? Don’t they know it’ll fall into the ocean the first hurricane they get?” Yeah, the 500 year old Puerto Rican cemetery has never weathered a hurricane. grrr.
From there I went up to El Morro, the bigger of the two forts. It was pretty impressive. It ran about six stories in the cliff at the edge of the peninsula. It was run by the (US) national park service and they had this hilarious video that they showed. The whole thing was about all the times that El Morro had been attacked and repulsed invaders. They finally get to the Spanish-American War and they talked about the Americans taking the fort. The video was from the perspective of the defenders and the music was all ominous. So anyways, the Americans won and took over Puerto Rico, and then the video has this terrible transition to a picture of the American flag and it starts playing the star-spangled banner and the narrator comes on and says, “Now the stars and stripes flies over El Morro as a symbol of protection.” hmmm.
My foot was getting to me by that point, so I bought a copy of Bartolomé de las Casas’ Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies at the gift shop, found a shady rampart and spent most of the afternoon reading.
I uploaded some more of my pictures, and I’ll get the rest up over the next few days. Stay tuned