Puerto Rico: The magic of the Caribbean island is a blessing and a curse at the same time

sAre you reading this on a cold, damp gray winter’s day? Good, then change the scenery. We take you to an evergreen island in the Antilles between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The shimmering bays of Puerto Rico sparkle like a liquid sky fueled by a world of microscopic aquatic organisms. It is said that there are only a few such delicate and fluorescent ecosystems in the world, three of which are here, on the territory of the present-day United States. And luster is only one side – so use it.

It rises above Fajardo on the northeastern tip of the island where a kayak pole juts out from the sandy beach and winds gently into the bleak mangrove forest. “Always cute one by one,” tour guide Noel Cruz looks merrily from very far away. The rowing professional has a good reputation. The two-kilometre canal to Laguna Grande is narrow and winding.

In the strong current, red plastic boats chirp merrily and get stuck in the thickets of the roots of the thick banks. Cursing loudly, the white heron flew as the caravan finally emerged from the thick tunnel of leaves into the large lake. The first stars flashed pale.

Even in dark waters, blue-green galaxies flash when you dip your hands in and move microscopic cleavers: billions of them live in this well-protected bay.

Puerto Rico is a US outpost in the Caribbean

Source: dpa; infographic world

Dinoflagellates soaring like sea fireflies. When mechanically stimulated, they emit a wondrous biological neon light. Intensity, Noel explains to his loyal disciples, depends on temperature and nutrients. Mosquito Bay on the small side island of Vieques is the brightest bay in the world. Every stroke of the paddle should spark underwater fireworks and the intense wave of the kayak should shine like the tail of a comet.

Isla del Encanto, Island of Enchantment, is what Spanish-speaking locals proudly call their home. There really seems to be a natural charm to this island, with its luminous lagoons, fantastical beaches and ancient giant trees in the El Yunque rainforest. Dwarf frogs live in the rainforest due to their small size.

The end of the indigenous peoples of Puerto Rico

The island’s concentrated charm is also its retreat. Puerto Rico is rightly called a “rich port”. The rectangular island was confiscated by the conquistador Juan Ponce de Leon and his chief Christopher Columbus in 1493 for the Crown of Castile.

Besieged by warrior Carib tribes, the local Taínos hoped for reinforcements and welcomed outsiders with open arms. But forced labor and imported diseases hastened their downfall.

Puerto Rico: At the Centro Ceremonial Indígena outdoor archaeological museum, which provides information about indigenous lives, vacationers get insight into the darker side of history

At the open-air Archaeological Museum Centro Ceremonial Indígena, which provides information about indigenous life, vacationers get insight into the darker side of history

Quelle: pa / dpa / discover Puerto Rico

In the open-air Archaeological Museum Centro Ceremonial Indígena the shaggy thatched huts are reproduced. Borrowing words such as hurricane, canoe, and corn have escaped the indigenous population. Since then, the colonial rulers, without concern, imported new workers from West Africa for their thriving plantations – tobacco, coffee, and sugar cane. Soon the precious rum was produced from its remaining product, molasses.

Today, the Bacardí family operates the world’s largest distillery here, with tasting tours for tourists. However, it remains a local favorite without Q rum from the Serrallés Distillery on the south coast in Ponce.

Spain lost the Caribbean island to the United States

Trade Center, Military Base, and Trophy – The Spaniards protected their treasure island with great stone forts like Castillo San Felipe del Morro, begun in 1539. Over the next 250 years, the fortress grew to six stories with meter-thick walls, circular sentry boxes, A lighthouse and a tangled maze of tunnels, shelters and barracks.

Puerto Rico: To protect the island they occupied, the Spaniards built strong forts such as Castillo San Felipe del Morro

To protect the island they occupied, the Spanish built strong forts such as Castillo San Felipe del Morro

Quelle: Getty Images / Medioimages / Photodisc

And now the neatly folded uniform lay here again on the wooden beds. Children flying colorful kites on the windswept lawns of the castle. Today the castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a carefully restored national monument with US dollars. While El Morro was still impervious to pirates like Sir Francis Drake, medieval walls were no match for the modern weapons of the US Navy. As the losers of the war, the Spaniards were forced to abandon the pearls in the Caribbean in 1899. Since then, Puerto Rico has become a foreign territory of the United States.

“The oldest colony in the world” is most appropriate, says Margherita Pasteur calmly. In 2013, she and her husband, Eddie, opened the sunny yellow Casa Sol as the first bed and breakfast in the historic part of the capital, San Juan.

Puerto Rico: The citadel on the coast today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Today the castle on the coast is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Source: pa / dpa / dpa-tmn / Heike Schmidt Windhoff

Thanks to US subsidies, relatively wealthy Puerto Rico is a safe travel destination with good infrastructure in an often unstable region. However, the people here are poorer than the mainland population. With no national voting rights, many Puerto Ricans feel like second-class Americans, especially when they face a lack of assistance during natural disasters like Hurricane Maria in 2017.

“We finally want to decide for ourselves,” Margarita says. The majority voted against the status quo in the referendum. However, neither Al Jazeera nor the US government has agreed on whether the area should be an independent or a full 51 state.

San Juan is the oldest city in the United States

Shadows do not linger under a clear tropical sky. The easygoing Caribbean fused with Hispanic heritage and American modernity to create a unique cultural identity – nowhere embodied better than in Vigo San Juan, an old town area with a picture book.

The facades of two-story colonial-style homes are painted cheerful candy colors, with white frames around the windows and cast iron street lamps next to the doors. Red bougainvillea blooming from narrow wooden balconies. Even the cobblestones made of iron slag shone a deep blue.

Puerto Rico: In San Juan, the facades of colonial-style houses are painted in bright colors

In San Juan, the facades of colonial-style houses are painted in bright colors

What: Getty Images / Atlantis Phototravel

Founded in 1521, San Juan is the oldest city in the United States. Almost every weekend there is a party somewhere on the lively island – a carnival parade in Ponce, a pineapple festival in La Parguera, a masked parade of Saint Santiago Apostol in Luisa.

Celebrations marking the 500th anniversary of the capital have been limited due to the Corona pandemic. There were free guided tours past sites steeped in history, doves held thanksgiving prayers skyward at the Baroque Church of Christ, and street musicians played guitar on the steps of medieval San Juan Cathedral.

Fried banana, piña colada and sauce

But the heart of the city beats in its many lively squares such as the Plaza de Armas with its city hall, marble fountain, street cafes and many restaurants. Almost everyone serves the secret national dish Mofongo – even a pizzeria like “Barí” has the dish on offer. Here guests are allowed to pound the fried green banana plants themselves into a coarse wooden mortar. Polished with mayo ketchup, an island specialty made with the most famous American sauces plus garlic.

Of course, there’s also piña colada made with coconut milk, cream, pineapple juice, and rum. For more than 50 years, the Caribe Hilton has been at odds with Restaurant Barracina, where the cult cocktail is now invented. It is best to try both.

Puerto Rico: Mofongo is considered the secret national dish;  One of the ingredients is fried bananas

A small culinary sample: mofongo is considered the secret national dish; One of the ingredients is fried bananas

Quelle: pa / dpa / discover Puerto Rico

On weekends, live music spills from bars and clubs into the streets. During the day a decent market with inconspicuous fruit and vegetable stalls, La Placita de Santurce turns into an open-air disco at night. Music clubs drag their drums to the Plaza de Armas. Both are called bomb – The percussion instrument and the style of Afro-Caribbean music born on the slave plantations of Louisa.

Dancers direct the drums with rocker-swinging movements, explained Maribella Burgos of the local dance troupe. Outside bomb advanced Full of, folk dance music with lyrics like “dailies singing.” Mixed with a good dash of jazz from the east coast of the United States, old folk music became hot salsa rhythms.

Reggaetón is the latest fusion of tradition, hip-hop and reggae, inspired by the Nuyoricans, the Puerto Rican diaspora living throughout New York. International Summer Despacito by Luis Fonsi, who in the video dances with Daddy Yankee among the colorful cement houses in San Juan’s La Perla district, is a musical declaration of love for the island and its multifaceted culture.

Puerto Rico: auf La Placita party in San Juan

Music and Cold Drinks: Party at La Placita in San Juan

Quelle: pa / dpa / discover Puerto Rico

Tips and information

holiday destination: Puerto Rico is a US territory in the Caribbean. 3.2 million people live on the smallest island in the Greater Antilles. The national languages ​​are Spanish and English.

Climate and travel time: The climate in Puerto Rico is warm, humid and tropical. The main travel season is from December to March.

Entry and Corona status: Current information can be found on the website of the German Foreign Office.

Residence: In the Greater San Juan area, American chain hotels – which often contain casinos – line the north coast between the airport and Old Town in several price ranges. In Old San Juan, some historic colonial buildings have been converted into hostels. Most of the spacious luxury resorts are located outside the capital. The local tourism office also maintains an island-wide list of smaller family-run Paradores hotels.

Information desk: Discoverpuertorico.com

Puerto Rico: Surrounded by lush greenery, a waterfall erupts in the El Yunque rainforest

Surrounded by dense greenery, a waterfall erupts in the El Yunque rainforest

Coyle: LightRocket via Getty Images/Wolfgang Kaehler


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