Puerto Rico: Not What I Had Planned

San Juan musician in front of Puerto Rico’s flag

Ok so I was in Louisiana for a month, where I felt like I was in a book I should write (haha, I am writing it) and then I went home for a week and from there to Puerto Rico. Y’all know that Puerto Rico is the United States right? Incredible beaches and jungles, paper towels to mop up the hurricane damage, and everything else that comes with colonization. It’s shameful what the US has taken from Puerto Rico, which is an actual book — Naomi Klein’s The Battle for Paradise. PR is also a destination place for throngs of 20-something mainland Americans who want to party. I didn’t know this when I decided to spend six weeks in PR in an apartment on the beach….And I would have stayed for six weeks if the water and power in my apartment hadn’t mysteriously gone out two hours after I arrived.

Mural in Old Town, San Juan

But let me start from the beginning of my week. Before the episode at the beach apartment, I stayed in a hotel in San Juan’s Old Town. I loved it. Old Town has charm and good food and and friendly people. It felt like a little Havana, which makes sense since the Spaniards colonized the two islands around the same time. It also feels like Havana because people come in all colors and speak Spanish that is nearly unrecognizable to Mexiphiles. Like all tourist destinations, PR has been hit hard by the pandemic, but there are signs that things are improving, poco a poco. The locals are good about taking care of each other. Everyone wears masks and you can’t cross a threshold without pausing for a thermometer gun and a squirt of hand santizer.

Old Town San Juan
San Juan mural
Stairway mosaic in San Juan’s Old Town
The cafe in my San Juan hotel

After my stay in Old Town, I headed to my beach apartment in Isla Verde, which is not my usual kind of neighborhood. For example, at first I thought Condom World was a joke but it had a long line of 20-somethings by 7pm and I realized it was probably the most consumer-oriented shop in the neighborhood. No coffee houses or bakeries or quinoa bowls. The food choices ranged from deep fried to highly processed to Burger King. I tried to get into the only good restaurant in the neighborhood but the wait was two hours, so I ate ice cream for dinner. And wine. Not so bad! I decided I could live with this cheesy tourist culture because my apartment was on a beach that is far enough from the public access roads that it’s virtually private. And check out the view!

View from the Isla Verde apartment I was in for two hours

A couple of hours after arriving at my Isla Verde beach apartment, I started to cook dinner (a spaghetti sauce of fresh tomatoes, garlic, fresh basil and Trader Joe’s soffritto, you should try it.) Suddenly, the water and power went out. I called my landlord who promised to fix the problem right away but I sensed something fishy, maybe because he didn’t think it was an odd coincidence that the power and water went out at the same time. And indeed, while he was working on fixing my problem from Florida, I found evidence of sabotage. In the stairwell outside my apartment door was a box with the water switches. See the pipe on the far left? That’s my apartment’s switch and the little yellow arm was supposed to be vertical. Someone deliberately made the little arm horizontal while I was making spaghetti sauce. And then they turned off the power as well.

Waiting for the power to return, I stayed two nights in accommodations without beach views (not feeling sorry for myself, just wanted what I’d paid for). On the third day, my landlord finally admitted the homeowners’ association didn’t permit short term rentals and were trying to get me out. Well, duh. But, he said, he wasn’t backing down and begged me to stay a third night in a $500 hotel room (Memorial Day weekend in a beach town). By then, the problem was the subject of emails copied to fifty people in which lawyers were referring to me by my first name. Instead of waiting for a court order, I got on a plane.

And wouldn’t you know, the plane was headed straight (via Houston) for one of my favorite places on earth, San Miguel de Allende. So here I am back in Mexico, safe and sound, with amigos I know and amigos I have never met before, all helping me to be my happiest self.

San Miguel de Allende

Gawd, I love Mexico.

24 comments

  1. funny I was just thinking about San Miguel de Allende and your adorable casita there today! Have a wonderful time and look forward to your posts.

  2. You’ve conjured up some wonderful memories. San Miguel de Allende December l967. Left behind a bitter blizzard to discover this charming town. I wanted to live there for ever. Puerto Rico February 2009. Loved the historic colonial buildings and churches and especially loved the seafood. It must have been an off season for it was very quiet and just what I needed. Cheers Virginia

    1. You were in San Miguel when it was way more Mexican! I hear so many stories about how close the community was ,with so many fewer tourists. My sister lived here for several years in the 1970s and it changed her life. You should visit!

  3. Bernard and I have been thinking about visiting Puerto Rico. Reading this has made me more curious to see it. Thanks.

  4. Ah you have conjured up old memories. I holidayed in San Miguel de Allende back l967. I had left a bitter blizzard behind to arrive in Paradise. It was all very low key and I thought wonderfully sophisticated and I wanted never to leave. Holidays to come to a end. As for Puorto Rico another delightful discovery. And oh how I loved the seafood. The stay was short but I was impressed with the tiny island

  5. Wow!! That was quite a story. So sorry to got caught in the middle of a condo association fight in PR. It did look gorgeous. But looks are not everything. Glad you’re back in Mexico. Enjoy and let me know when you land in the Bay Area again😘

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