One thing that traveling does is lessen the faith one has in what you read and hear from others. I’ll have to join that group of amateur writers and say clearly, “Don’t believe everything you read.” It’s true; there is no substitute for firsthand experiences. That being said, I’ll submit my recent experiences for your consideration and advise you to take from it what you will.
My Christmas jaunt to post-Maria Puerto Rico begins much as all the others I have been taking almost annually since 1980. That is to say, I leave Minneapolis at the butt crack of dawn in order to make a connection in some part of the lower 48 states in order to proceed to San Juan and arrive there in the still-sunlit afternoon.
Those who make this trip regularly know the sweetness of three fat tires screeching as they touch down on the SJU runway immediately followed by a cabin full of multi-hued Boricuas bursting into applause. That sound is as traditional as the nocturnal coquí.
As we cruised the runway in search of our gate, the first sign that the 100 x 35 mile island was visited by the winds of sisters Irma and Maria are obvious. A small hangar that is without walls or roof but with its triangular frame remaining reveals itself to the gasps and clucks of observant passengers seeing hurricane destruction for the first time. Our thoughts go to “What else?”
The “what else” is answered after renting a car and venturing to your destination. Perhaps you are staying in San Juan. In that case, you will likely remark that everything looks just fine save for the semaphores, many of which are facing directions different from the original intended ones. Several of them are non-functioning, provoking the islanders to engage in a new pastime of Stoplight Chicken. Tourists are at a distinct disadvantage as they are new to the game and unwilling to risk damage to a rented car lacking the expensive comprehensive insurance option. Puerto Rican drivers, under the best of circumstances, take the axiom “He who hesitates is lost” to heart.
The truth is that in San Juan most of the hotels are operating just fine, the restaurants are providing customers with sumptuous meals the likes of which I experienced at “El Camaron”. In fact, my asopao de camarones was so good I brought an order home to the expert, my mother. The Sinfonica de Puerto Rico is up and running and has been playing to enthusiastic audiences outdoors free of charge and in their hall in San Juan. Intelligently, they re-established their worth as an institution by providing the Puerto Rican people with their life’s blood, music of all types. We’ll chat about this later.
As you continue to drive through San Juan with the intention to leave for another pueblito or town you realize that the one industry to be a part of is the paint business. Fresh paint is a large part of life in the tropics but after the Two Sisters visited it went from cash cow to charging bull.