Monday 24th March – Wednesday 23rd April, Puerto Rico
The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is, I believe, in effect, a colony of the United States. I asked Puerto Ricans to explain the relationship between the two countries and didn’t get a clear answer. What I did learn is that Puerto Ricans are US citizens and have full rights and obligations as such. Many of the state institutions are extensions of Federal US departments. e.g. Customs and Border Protection and the Post Office. Defence is provided by the US military in which Puerto Ricans serve.
Despite the huge American influence Puerto Rico remains distinctly different. The first language is Spanish and many of the customs and cultural traits are obviously derived from their European heritage. The island is one of the largest in the Caribbean but the smallest of the Greater Antilles. At 110 miles long it is about 80% of the size of Jamaica and much smaller than either Cuba or Hispaniola.
We spent a month here and during that time cruised very slowly along the south coast from our port of entry, Mayaguez at the west end of the island to our port of departure, Fajardo, at the east end. The highlight of the trip was undoubtedly our visit to the capital, San Juan, on Good Friday. The old town is a well preserved colonial city with several historic sites to explore. Its probably what old Havana would look like if the Cubans could afford to restore it.
One of the things I found interesting about the island is the very high rate of car ownership, apparently amongst the highest in the world and higher than even the US. So what? I take car ownership as an indicator of wealth and the island is obviously more prosperous than most in the region. It also makes life difficult for taxi drivers and there is a dearth of these in all but the largest centres of population.
For May’s entry click here.