Updated: May 8, 2020
“Sounds of a San Juan night, drifting across the city through layers of humid air; sounds of life and movement, people getting ready and people giving up, the sound of hope and the sound of hanging on, and behind them all, the quiet, deadly ticking of a thousand hungry clocks, the lonely sound of time passing in the long Caribbean night.” -Hunter S. Thompson
Anyone who says Puerto Rico isn't beautiful is a mentiroso and should be cut out of your life like a malignant tumor. Puerto Rico is amazing. Puerto Rico is beautiful. Puerto Rico is amazingly beautiful and if you've never visited, you should. The island's economy has fallen on hard times recently and is still trying to recover from the damage of Hurricane Maria but the beauty of the island and resilience of the people remains. I first visited Puerto Rico in the Spring of 2018, roughly six months after Hurricane Maria and fifteen months after "Despacito" was released. Don't you dare CLICK ON THAT LINK.
As the plane banked into Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport on that first visit, the destruction from Maria was still evident. From the sky we could see toppled billboards and countless blue tarps (which I assume served as a last resort in keeping the home owners dry during inclement weather) layered on top of homes. After grabbing our luggage, we hailed a taxi and made our way into Old San Juan. The streets, while not completely empty, were rather lacking in the human department. Where was everybody? It was spring break season. People were supposed to be here. Nonetheless, the crowds appeared to have forgotten Puerto Rico's existence and were likely busy getting intoxicated on a dirty beach in Florida. More San Juan for us. Because this was our first time visiting the "Isla del Encanto," we took the buffet approach and rather than spending a sufficient amount of time in one location, decided we would split our 7 day trip amongst 3 different locations (see terrible gift shop map below): (1) Old San Juan, (2) Rincón, and (3) Cabo Rojo.
*Spoiler alert* We spread ourselves too thin and it wasn't enough time to fully appreciate each location. Regrets aside, the first trip to the island was eye opening and helped us identify where we wanted to return (Old San Juan & Rincón). We were going back.
Fast-forward eleven months, a film photography addiction, and another terrible Mid-Atlantic winter and we were on our way, once again, to Puerto Rico. Along for the ride was a Canon Kiss III, a few rolls of Kodak Gold 200, and my trusty 50mm f/1.8 EF lens. Before we knew it we were sitting in a cab, hungry, and way too early to check-in to our airbnb. Bags and all, we hopped out of the cab at the corner of Calles Sol and De La Cruz and lunched at quaint little cafe called Deaverdura (I highly recommend). After getting our fill of tostones and deep fried pork smothered in sofrito, we walked down the cobblestone street (bags in tow) to our colonial style apartment located just behind San Juan Bautista Cathedral (Use this link to get $40 off your first booking.). Find a place more centrally located to OSJ's bounty of offerings, I dare you.
After a sorry attempt to take a nap, I hit the streets, heading southbound towards Paseo de la Princesa, a European-style promenade with shady trees, food vendors, and a ginormous fountain. On the way I made a couple stops and snapped a few pictures of the aforementioned church, colorful buildings, and old accordion player.
As my brain struggled to process all the colors, sounds, and smells, my legs carried me towards the Paseo de la Princesa. I plopped myself on a concrete bench in front of the gigantic fountain, however, I quickly grew tired of watching the water dance, so I headed west towards the Paseo del Moro (another paseo). Working my way towards the water some silver flashes next to the dock caught my attention. What could it be?! Nothing other than a school of HUGE fish. Brilliant, literate, fish who read the red print sign next to the dock where they resided, indicating there was absolutely no fishing from the dock. Their placement in the water reminded me of how I might place my vessels in the game "Battleship."
After I broke free of the mesmerizing movement of the fish, I raised me head to see a picturesque scene of wooden fishing boats, slowly bobbing up and down with the tide. Rain could be seen pouring heavily on the other side of the bay. All was quiet. This must be the calm before the storm. I guess it's real.
Not being interested in spending the rest of the day soaking wet, I tightened the velcro on my Vans and trotted back to to the apartment. I ran along the Paseo, cool breeze in my face, hurdling the occasional feral cat. After about 200 meters I had reached the Puerta de San Juan and cut up through Caleta de San Juan, passing beautiful no parking signs, a hibiscus and of course, more cats.
I arrived home just in time to hear the familiar sound of a torrential downpour beating down on the hot pavement. Before retiring for the afternoon, I poured myself a tall glass of water and watched the storm roll through Old San Juan.
Camera: Canon EOS Kiss III
Film: Kodak Gold 200
When: March 2019
Where: Old San Juan, Puerto Rico