Just a small announcement

I will no longer be updating this site very frequently but we will be staying in Puerto Rico for the foreseeable future. If you have any questions or you need to reach out to someone on the island, you can reach me via email here and I will do my best to assist you.  All the best to you and yours, Karen

Before and After Maria Aerial Views

Puerto Ricans on the Heartbreak of Leaving Post-Maria: “I feel like I’m being kicked out of my home”

Click image to be taken to the story.

We. have. Power.

Well, to be honest, we’ve had it since the 27th but I’ve been busy enjoying it..well most of it. I didn’t particularly enjoy the two hours it took to de-mold the fridge. But those are first world problems compared to the hardest hit areas of the island.

As you might have guessed there was much celebrating when the power came back on. Many happy faces, many wooo-hoooooo’s, many windows shutting, ac’s turned on and yes, of course, the bars were PACKED. When I say packed I mean cars parked a mile down the road packed. We were too tired for that so we opted for a bottle of rum, 4 cans of cold cokes and freshly made ice. Anyhoo it’s been nice going from grumpy/depressed to having a smile on my face, post maria has taken a huge tole on all of us with thousands still suffering greatly without water or access to any kind of power.

Of course the first thing I did was clean the freezer, ice trays and make ice which has been non-existent and a currency greater than gold. Then I did the two loads of the laundry I had been saving up that week hoping the power would come back on. You see, for the past three weeks there have been reports from the local AEE crews power would come on ANY MINUTE. Of course it got to the point where we stopped believing as days came and went.

Apparently there was a big hurry to electrify this area for two reasons: the National Guard’s main point of contact is here and they just reserved an entire motel as a camp for FEMA workers. For those two reasons we have also lucked out recently in the provisions department. A couple of weeks ago, many small vendors congregated in front of the National Guard making it easy for us to walk 5 minutes for a cheap lunch and a cold drink. Since Steve had to work during the week in San Juan this was a weight off his mind (only one car was working at this point-both alternators died and we only had time to fix one) in case traffic got really bad. Traffic, btw, is always bad…almost two hours each way for what should have been a 45 min commute tops. Between non-powered traffic lights and kids going back to school, it was stop and stop traffic.

Here’s hoping the rest of the island isn’t too far behind, unfortunately it will most likely be months for the most remote and hardest hit areas. The last 5 weeks seem like a nightmare I just woke up from, I dreamed about post hurricane madness every single night, waking up several times a night drenched in sweat..stressing about water, food, gas, the car breaking down, potholes the size of kiddie pools, etc, it was unrelenting. Puerto Rico will need a while to heal from all this madness even after all power has been restored.

Puerto Rican Illustrator Rosa Colón on Her Ode to Leaving Home, ‘Goodbye for Now’

This is a amazing interview with Illustrator and co-owner of Soda Pop Comics here in Puerto Rico. Here they discuss the exodus of many brilliant and creative young professionals before and after hurricane Maria, a must read.

Read full article here

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Please Read, this is what Puerto Rico is facing.

112 Degrees With No Water: Puerto Rican Hospitals Battle Life And Death Daily

Private groups and individuals are flying out to Puerto Rico as I speak to help with the relief effort’s, there are some truly amazing people out there. I’ve been told there are 10,000 troops here already.

As of today we have yet to see any groups handing out water, food or supplies. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been done it just means where we live, those items aren’t available to us or they are in a location not broadcasted.

We’ve gone out twice to FEMA locations that were reported on the radio and when we arrived there was no one. We still have to search for very long hours and stand in very long lines to purchase water IF it is available.

As I’ve said before we are one of the lucky ones in that we live close to the metro area and all the roads are cleared. So imagine how the remote areas are faring, it must be incredibly frustrating and feel hopeless.

If there’s one thing I would ask of those on the mainland, is to contact your Congressman, contact whomever you think would be able to help, tell them that we need more people here…we need many, many more people here helping.

Workers here are overextended, hospital staff/police/military are exhausted and overworked. We need people to replenish these workers so that they aren’t overextended.

Supplies are not getting to Puerto Rico residents as desperately needed, we need more truck drivers, we need more helicopters, we need more pilots, we just need more.

Thank you…

Gorgeous Collection of Vintage Photographs from the 1940s-1960s

Friends of Eldo Neufeld (photographer) outside rural home. Taken 1946-48.
Friends of Eldo Neufeld (photographer) outside rural home. Taken 1946-48.

Whilst doing some research one night I stumbled upon this amazing flickr account run by Tom Lehman. Amazing because Mr. Lehman collected thousands of vintage slides, cleaned, scanned, edited, identified and attributed each one to their individual photographer. And after that monumental task was completed, he was kind enough to upload them for everyone to see, enjoy and use free of charge. (As long as it’s not for monetary gain)

Most of the photos are of Puerto Rico but there are some other countries among the collection as well. He also has a blog which explains why and how these photographs came to light.

Another useful site is “Archivo Historico y Fotografico de Puerto Rico” which has many fascinating photographs and ephemera as well. Stop by and check them out, as you can see from the examples here, they are really quite remarkable.

The photos I picked to showcase here are just a small sampling and most have been edited to some degree. I hope you will stop by Tom’s site to view the rest and perhaps give him a hand with the identification process.

burning sugar cane
Burning Sugar Cane Field – !960 Taken by Elmer Weaver
Cayey in Toita - apr 60 Puerto Ricotwo
Iglesia Bautista in Toita, Cayey, PR. 1960 – Taken by Elmer Weaver (Still standing, you can see an image on Google Maps)
Political Party Club - 1960 (City Unknown)
Political Party Club – 1960 (City Unknown) Taken by Elmer Weaver.
DeSoto at Kofresi Line Inc., Ponce-San Juan. Between 1948 -1951.
DeSoto at Kofresi Line Inc., Ponce-San Juan. Between 1948 -1951. Taken by John Brandeberry
Funeral Coach 1948
Funeral Coach 1948 – Taken by Esther Rinner
Fisherman in Arroyo - April 1948
Fisherman in Arroyo – April 1948 – Taken by Esther Rinner
Oxen taking water to steam engine .1947-48 - Taken by Esther Rinner
Oxen taking water to steam engine .1947-48 – Taken by Esther Rinner
Between Comerio and Barranquitas. 1960-61
Between Comerio and Barranquitas. 1960-61 Taken by Patricia Santiago.
"Little girl that brought us oranges" - March 1948. Photo by Dale Roesch
“Little girl that brought us oranges” – March 1948. Photo by Dale Roesch
Fotographia Nunez, booth in Lares plaza. July 10, 1955 Taken by Lee Smith
Fotographia Nunez, booth in Lares plaza. July 10, 1955 – Taken by Lee Smith
Rio Piedras street scene - January 1960 - Taken by Elmer Weaver
Rio Piedras street scene – January 1960 Taken by Elmer Weaver

Coffee in Puerto Rico | The Best Coffee Tours, Museums & Festivals on the Island

 

Good coffee is literally everywhere on the island. That little panadería around the corner, the hole-in-the-wall colmado or in your local placita.

But if you really want to learn more or taste some of the very best coffee on the island, I suggest a tour of one the many coffee farms. We’ve been to a few and have always enjoyed the experience.

Any day trip in PR is an adventure so planning ahead is imperative. Some of the farms I contacted for this post told me many visitors call the day of or before to make a visit. That just isn’t possible in many cases. Some of these farms are run by families who cannot have regularly scheduled visits due to their small size. They are more than happy to show visitors around when they aren’t busy maintaining/running their business though.

The following offer Coffee Tours and/or lodging on working plantations. All of the businesses on this page offer 100% pure Puerto Rico grown coffee. Please see corresponding notes for each.

Sandra Farms | Adjuntas | Offers tours by appointment and sells coffee, chocolate and cigars. Call 787 409 8083 for reservations. Tours are any day of the week at 11am and  2pm, lasting approximately 2 hrs. Coffee & chocolate tasting at the end of the tour. $15 per person, children are free. Inquire for Senior Citizens discount. You can also email them to reserve a visit. A pdf map is available at request for clear directions.
Hacienda Tres Ángeles  | Adjuntas | Tours & Coffee Shop, visit their website or call 787 360 0019 for reservations. Tours are on Saturdays at 10 am, last 2 and a half hours and cost $15 for adults and $5 for children under 12. Adults enjoy a cup of hot coffee while children are served hot chocolate, both also enjoy a baked good.
Café de Puta Madre | Adjuntas | Offering free tours. This is small family operation, please call in advance at 787 436 2026 for reservations or message them on Facebook.
Hacienda Palma Escrita  Call Maria @ 787 210 8252 for reservations. $7 per person. Tour takes approximately an hour.
Hacienda San Pedro | Jayuya | Tours, Coffee Museum, Restaurant and Gift shop. Tours are available on Sat & Sun 12:30, 2pm and 4pm. $10 per person, children under 5 are free.  Tours last approximately 45 minutes. If your group is 12 persons or larger, please call ahead at 787 828 2083.
Hacienda Tres Picachos | Jayuya | Tours & Museum. Call 787 828 2121 for reservations, by appointment only. Tours are usually given on Saturday, Sunday and Monday and last 1 hour 15 min.  $10 per person, children under 12 are $7. On weekends they are open for breakfast at 9am if you would like to dine before your tour.
Café Nativo | Jayuya | Call 787 315 7881 for reservations. Open Saturdays 8:30-1:30, $10 per person and lasts approximately an hour and twenty minutes.
Hacienda Gripiñas | Jayuya | Hotel & Restaurant on working plantation, tours were not offered at the time of this post, visit their website for details. 787 828 1717
Gran Batey  | Utuado | Call 787 636 5442 for reservations.
Hacienda Buena Vista  | Ponce | Restored Historical Site that is part of the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico, call 787 722 5882 for reservations. Tours are $13.38 per person, Wed-Sundays, English speaking tours are at 12pm. Tours last an hour and a half.
Hacienda Pomarrosa | Ponce | Lodging, Tour and tastings offered, call 787 844 3541 for reservations. Tue-Sat 11am daily, $20 pp. To skip a call, email the day you would like to visit, number of persons and where you are driving from for clear directions. GPS is not accurate according to the company. Tour lasts two hours.
Café Lucero | Ponce | Tours available by appointment, call 787 848 8387 for reservations. 6 person minimum, $18.95 per person, $15.95 for children 10 and under, tour lasts 2 hours. Leaves between 10-10:30am on a day determined by reservation. At the end of the tour, patrons enjoy a cup of coffee, a bottle of water and a muffin or cookie.
Hacienda Muñoz  | San Lorenzo | Tour, Restaurant and Coffee Bar, call 787 736 8427 for directions if needed, no reservations necessary. Wed-Sun 10am and 2pm $15 per person, $10 for Adults 62+ up. Tour lasts approximately an hour.
Café Lareño | Lares | Tours and coffee shop, call 787 897 7762 for reservations. Tours are on the following days and last approximately an hour: Tue-Thur 10am & 1pm. Sat & Sun 11am, 12:30, 2pm, & 4pm. $8 per person, children under 5 are free, children 6+ up are $6.
Hacienda Mis Abuelos | Mayaguez | Tours are free and available Mon-Friday, call 787 265 2521 to confirm your group.
Café el Mañanero | Maricao | Offers tours, message them on Facebook for details. Pricing depends on group size but usually around $10 pp. Tour lasts approximately 2.5 hours and are usually on Sat/Sun. If you prefer to call, their number is 787 312 7045.
Hacienda El Jibarito | San Sebastian | Historic Plantation operating solely as a Parador . Call 787 244 3399 for reservations at their inn.

Some of the best Cafés on the island. If you have one you’d like to share, please let me know in the comments.
Cuatros Sombras  | Viejo San Juan
Hacienda Isabel | Viejo San Juan
Café Finca Cialitos  | Viejo San Juan
Café Poético | Viejo San Juan
Don Ruiz Cafe & Museum  | Viejo San Juan
Puerto Rico’s Café Cola’o  | Viejo San Juan
Café Cibales  | San Juan
Gustos Coffee Company  | San Juan x2
Caficultura | San Juan
Hacienda San Pedro | Santurce & Hato Rey
Café con Cé | Santurce
Museo del Café Cafe & Museum | Ciales
Café Nativo | Jayuya
El Loveshack | Mayaguez
Friends Cafe | Mayaguez

Coffee Festivals | Festival del Café

Fiesta Del Café | Jayuya, PR | February
Fiesta del Acabe del Cafe | Maricao, PR | February
Festival Nacional Del Café | Yauco, PR | March
Coffee & Chocolate Expo | Centro de Convenciones de Puerto Rico San Juan, PR | September 23/24, 2017

Big Changes in the Arecibo District

We’ve had our noses to the grindstone for a quite awhile and decided on a recent holiday weekend we simply had to break the cycle. We headed along the northern coast through Vega Baja, Manati, and Barceloneta, finally ending up in Arecibo.

Near La Boca in Barceloneta we could already see major changes either completed or under way. The public space, El Malecon had been completely re-imagined with a busy new adjacent restaurant, El Bohio del Gran Pescador. Like all new restaurants in Puerto Rico, the line was at least 50 people deep. Further down, another well known restaurant was reaping the rewards of the area’s revitalization. What once was a near ghost town was now flush with hoards of patrons.

We had only driven a third of the distance to the “Birth of the New World Statue” and things were already drastically different. As we meandered in what was now stop and go traffic you could see modern road-side stands, re-opened businesses, the promise of pasteles off a side street, coco frio on every corner and 100’s of families enjoying the playa. It had only been three months since we were last here, with so much progress in such a short time, it was astounding.

stand

About a 1/2 mile before Cueva del Indio we spotted a new restaurant on the left, Camaleón Bar & Grill, busy but not insanely so. Directly across the street is the “Gasolina Beach Club“, a large lot with shade trees, a large clearing for helicopter tours* (we took the helicopter tour and had a blast) and a restaurant in the back. They frequently have concerts and various entertainment events as well. The restaurant is two storied with a wide veranda over-looking the playa. The views are gorgeous, it’s the perfect place to grab a plate of fried guilty pleasures and an ice cold beer.

sign

porch

I should mention at this point most of this progress is funded by Pan American Grain, for better or worse, depending of what side of the issue you are on. If you didn’t know, Pan American Grain’s products are ubiquitous throughout the island. Brands such as Rico rice, Gasolina and Mami cafe. They are the financial backer of “Terra Vista Parkland” and all that encompasses, including the previously mentioned restaurant, beach club and tours. “Terra Vista Parkland” will be a developed park surrounding the Columbus statue. To view the park’s future plans check out their video.

helicopter

view 3

view 4

While in the area, we noticed Cueva del Indio’s original paid parking lot was corded off (temporarily?) and a much larger adjacent lot was available. We aren’t entirely sure Pan American had anything to do with it, but it had their stamp on it with similar decor and landscaping.

I’m not sure how I feel about the project itself. On one hand it’s an obvious financial benefit to locals in the surrounding area. I can see traffic becoming a nightmare but there are also plans to widen the road. Widen it how is yet to be seen, PR’s back roads don’t leave much wiggle room. There are groups protesting the development and a petition going around. From what I have read they are keeping the environment in mind, but will they truly? It’s not like corporations haven’t broken promises in the past. If you have any further info on the subject or just want to share your perspective, let me know in the comments, I would love to hear from you.

statue far viiew

*Helicopter tours are $35pp but you need 3 people for that price. If you are a couple or going solo you have the option of waiting for additional people to show up (who will also agree to ride with you) or you can pay for the empty seat(s). We opted to pay for the third empty seat. Bonus short video of our flight.

Must Read (and share!) Article by Nelson Denis

After a Century of American Citizenship, Puerto Ricans Have Little to Show for It

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