It is never a good sign when a flight attendant asks if there are any doctors or nurses on the plane. It is even worse when the attendants are running up and down the aisle with a look of panic, getting the airplane first aid kit, frantically calling the pilot via a special phone and ignoring the other passengers. I kept looking back to see if I could see the passenger in need but there were so many people hovering over them that I could not see. This went on for 45 minutes. More running up and down, each time with more urgency. I actually began to shake in my seat with worry for this mystery passenger and had accepted the likelihood that we would have to land at the nearest airport. Thankfully, the passenger was stabilized and we were able to resume our flight to Puerto Rico. As it turns out it was a little baby about six months old who was in distress. I got to look at his little face as they carted him out to an awaiting ambulance when we landed. Poor little guy! It made it for a very stressful flight.
Once on the Island of Enchantment, things got significantly better. You see, I go visit my mother and her husband during the winter months so that I can escape the
cluster fuck that is winter (did I just say that?) And what a CF it’s been! Mr. B. tells me it will get below 30 this evening. No, Gracias. I may have to extend my trip.
Even though I left PR at the age of 9 to live in the States, as soon as that plane lands and I step foot on the Island, I feel at home. Mi casa. Mi Hogar. The humid breeze on my now frizzy hair , the smells, the sounds, the feel. Nothing like it. It’s like my heart and soul are doing a happy salsa dance knowing that I am back.
My mother is the MOTHER of mothers. She wrote the book on how to spoil your children and make them feel loved. The spoiling begins when she picks me up at the airport and drives directly to one of my favorite restaurants. Her and her wonderful husband urge me (it doesn’t take much) to order all my favorite dishes including tostones (fried plantains), arroz con habichuelas (rice and beans) and bistec encebollado (steak and onions) along with a tall glass of Sangria. And then there’s flan. I’m pretty sure I inhaled my piece of flan through my nose.
As we walk through the busy streets of Condado (a great area in San Juan where she lives), I take in the night life, the sounds of the car horns, the smells of the many restaurants and the rhythm of the live bands. That first night, I literally hugged a tree. It was my way of thanking the heavens above that I had landed safely and that I was now marinating in the 80 degree temperatures. Ahhh….
The thing about being here is that you have to come with a completely different mind-set. You have to leave behind your worries, your habit to rush through things, to hurry up and get somewhere and to try to accomplish things at reasonable time frames. Just like in many other islands, Puerto Rico functions on Island time. You take it slow (otherwise you will sweat like a pig) , you relax and most importantly, you let things go. Elsa from Frozen needs to get the hell out of the cold and move to PR where she can make some awesome sand castles, rapido!
Never do I feel more feminine than when I am here. Puerto Rican women are the Bosses of femininity . This femininity is not to be confused with fragility of meekness. No Señor. We Puerto Rican women own our femininity like there is no mañana. We have five Miss Universe titles to show for it. We dress to a T, nails always groomed, impeccable clothing with badass heels and lustrous colors on our plump lips. You do not leave the house unless you are dressed to kill. Yet, we are strong, intelligent and know how to succeed.
What makes women feel even more feminine is the way PR men treat us. There is a lot of talk about machismo and how latin men rule and have the final say. This is not necessarily true. They may think they are in charge but we all know that we women are the ones who rule. Puerto Rican men are some of the most chivalrous men I have ever encountered. Be it the valet parking attendant, the hairdresser, waiter or friend, they know how to treat a lady. Umbrellas are held up quickly for us when it rains, doors open from every direction when we enter a room, chairs are moved back, packages are carried and compliments are a flyin’, in a respectful way (ok, not always but you get what I’m saying.) I feel like royalty when I am here.
Family is what matters the most for Puerto Ricans. So much so, that we see each other as often as possible. Even if we were all together on a Saturday (I’m talking aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, second cousins, third cousins, fourth cousins and more cousins), we do it all over again on Sunday. And Monday. And Tuesday. Don’t even think about saying anything negative about any member of our family. We WILL eat you, alive.
Before I visit, it is imperative that I gargle with salt water, exercise my vocal chords and pack a couple of ear plugs. You see, there is a lot of yelling that goes on when together. Not yelling like at each other, it is more like setting the volume of your iPod at its maximum, while wearing ear buds. The louder Tia Maria speaks, the louder you have to speak. The key is to talk over everyone else so that your voice is the loudest and may have a chance to actually be heard.
We live for our next meal. While having breakfast, we plan our lunch and dinner menus. Our days revolve around meal times and everything is planned accordingly. While here, my schedule has been as follows:
Wake, Eat, Drink, Rest, Eat, Drink, Rest, Eat, Drink, Rest, Sleep.
Every couple of days, I visit my favorite resort nearby that has a wonderful beach, pools, pool bar, hammocks, palm trees and killer pina coladas. My parents drop me off in the morning and pick me up before dinner time. Many Puerto Ricans on the island want nothing to do with the hot sun. They avoid it like the dengue and only enjoy the beaches during the early mornings or early evenings, if at all. I am not one of those Puerto Ricans. When my time comes, I would like to be buried in the sand of a beautiful beach – hot sun and all.
Sensationalism is our pastime. We love the drama, the Novelas and are prone to pull a Brian Williams when telling stories. What’s a little mis-remembering here and there. As part of this sensationalism, we
think we experience things more intensely than others (cough-cough). If we experience a hurricane, it was THE WORST one in the history of hurricanes. If there is a mosquito-bourne illness, like the Chikungunya (the latest), WE ALL get it and WE ALL DIE. If your mother is ill, mine is MORE ill. We feed off of tragedy. The more tragic, the better the story.
You want to meet a more PROUD group of people? You won’t. That would be, us. We are still raving about Roberto Clemente, we think the group Menudo was bigger than The Beatles. Ricky Martin and Marc Anthony are obviously the best singers. There is no one greater than Jose Feliciano and the first Hispanic to win an Oscar, Rita Moreno. José Gautier Benítez was the greatest Romantic-era poet that ever lived (duh).
But, the one thing I can tell you with certainty, is that Puerto Ricans are kind and hospitable.
You need your whole family fed? Come on over. You don’t have a place to stay? Sleep with us. You need a ride? Hop on my back. You are thirsty? Here’s the bar. You need a new kidney? Take one of mine.
This is what truly defines us and what we are most proud of.
Mi Casa Es Su Casa