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Old 02-10-2008, 05:04 AM
59 posts, read 344,110 times
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Originally Posted by Sleddog905 View Post
It seems like the driving has improved tremendously since they started increasing the fines! The first time I visited PR I thought we would surely be killed by the crazy drivers. Shortly before we visited last March they had increased the fines for driving violations, and the police were everywhere. We were just there last month and it still seemed better than it was, but my in-laws live in Maunabo so we didn't spend a whole lot of time on the highways.
Well, that's certainly good news. If they stick to it, things should eventually improve. But they will have to be diligent because it will probably take many years before most people finally realize that the wild driving days are over and they must start following the rules or be fined and lose their license if they repeatedly offend. Of course, after hearing so much about PR's infamous corruption, you also have to hope the police don't just use this as an opportunity to take payoffs instead of writing tickets.

On another note, since your in-laws live in a small town on the island outside the San Juan metro area, you would be a good person to post your thoughts on small town life on the island. So much of the prevailing opinions and perceptions of PR are based on living/working in the big cities such as San Juan and Ponce, it is helpful to get a sense of the island outside of these areas. Obviously there are pros and cons to living in a small town outside the metros and the more commentary the better.
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Old 02-16-2008, 02:20 AM
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Although I was born and raised in the CONUS (I'm a 3rd generation Puerto Rican), I've gone to Puerto Rico many times to visit family (in particular my maternal grandparents who moved back to Puerto Rico in 1989). Someone here said that they wanted to hear more from rural Puerto Rico. I've always spent my vacations in the rural part of the island and have had very little experiences in the major cities. I've been through San Juan just to use the airport on only two of my trips ( I usually go through Aguadilla) and I've never been to Ponce! Ok, so here it goes:

Crime: I've never experienced or seen crime on any of my trips to the island. I know it is common, but I've never experienced it. My family tells me it's more prevalent in the metro area. Where my family lives, we keep all the doors open until midnight (sometimes later) and I rock myself in the hammock that they have in the front porch, looking at the stars and mountain silhouettes in the backround. It's beautiful and peaceful!

Poverty: Not everyone who lives in the rural part of the island is poor. As a matter of fact, I've noticed something very interesting. I've seen homes from every socioeconomic status in the countryside and they are pretty much close to each other. It's common to see a very small unpainted concrete home (with an old junked car sitting on cinderblocks in the front) and then a gorgeous mansion (with an electric fence) about 1 mile down the road. All the roads I've seen are always paved, no matter how rural the area. Most people, IMO, live comfortably and have nice but modest things. Lots of people have brand new cars, but they're mostly Toyota's or Mitsubishi's. I'm from Northern New Jersey and here luxury cars and expensive clothes are the norm, but not so much in rural PR (My grandparents flipped when I told them what I paid for my authentic Lacoste shirts, LOL). I guess it's comparible to other parts of the US that aren't as affluent as the Northeast.

My family's power does go out during really bad thunderstorms and it can stay out for at least 6 hours. It also goes out during hurricanes and in these instances it may not come back for one to two weeks! This isn't the case if you have a generator though. Most of my family buys large tanks of natural gas and place them behind the house. These usually last about 2-3 months and I believe each refill is about 60 dollars per tank (but I'm not too sure). Now comes water. My maternal grandparents and some of my aunts have giant (about 10 feet deep) water tanks behind the house that hold clean and chlorinated water. All of the faucets in the house are connected to these tanks by underground pipes. I'm not sure if the water is purchased from the city or from private water companies, all I know is that a huge water truck comes to the house and fills the tanks with a large hose. My paternal grandparents are lucky, they have a freshwater river about 200 yards from their house that supplies them with free water.

Dogs running amuck:
Unfortunately, this is true. Wild dogs do live in certain parts of the countryside. Some of them were conceived in the streets, but many others were simply abandoned by their owners. As a child, I was always warned to stay away from these dogs because sometimes they carry a type of skin disease. I don't know what it's called in English, but in Spanish its called "Sarna".

Hospitals in the countryside are pretty bad. One of my cousins was taken to the hospital when she got a large cut on her foot. The nurses couldn't find a bucket to fill with water, so they used a small garbage can instead! As my grandmother says "Los medicos de aqui no valen na". Translation: "The doctors here aren't worth anything". LOL

Public schools are pretty bad as well. They're comparable to the inner city schools in the states. My aunt (who was raised here and moved to PR as a teenager with my grandparents) often corrected her english teacher over there, LOL. The private ones, however, are very good. They teach their students proper English and many of them have their own chapters of the National Honor Society.

There you have it, MY lengthy experiences of rural Puerto Rico.

Last edited by Busch Boy; 02-16-2008 at 02:34 AM.. Reason: typos and additions
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Old 02-16-2008, 05:23 AM
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Busch Boy,

Good post. Thanks for taking the time! And if you think of any other additions or updated info in the future, please post again.
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Old 02-17-2008, 06:42 PM
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Yes, I forgot to talk about the drivers. I always go on the road alot. My mother's family is from the west coast and my father's from the east coast and it takes about 2 1/2 hours to drive from one point to the other. I have seen drivers do inappropriate things (cut you off, curse at you, speed, race), but that's about it. Like I said, I'm from Northern New Jersey and seeing those things is quite normal for me. LOL.
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Old 02-21-2008, 09:24 PM
Location: NW Charlotte, NC
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sarna= mange... If it were sarna of a human= scabies... yum! LOL!

Where do your grandparents live? I'm an American with a PR husband, and we used to live in Moca, which is maybe, 5-10 min from Aguadilla.
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Old 02-23-2008, 08:44 PM
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They live up in the mountains in rural Mayaguez. I also have lots of family in San Sebastian, which is right next to Moca.

Last edited by Busch Boy; 02-23-2008 at 08:55 PM..
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Old 03-09-2008, 01:20 PM
Location: The Pinery, Parker, CO
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Default My take on Puerto Rico.

I have been reading many of the posts about Puerto Rico and have felt both disgust as well as pleasure at what I have read. It is obvious that some of the posters have had bad experiences in PR and many have had great experiences. I feel that I must take the time to post a reply.
I am of Puerto Rican descent. My parents moved to New York from PR back in the 1950s to earn a decent living and provide for their 5 children. My father is one of the hardest working persons I have ever known contrary to what some posters have said about the work ethic of the people in PR. There are lazy individuals everywhere. I have lived in NY, CA, PR, Guam, MS, MD, SC, VA and now Colorado and I have seen my share of worthless, lazy individuals from all colors and races. I have also experienced automobile theft, petty theft, assaults, dangerous driver behavior, racist police, racism while in the Air Force, racism while in a Catholic high school in Queens, N.Y., (been called the S word many times in school and the military), etc.. I have NEVER experienced any of the above when I lived in Puerto Rico or during any of my twice a year visits to see my parents or during the many times I spent my summer vacations there as a child.
I have been searching for a career opportunity in PR since leaving there 30 years ago for military service. I would move back there in a heartbeat if an opportunity came up to earn a decent living. My wife is an Anglo native of South Carolina and shares this dream. She absolutely loves the people, the weather, and my parents. If you have an open mind about the culture and philosophy of the locals and don't mind the occasional loss of electric power, water or phone service then you will love it in Puerto Rico. My parents live in Cabo Rojo on the Southwest corner of the island. It is a 2.5-3 hour drive from San Juan. It has a slightly drier climate (semi arid) than the eastern half of the island and has calm, beautiful beaches (Boqueron, Buye, El Combate) and a cheaper, more laid back lifestyle and nightlife than the metro San Juan area. Up the road is Rincon and its eclectic mix of locals and U.S. transplants as well as its surfing beaches (last I heard the transplant population numbered around 2,000). A 20 minute drive up North is Mayaguez with all of the usual chain restaurants, Wal-mart, a nice indoor mall, Sam's Club, Home Depot, etc. Everything you need to keep you feeling like you are back in the states. The wife and I have traveled the Caribbean and we feel safer in PR than any other island we have visited. Finding English speaking persons has never been a problem for her. You also don't have to worry about currency exchange, the government seizing your property, or any of the other problems you will/ could experience somewhere else. This IS part of the U.S. and you are protected by the laws of the U.S. and P.R. BTW, I have never been able to buy my way out of a speeding ticket. You will not have to worry about police corruption like some have insinuated. I experienced first hand a Kangaroo Court in Pelzer, S.C. but never in Puerto Rico.
Traffic in the Metro Area IS BAD. It's almost as bad as the traffic in the Washington DC, New York City or Los Angeles Metro areas (lived in all 3). You will find traffic jams and poor drivers everywhere and not just in S.J. You also don't have to put up with snow, icy roads and weeks/ months of cold weather and all of the havoc it wreaks on your daily drive to work. If we want snow we'll fly to it. PR is only a 3.5 hour flight from NYC and a little over 2 hours from Miami. You're always a short flight away from the CONUS.
When I find my dream job we will move to PR, work in the Metro area for awhile and build our dream retirement home on the West Coast (My dad owns 18 acres of hilltop land overlooking the Caribbean) and YES we WILL have a generator, an abundant source of water and satellite TV to ensure we are never slightly inconvenienced. Never feel intimidated or threatened by what you don't understand or aren't used to. Take the time to appeciate and understand the culture and people and what their way of life means to them and make an effort to embrace it. Then one day you too can call yourself a Puerto Rican. Many Puerto Ricans of Anglo, Middle Eastern and Asian descent have done this throughout the past 300 years as evidenced by the multitude of non- Hispanic surnames that exist throughout Puerto Rico today. (Corsican, Croatian, Welsh, Irish, Chinese, Austrian, French and many, many others.) Enjoy the best the island has to offer (friendly people, food, beaches, history,etc.) and forgive us for the occasional bad apple that has left a bad taste in your mouth.
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Old 03-09-2008, 02:55 PM
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While I respect your optimism about the prospects of living in PR, some of us who actually grew up in the island and don't mind calling a spade a spade have a saying: "No hay peor ciego que el que no quiere ver.." For the benefit of our non-bilingual audience it means there's no worse blind person than he who does not wish to see. I find it quite telling you're having problems figuring out how you're going to make a relocation to PR financially possible. That's very telling right there. You mentioned you had your stint in the Air Force, guess what, I'm also in the AF. Your argument for your experiences with racism in the military, along with racism in the CONUS, however reprehensible, are irrelevant to the comparison when you are talking about a primarily culturally homogeneous island. Race relations in the island are a different animal than the CONUS, it's apples to oranges. I grew up down there, of course I'm not going to be the victim of racism around San Juan, for that matter neither will you being of Puerto Rican descent. It's not like you're Dominican, in which case you must certainly be treated like some black people are treated up here. But, you can bet your bottom dollar those "compatriotas" down there wouldn't hesitate to hold me up at gun point past sundown and jack me up for money or my vehicle, if you fail to see that then you've been watching the NYC Puerto Rican day parade for too many years my friend.

You mentioned your parents migrated to New York. That makes you a newyorican. There's nothing wrong with that except for the fact that your view of the island is clouded on the romanticism partly founded on your family's desire to remain in the culture they had to leave for economic reasons. I presented my opinion based on the viewpoint of somebody who had to grow up in the island, and had to cough up the out-of-state tuition as a price of entry into CONUS society, which was hardly free. The mere reculturalization is worth that kind of money, never mind the economic and labor opportunities afforded to me by CONUS relocation.

I am not suggesting your tale is purposefully false, it is not, but it holds a tourist's perspective at best. You have no susbtantial time living, eating and growing up there to positively assert there's no substantial police corruption, government corruption, crime problems substantially worse than the median CONUS metro area, higher cost-of-living than the closest island economy of the US (Hawaii), difficulty of finding gainful employment (you acknowledged that much in your post) and competitive salaries etc. You just don't have the time spent landlocked in that island to be affected by it, I did.

You wrote on your post to not be threatened by what one doesn't understand or is not used to. Well I understand it because I lived it and I'm telling people here (who are in the board to inform themselves about places they don't yet know) the unpleasant truth about the ailments of the island, and hopefully people make informed decisions. I do think I am entitled to qualify the culture I grew up in as I wish, in spite of the fact that it is uncomfortable for some to hear.

Look, PR is a great place to have a vacation home for US citizens, as it does afford you the ease of transaction of not having to deal with foreign currencies and laws (although PR does have a jacked up legal code..thanks Spain), but it just does not compete with the CONUS in the areas of employment, education, crime, demographic diversity etc. At the end of the day it all depends on what the particular individual holds as important, but I haven't found anything on this thread that should cause a feeling of disgust in you, as you pointed out. That to me reads of somebody who doesn't want to hear the reality of their "isla del encanto" and wishes to dream it not be so. If I had to oversimplify it I would recommend permanent relocation to Puerto Rico only to those retirees who are comfortable with re-culturalization, tha't's it. For the rest, including native Puerto Ricans with the ability to leave, I would recommend investing in vacation properties, but that's it.

My parents are retired down there and got too old to do the Florida shuffle and reculturalize, so I'm going to spend a susbtantial amount of time in the next decades traveling back and forth to the island so they can see and interact with their future grandchildren (my fiancé is from Indiana and we live in Louisiana, where just like PR it doesn't snow either...) and evnetually I'll take over the care of their properties and health. Therefore I think you shouldn't have any problem making PR a vacation home destination either, particularly being of Puerto Rican ethnicity. But don't assert from a visitor's perspective that crime, jobs, education, class warfare and cost-of-living in the island are "what you make of it" from a CONUS comparative point of view, that's just misleading.


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Old 03-12-2008, 01:50 PM
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Originally Posted by hindsight2020 View Post
This touches close to home...I don't intend to come off doom and gloom about the prospects of living in PR, and I have disclosed I elected to leave, but I have to footstomp on the unique realities that make these "generalities" of quality of life particularly difficult when speaking of the island.

First let me de-couple metro San Juan and the rest of island. Outside of metro San Juan MSA, Ponce and Arecibo, the island is country, positively without a doubt rural. And I'm not talking about CONUS mid-western flat land rural, I'm talking about Appalachian poor. Forget median per capita income, the island is POOR. Anybody who has studied the history of the island should be aware that "barrios" isn't just some present-day pejorative for the 'hood, it's the way the island was developed; streches and streches of mountainous land populated by clusters of highly poor, once-agricultural families, left in the 20th century. This is not a character flaw, but a living reality that cannot and should not be minimized by a token retiree fixiated on the general beauty, weather comfort and overall "different feel" of your garden variety CARIBBEAN ISLAND. (It's SUPPOSED to be beautiful...that's not the point). We'll get back to living outside San Juan metro in a second, let's address some of the major points brought up before.

Crime is everywhere. Yes. The difference is that in the CONUS you can still enjoy your chosen lifestyle by simply shifting yourself along different areas and practicing common sense. In Puerto Rico you CANNOT escape it. You simply cannot. Everywhere you go you are at risk of being victimized. There are no "safe areas" in the whole San Juan metro area. Yes, there are gated communities; good luck eating, growing up, shopping, going to school, college and raising your kids (rinse and repeat) inside your gated community. You have to go outside, and you cannot escape the poverty and the subsequent crime and general riff raff everywhere you go.

See, some people up here actually mistify and novelize this reality; "lechón asa'o en la carretera", (roasted pig on the side of the road) "pinchos en el kiosko de luquillo" (skewers on the luquillo beach huts) ad nauseam. That's good and great but there is a price for that. These people are struggling, they lack the work ethic people take for granted up in the states (and believe me in Louisiana work ethic is an afterthought, for full disclosure), people are not moderately educated therefore they tend to be rude and riff-raffy. This is everywhere you go, whether it is eating pinchos on the side of the road or eating at the local chili's in San Juan. Car jackings are a fact of life. For Christ sake you don't even have to leave the "tourist" areas to figure this out. Go to the airport and they have a section of the multi-level parking reserved for just Mitsubishi Monteros, because for years they have been the favorite vehicle to steal in the island. Yep, only in Puerto Rico... Murders are through the roof, but it has been highlighted before they are mostly drug related. Fair enough. In the states you just stay away from the drug cores. In PR you cannot. Every light you stop at after sundown is a potential car jacking opportunity or a stray bullet through the temple that wasn't meant for you. I'm sorry, but that's the reality. Could I replicate those odds in East St. Louis after sundown? Of course. But I can escape that center easily in the CONUS, in PR you have to accept that risk as the opportunity cost of living in the caribbean. Going to pubs at night, you are in effect dancing right next to drug pushers and mid-level gang officers, and it is not uncommon to have shootings in public places; incidents that rattle the community several times a year and make decent people down there cringe, but reality that can only be avoided by 1) leaving the island or 2) altering your lifestyle to the point where you cannot enjoy yourself. I sit and stare in awe at teenagers at the mall up here after after dark, laughing and enjoying themselves and thinking to myself "wow, their parents don't even know how lucky they are their kids can reasonably be outside at night". I did my stint of #2 until my window opened for #1. So no, it's not just "crime is everywhere" and therefore similar to the CONUS, it's quite restrictive to freedom of lifestyle and much different than the choices in the mainland. So yes, anywhere in Florida is better than PR for crime, all else being equal. Miami does not apply, as it IS part of Cuba and PR for that matter, I'm not being facetious, demographically I can't even tell I'm not back in San Juan when I've been in south Dade. But I digress.

Regarding infrastructure, yes utilities are a mess down there. You can get away with less ocurrences the closer you get to downtown San Juan, but outside the metro area they are a fact of life. You laugh at the thought a "couple times a month"... haha, try a couple of hours every single day like clockwork. I'm not even talking about rationing, which happens every other year, I'm talking about general outages of both power and water. Example, my mother's extended family in the municipality of Morovis (you get brownie points if you can drive to it without getting lost in the mountain at least once). Water pump from the "downtown" core didn't have enough pressure to pump uphill to all the end points so they only had the benefit of "surges". Translation, can't do laundry in the mornings. That's rural PR for ya. Not in generalities, but in individual reality. Good luck retiring there. This is TODAY, as of a couple of hours ago, talking to my mother on the cell phone and her complaining they were going to outright buy her sister a water cistern no questions asked and put it on her roof because of the ridiculousness of being a US citizen in 2008 and not having running water. As to electrical power, they have gotten better as far as fair weather continuous service, but when it rains, yep, here we go. The fact that CAT (as in caterpillar, the industrial equipment manufacturer) bolted-down type generators are a common landscaping feature in middle class PR homes has already been acknowledged, so no need to elaborate on it.

Healthcare. Third-world outside of San Juan, period. You need critical care? You're getting an ambulance to San Juan, good luck with the traffic jam. God strike me down if I'm lying but in PR, people don't stop or sidestep their cars for emergency vehicles. They just stare at you, blast off obscenities and chase the ambulance in rush hour through the pocket they make. Things like MRIs are not readily accessible to the general population in all regional hospitals (Mayaguez, Manati, Aguadilla, Ponce, Humacao being the main regional support to San Juan metro hospitals) and for trauma care, buddy you're going to San Juan, make sure you got toll money. I was visiting my family, g/f in tow, for Xmas 2004. My grandmother has a stroke right there, I call 911 and I get a busy signal. I still remember my father's eyes of desperation in what seems so unreal for a western world society. I had to put her collapsing foaming at the mouth body in the family car along with my sobbing father and drive her myself in what best can be described as a stunt scene from the movies; running red lights, driving on the curb because people wouldn't let me pass, running the gate arm at the hospital against traffic, the whole nine. I do not wish to repeat the pain and anger I felt that day but I think it has earned me the right to call out primary care in the island for what it is: banana republic level. So yes a retiree can theoretically live in rural PR but you are bounded by the services only available in metro San Juan, that's a fact of life.

Regarding doctor's wait, agreed. It's not so much the lack of work ethic in PR (which is true), it's more due to the combination of 1) a drag-your-feet culture (between federal days, local state days and religious holidays, the avg state employee in PR has a working month off in a year, so fiscally they only work 11 months..yet there's no private industry to speak of to support the lack of productivity) and 2) the overuse of medical services by a largely indigent population. Translation, yep you have to take the day off and show up at 6:30am, no lie. At any rate, yes, the medical infrastructure is worse than imaginable outside of the metro area.

I don't think this negative protrayal should cause indignation and a sense that a more balanced reality MUST be instead the truth. How about finding indignation in the assertion that a location could be so "great" to visit but not good enough to live in. That right there should be the most glaring evidence that things are not right down there to say the least.
THANK YOU, for such honest description of your parents' beloved island. It has been very insightfull, but it makes me wonder if I, as a senior, would be safe travelling there. Also, you have excellent command of your writing skills, did you receive them in NYC? Recently, I ventured into the Orlando, Florida threads and read a multitude of attacks against Puerto Ricans in that area. Maybe they need someone like you, with excellent writing skills, to set them straight. It seems to me that noone is challenging them, and I wonder why.
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Old 03-12-2008, 05:32 PM
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Originally Posted by RUBIES77 View Post
THANK YOU, for such honest description of your parents' beloved island. It has been very insightfull, but it makes me wonder if I, as a senior, would be safe travelling there. Also, you have excellent command of your writing skills, did you receive them in NYC? Recently, I ventured into the Orlando, Florida threads and read a multitude of attacks against Puerto Ricans in that area. Maybe they need someone like you, with excellent writing skills, to set them straight. It seems to me that noone is challenging them, and I wonder why.

Thank you for the compliment. I'm actually a product of catholic private education in the island. Which FWIW is the equivalent of say a well-funded average public school district in metro/suburban CONUS. Public education in PR is an afterthought, it's de facto social refugee camp. I'm not saying this as an elitist remark, but an affirmation that private education is part of the ticket to fully taking advantage of your american citizenship from an islander perspective. My parents had the foresight to recognize this, and I'm am eternally grateful for setting me up for success.

You mentioned Orlando and Puerto Ricans there. Part of the problem is that some of those fellow PRicans do not embrace bilingualism and cultural diversity in the same light as I did. To them, American pluralism is a threat to their [false] sense of nationalism, and tie english profiency with identity. In my case I did not pursue that route. I pursued bilingualism as a personal and business tool to develop myself and my potential for a future. I could write and recite the same spiel I've been posting in gramatically correct spanish and not blink once; it's all about one's attitude towards language and culture. I am an American citizen first and foremost (which perhaps rationalizes my military service) and my allegiance is to this Nation, problems and all. They see that as a "sellout" Puerto Rican, or "pitiyankee" in local island lingo. I don't concern myself with that aspect anymore, as I have made the choice of leaving the island.

I will always be tied to that place because of my parents and whatever estate they leave behind when they are gone, and my future children will go there and understand the culture, language and idiosincracies of the place their father grew up in; but it doesn't cripple me the way some of these Orlandoites and even some Newyoricans allow themselves to be under the argument that whatever their tribulations are in the CONUS, there is this utopic island they have been robbed from enjoying, where all their mainland disparities will be healed. That's just disingenous. These people are the way they are because they clash and collide with mainstream society. Dont get me wrong, I went to Alabama for undergrad for Christ sake, so I KNOW racism in this country. It didn't stop me though, and that's the difference.

Also, second and third generation Puerto Ricans in the CONUS force the issue of identity. When you stroll down the road with a million puerto rican flag bumperstickers and a half more hanging off your rear view mirror while you blast some Gilberto Santa Rosa (well-known salsero) in mainstreet USA, you're not asserting anything, you're a poser and all of us quiet, assimilated, island-born and raised, culturally aware Puerto Ricans living in the CONUS know it, and frown on it (despite being labeled a sellout). All it does it is reinforce the historical knowledge that many Puerto Ricans who emigrated in the 50s and 60s coupled their immigrant experience with the urban black experience, due in large part to the lack of educational level and assumed commonality in terms of race (mestizo in NYC of 1960 was closer to an african american than a caucassian, from a white new yorker's perspective back then.... tell that to a dominicano today and he'll call you a crybaby). So it's all about how you use your formative culture in the context of a complex pluralistic society such as the US.

P.S. As for travelling in the island, during daytime you shouldn't have a problem as long as you stay outside the "caseríos" (projects) and other local drug point streets which are usually off-the-beaten path anyways. At night, have a local (which presupposes a working command of spanish) drive ya around, period. It is still a beautiful island, and there's lots for a tourist to do and it's convenient for travels to/from the CONUS. Enjoy your stay if you go. As others have mentioned, going out of the metro area is where you'll also discover the beauty of a tropical island with the characteristic slow pace of life and awesome scenery (watching a chain of mountains stop suddenly at the edge of the water, around the municipality of Patillas in SE PR, or the cliffs off the northwest tip of the island in Aguadilla, is a sight to behold).
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