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Puerto Rico: Beach & Beauty

Thursday August 02 2012    |     Views: 3214    |     Comments: 0   |     Print    Bookmark and Share

A commonwealth of the United States of America, Puerto Rico is a semi-autonomous territory whose constitutional status has long been a political oxymoron. The island’s cultural manifestations are similarly ridden with contradiction. Puerto Ricans love big American cars, but drive them more like they’re in Mexico City; they have served in numerous foreign wars under the banner of stars and stripes, yet share a closer historical identity to Cuba; they have exported over half of their ebullient population to the east coast of the United States, but still exhibit a fierce loyalty to their beloved Borinquen, the island they will always call home. Puerto Ricans are a gentle and friendly people, but the island feels more like Latin America than the United States.

Confused? Don’t worry. Even native Puerto Ricans sometimes have difficulty in unravelling the baffling intricacies of their much-debated political system. Christopher Columbus landed on the island of Puerto Rico in 1493 on his second voyage of discovery, and originally named it San Juan Bautista in honour of Saint John the Baptist. The name of the island's present day capital, San Juan, honours the name Columbus first gave the island. It was then settled by explorer Ponce de Leon and the island was under Spanish possession for over four centuries. The island became United States territory under the Treaty of Paris, which also ended the Spanish-American War. The United States passed Law 5600 giving Puerto Rico authorization to create and approve its own constitution. The relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico is known in English as a commonwealth.

But you are a mere tourist, so Puerto Rico’s residents’ political confusion shouldn’t be a bother to you. Jump on an island filled with quaint beauty and have a time of your life. When you are looking for exotic locations, miles upon miles of white sand beaches, plus an unbelievable rain forest and mountains, you go to Puerto Rico.

Racing headlong into the 21st century, contemporary Puerto Rico can sometimes present a bewildering picture to culture-seeking visitors. Outdoor enthusiasts will not want to miss the opportunity to visit the rare and wild treasure that is Isla Mona. Hop on a local bus, disappear in Bosque Estatal de Carite in the central mountains, change your pace on Puerto Rico's wacky sister, the island of Culebra, or pedal your way around the beautiful island of Vieques; just be sure to tear up any cast-iron itineraries and let the open road lead you where it will. History is another draw card and in beguiling Viejo (Old) San Juan, you'll find one of the oldest and best preserved colonial cities in the Americas. Neighbourly pensioners recline languidly in creaking rocking chairs, bomba drums light up the somnolence of a diminutive baroque plaza, and the walls of two great military forts rise like wizened sentinels above the depths of the untamed Atlantic. On the south coast, Ponce, with its museums and Spanish colonial buildings, combines an easygoing atmosphere for families with a nightlife of pulsating reggae and salsa.

Looking for the best of the best? Ask anyone individual and you will get as many different answers as people you ask. Each person sees a different picture of Puerto Rico. Sights, sounds and experiences will forever be embedded in the memories of those who come to visit.

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