“You have heard the coqui? It is the Puerto Rico frog. If you take it from Puerto Rico, it dies. I am like this frog. If you take me away, I die.” (Tour Guide at the Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center)
Lunch at a lechonera: roast pork, blood sausage, cassava, rice and beans, amarillos. A mountain road is not conducive to digestion.
What is around Guanica: Feral dogs, friendly and with pups, cactus growing tall red fruits like fezzes, conch dressed with mayonnaise and stuffed in mofongo, mahogany plantations left to wild, public beaches, sailboats, mosquitos, Finlandia vodka, mofongo, mosquitos, Medalla Light, mofongo, mofongo, an empty eggshell of horizon bordered by the sea.
What is mofongo? Mofongo is green plantain fried and mashed and flavored with garlic.
In Ponce there is a protest. The US government is holding a political prisoner. I am eating an almond ice and listening to the protest song about evil American empire. We drink espresso in a café and the waiter, who is the cook too, is extravagantly angry because we complain that snapper ought not to take two hours. Outside Ponce there is an archaeological site of great significance for the study of pre-Taino culture.
On the docks of Old San Juan the cruise ships evacuate their human cargo. The tourists are confined to shops and restaurants inside the ancient city wall, outside of which is La Perla, formerly the quarter for ex-slaves, slaughterhouses, and other undesirables, now a slum unmarked on maps to discourage tourists from exploring. One of the three entrances into La Perla is through a cemetery overflowing with angels and sarcophagi. A tunnel leads down from the wall into the cemetery, into the underworld.
For breakfast a tourist would do well to dunk mallorcas in coffee or eat the pastry halved, filled with ham and cheese, then griddled. A good lunch might mean fried pork chops, plantains, and orange juice at a diner, or fried chicken, rice and beans. I worry my intestines might explode. I would pop like a balloon and waft over the wall, over La Perla, the fort and leper colony and descend into the Caribbean never seen again on American soil.
Soviet museums must have inspired the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico. The collection is devoted to the state.
In the plaza there is a protest. The Americans are holding a political prisoner. No music. I move along to a café, drink espresso. Dinner is mofongo.