Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Give Me That Quiet Religion

It's a Tuesday evening around 7:15, and I was just settling down to watch a little TV, when the sweet background noise of the coquís was shattered by a religious gathering next door. The majority of islanders are Catholics, and Catholics here are loud. They bring their own powerful amplifiers wherever they go. They have guitars, cuatros, and maracas. They sing, they yell, and they pray, often at the same time. They get very excited. Many in my neighborhood take turns hosting these meetings, but this is the first time it's been right next door.

I have nothing against any (or no) religion, but these people have ruined another evening for me and my family. We can't watch TV, we can't use the telephone, we can't even have a normal conversation. There's no way to shut out the noise.

Can we talk priorities? I'm trying to watch American Chopper, and they're trying to impress god. Don't get me wrong: these are good people, the celebration is not entirely unpleasant, and I have Tivo.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Puerto Rico Status

Puerto Ricans reflect on status as more die in war: 75% of Puerto Rican residents do not support the war, compared to 62% in the US. Puerto Ricans have been fighting and dying for the US since World War II.

Puerto Ricans became US citizens in 1917, and Puerto Rico's constitution came into effect in 1952; Constitution Day, July 25, is a Puerto Rican holiday.

"In the case of Puerto Rico, it must be noted that the name "commonwealth" for our present political status has no juridical value or international recognition. It came into acceptance after Puerto Rico's Constitutional Convention on February 4, 1952. Resolution No. 22 was approved establishing that "commonwealth" was the most convenient translation for "Estado Libre Asociado" because "Free Associated State" had juridical implication that was unacceptable to the U.S. Congress.". Guillermo Moscoso, The San Juan Star

So, the Puerto Rican constitution is valid only insofar as the US Congress says it is.

Puerto Rican residents cannot vote in presidential elections, have one non-voting representative in the House, and none in the Senate. Still, Puerto Rican residents consistently favor continued commonwealth status over statehood, and only a small minority favors independence. Puerto Ricans living in the US have full voting rights there.

Islanders don't pay federal income tax on money earned here, but we do pay local taxes, and contribute to Medicare and Social Security.

I doubt that Puerto Rico's status will change in my lifetime, and that's fine by me.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Driver's License

Carol and I actually got our licenses several months ago, but it was so horrible, I can only now talk about it. We got to the DVM in Caguas at 8:30, and reported to a class about the license test. What I didn't know was that the class was only available in Spanish (the test itself is available in English and Spanish). I don't speak Spanish, so the entire class was wasted on me. Carol speaks flawless Spanish, but she could hardly understand a word the woman said, so I doubt that Spanish would have helped me.

There were no manuals for the test in English or Spanish because "they haven't come in."

So we took the test cold. It was brutal, with questions like "What is the fine for drag racing on a public road?". There were a half a dozen questions about specific fines alone, and we both pretty much guessed. I got a 70 on the test (the minimum required to pass), and Carol got a 95.

The worst part was getting our names right, which took us two hours. They insisted on Carol using the name on her birth certificate (Puerto Rican women on the island do not adopt their husband's last name). We had to go to a lawyer, conveniently located in the building, to certify that she was know by at least three names. Similarly, they insisted that I use my mother's maiden name, which I could not even spell. The helpful woman running the show suggested that perhaps I didn't have a mother, and that I dropped from a plantain tree. She was visibly offended that I didn't want to use my mother's maiden name. We finally convinced her that we needed to use the names that appeared on all of our other documents, such as credit cards, deed to the house, etc. We also had to produce Puerto Rico voter registration cards, US passports, Mass driver's licenses, birth certificates, and our marriage certificate, which we had to return home for.

We finally got our licenses at 5 PM, and there was much joy.

Blue Laws

Blue laws? We don't need no stinking blue laws. Alcohol can be purchased in any store, at any time. Rum is the favorite hard liquor, and a quart of Palo Viejo (old tree) can be had for $6 and change. Rum is consumed  straight up; I haven't seen a mixed drink since I've been here. You can also get rum in all the tienditas (small community stores).

The most popular beer is Medalla (meh-die-ya), which is made in Puerto Rico. Medalla comes in 10 ounce cans. Until recently, beer had to be  sold in 10 ounce cans by law, to prevent imports of the more popular 12  ounce cans from the mainland.

About Don Luis

Ok, my name is Louis, but everyone here calls me Luis. They also call me Jibaro Gringo. "Jibaro" can be loosely translated in Puerto Rican as "hillbilly", and "gringo", of course, means "white guy". I was given this nickname (along with many others) shortly after my arrival here.

Living in Puerto Rico

This is a blog about my experiences as an Italian-American living in Puerto Rico.

I moved here three years ago with Carol, my Puerto Rican wife of nearly 30 years, to help take care of her family.

I lived near Boston for nearly 20 years before coming here. After 17 years the high-tech company for which I worked had no further use for me, or I them. Had I known what living here would be like, I would have done it several years earlier.

I was inspired to start this blog by another blog I just discovered: Blog Rican. The author is a Puero Rican currently living in Portland, Oregon. She writes beautifully and her blog is fascinating.