Friday, November 9, 2007

Estas llegando a un paraiso

"You are approaching a paradise " proclaimed - in Spanish - a huge road sign in Aguadilla near the famous Crashboat Beach. But at the moment I saw it, the "paradise" I was driving through was pitch black, so that only a lightning allowed me to see that bragging - or warning (?) - sign.

It was 4 pm on Saturday afternoon, October 20, and less that two hours before that I picked up my rental car at San Juan's airport for a ride to the west coast of Puerto Rico with my huge suitcase, large duffel bag, a carry on and a small backpack ( in lieu of a purse).

Initially the ride was pleasant - most of it on highway 22 surrounded by green, green, green and more green. Perhaps as many as 22 000 shades and variations of green, occasionally interspersed with the Caribbean blue of the sea, but hardly any other color, which surprised me: I expected more color riot, more flowers.

Traffic, contrary to a prevalent opinion on Puerto Rico's traffic - flowed smoothly and rather gently. But it was a Saturday, not a weekday rush hour, which might be quite different. Still, I noticed that more than a few drivers exhibited a clear tendency towards tailgating, though that was no need for it whatsoever. This tendency might explain why - in a sunny weather in unhurried traffic - I have passed by no less than FIVE traffic accidents while driving less than 100 kilometers! A record for me, but for Puerto Rico? I do not know.

And then the highway ended and the sky darkened. Mercifully, because the road side dwellings looked definitively a lot more shabby than paradisaical.

Houses peeling, unkempt, whether shacks or solid middle class (save for their lack of tender loving care) villas, every now and than a tropical Mac Mansion, either at a seafront lot or on a hilltop with a panoramic vistas. But the ubiquitous blue garbage cans were present in front of almost every house, whether a shack, or a Mac Mansion, in plain view, with no attempt to hide them, to cover their ugliness, which in a tropical climate would not require either much money or much effort : a small, three sided espalier would suffice and the tropical vegetation would do a beautiful hiding job in no time at all.

What is it with inhabitants of this island, that makes them so uncaring about their surrounding so untidy? While do they so readily accept shabbiness - and shoddiness? And is it only this island or is it a larger Caribbean trait?

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