A few weeks ago, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. were in Puerto Rico. Coulson stood in a corner I’ve stood in a hundred times, looking into a sight my heart aches to see again.
When I get nostalgic for Puerto Rico, I rarely think of my hometown of over a decade. It’s Old San Juan that comes to mind first. Bayamón does hold a place in my memories, it isn’t all sad, but I found it easy to leave because it didn’t have my heart.
This is the first version I learned, sung by Javier Solis and Trio Los Panchos.
A friend recorded En Mi Viejo San Juan, a classic standard from Noel Estrada, that has over the years become a sort of second anthem—especially for the expats. It has been covered by dozens of Latin American artists. The song starts with the narrator declaring love for the city since childhood, leaving physically during his youth but also leaving his heart behind, facing the sea; then there’s the constant pull to return and experience its majestic beauty; until, finally, the narrator’s hair grays and old age comes, death is near, and his biggest regret is dying separated from his greatest love.
And if you’ve stepped foot in that place, and been enchanted by it since childhood, then yes, the guitars playing its melody bring tears to your eyes as well as dozens of sights, and the smell of the sea, and café con leche, and the sound of men playing dominoes…
Part of the allure, besides the cobblestone streets, the tiny corridors, the sloping balconies, and the Colonial architecture--all in lovely pastels--is that everything pretty much remains where you remember it since the first time you visit it.
Its history is exciting and the thing of romance, (with pirates and everything!) but its history changes as you become a part of it (or rather as it starts to steal your heart bit by bit).
I dreamed I was sitting in one of the tiny plazas. Someone off to the side, whom I could not see, was trying to get my attention, to get me to go with them and do something. I didn’t want to and waved them off. I was happy to sit under the giant oak and watch its red leaves dance in the gentle breeze coming from the sea a few feet away.
I was happy to sit back and listen to the sing-song of the voices, the different accents from every corner of the tiny island and parts of the Bronx (as my grandmother used to say).
Check out the extraordinary work of Luis German Cajiga here: http://www.estudiocajiga.com/
The piraguero and I started a conversation and he offered me a piragua (shaved ice with sugary nectar for flavoring). He rattled the list of flavors he had and finished with the one he knew would sell it: maví!
Look for Luis Guzman's awesome cameo!
No, I am not dying. It’s just that I needed a break from the chaos, hatred, and violence; and in the absence of enough funds for a proper visit, I will escape to my happy place in dreams.