A Trip to the Motherland

“Puerto Ricans, it doesn’t matter where they live, it doesn’t matter how long it’s been since they visited the island, their hearts are there.”

Anibal Acevedo Vila

Life moves unexpectedly fast at all times. One moment you’re enjoying a beer fest in Suwanee, GA with your mom, the next you’re taking her to your family ancestral lands to handle her dad’s affairs after the devastating news of his passing. If 2022 has taught me anything it is to always have a bag packed because you have no idea where you’ll need to be next week.

My trip to Puerto Rico started on a Saturday morning at 4:30 am to make the five and a half hour drive down to my mom’s. After relaxing for a couple of hours, it was back in the car to head to Orlando. Why? Because the only nonstop flights to San Juan we could find were out of MCO. Lovely. Sunday morning started at 3 am to catch our 6:30 am flight. I had maybe 6 hours of sleep between Friday and Sunday and yet I was wired. I was ready. There was something telling me to stay up, to stay alert.

I watched as Puerto Rico came into view with the sunrise and felt an immediate sense of home. This was my first time there but even though my feet hadn’t been on the ground yet, I knew it was far from the last. Examining every detail of the mountains and San Juan from above was all I could do as we got close to the airport. It was stunning. It was home.

Some background, my family is very very Puerto Rican. My grandfather came to the States as a seven or eight year old, but as far as I know that was the first time any of our family had been stateside. My mother did a 23andMe back in February and the strongest hits were Puerto Rican (indigenous), Spaniard, and Portuguese. The last one was a bit of a surprise. I don’t think any of us had Portuguese on our DNA bingo cards.

Knowing that we had indigenous ties to the island only strengthened the feeling of home to this little island. We landed around 9:20, hopped in our rental (GET A JEEP OR AWD/4WD), and headed off to explore. I was in absolute awe as we headed through the mountains and countryside to a region in Cayey called Guavate.

Guavate is also known as Ruta del Lechon or “Pork Highway.” It’s a stretch of highway that offers stand after stand of fresh food, art, music, and local merchants. My mom had told me about it after her first trip to PR and I could not WAIT to experience it. We got there early as the stands were opening, grabbed our food, and found a place to sit. Y’all this food was incredible and despite it being like 11 am, we had coconut mojitos that were to DIE for.

We quite literally pigged out before hopping back in the Jeep to head to our AirBnB in Humacao which was about an hour away. On our way there, we got a phone call from the funeral home stating they, without our permission, scheduled the cremation for that afternoon and that we needed to go say our last goodbyes right then and there. I was livid. We had been traveling for hours, hadn’t had a chance to freshen up, and now were being told “come see him for five minutes so we can ship him off.” It was so incredibly unprofessional.

Fast forward to that evening, after being awake since 3 am we finally settled at our AirBnB. We managed to get a little apartment directly across the street from the beach and it was adorable. Side note, if you stay outside San Juan or a hotel be prepared to not have hot water. It’s not necessary and, honestly, the cold showers were welcomed every day.

After a short nap, we hopped back in the car and found a quiet little cove to watch the sunset. Yes, we are nonstop but the view was worth it.

Day one over, we finally got some much needed sleep to prep for the week ahead. Keep an eye out for a break down of my time in Puerto Rico, I’m not sure if it will be a multi-part like some of my others have been, but there will be at least one more post! As usual, travel safe and travel often!

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