5 Things you might not know about Puerto Rico
My familia and I recently spent five amazing days in Puerto Rico. This time, we stayed with friends who grew up on the Island which was a totally different experience! Here are 5 things that we learned and experienced about Puerto Rico that I didn't know!
1. Boricuas are "encantadores". Boricua is the name preferred by many puertorriqueños. I believe it's a question of orgullo (ethnic pride). The term comes from Borikén, which was the name given to the island by the Taíno natives. Boricuas are among the warmest, liveliest and most traditional "Latinos" I have ever met! Their lively and welcoming spirit truly aligns with how the Island is popularly known "la Isla del encanto" (the island of enchantment).
2. Piña Coladas were born here. Piña (pineapple) Colada (strained) is my favorite drink in the world! I had no idea that three Puerto Rican bartenders claim they were the first ones to come up with the mix. We went to Barrachina Restaurant in Old San Juan, which claims to be the "birthplace of the famous Piña Colada." They say that Don Ramon, a famous bartender from Spain, created the drink while working at this restaurant in 1963.
3. Their comida criolla (local cuisine) blends the best of our Latin heritage. Puerto Rican cooking appears to be a mixture of Caribbean, Spanish and Taíno flavors. My favorite gastronomic experience was our meal at one of the many cafeteria-style eateries in the area of Guavate, Cayey. I had the best lechón asado (pig roasted on a spit) ever! I also loved the yellow rice with pigeon peas; the tostones and mofongo side dishes. If you want to try making some of the dishes at home, get one of Carmen Aboy Valldejuli's cookbooks, which according to New York Times food critic Craig Claiborne are "the definitive books on island cooking."
4. I took the memorable Island sounds with me. I became obsessed with the sounds of the Coquí, the official mascot of Puerto Rico. I heard the high-pitched "ko-kee" sound of this tiny tree frog that is endemic to the Island as we hiked the trails of the El Yunque National Forest and zip lined in Toro Verde. At night, the symphony of thousands of coquís singing is something you need to experience. I love the sounds so much that I downloaded the Coquí app to wake me up every morning!
5. The last thing I did not know about Puerto Rico is just how affordable it is once you are there! And you don't need a passport because it's U.S. territory. It's paradise just 4 hours away from NYC!
Image via Lucia Ballas-Traynor