Saturday, 6 June 2015

On my trip around Puerto Rico, reflections

If truth be told, I should have written this months ago, but life got in the way.

I am not sure that I acheived my goal of understanding what makes Puerto Rico tick, but I know I have a better idea than I did. Admittedly, that is not hard as I had very little knowledge of Puerto Rico when I left Montreal!

I was somewhat surprised and slighty worried by the relative lack of printed material (books and magazines) for sale. Admittedly, I wasn't looking that thoroughly, but I saw little other than a few newspapers and celebrity gossip magazines for sale in the various shops I went into. As a librarian, I have an eye for these sorts of things. I had been hoping to buy a map book of Puerto Rico and never found one. I navigated instead using a freebie map I chanced to acquire in the Tourist Information Office in Old Puerto Rico and my iPhone.  I had assumed that good road maps would be available for sale in gas stations as they are in Canada.  Therefore, I looked into a number of establishments such as gas stations and pharmacies in the hope of finding a better map. As maps are printed material, I looked for the magazine sections of such stores and thus was somewhat surprised to see the paucity of the selection. Maybe I wasn't looking in the right places, but the lack of reading material surprised me. I couldn't help wonder if there was some sort of unfortunate dynamic making reading material scarce.  My thinking is that as part of the United States (more or less) Puerto Rico is subject to trade barriers which hinders it from receiving Spanish language material from the rest of Latin America whilst the American publishing/distribution industry doesn`t cater to the Spanish speaking market for various reasons. I couldn't help worrying about the level of true literacy in Puerto Rico and the level literary culture on the island.  Conversely, there is a very active culture in radio, television and other such medias.

From a biking perspective, I would say that the dangers as described by several sources (including Puerto Rican cyclists) are overstated: I found the roads to be fairly good and I didn't have an issue with drivers.  (However, I do live in Montreal, Quebec, where poor quality road surfaces and crazy drivers are the norm.)  You do have to be careful, especially in San Juan, but otherwise, I wasn't particulary worried.  Where Puerto Rican roads did concern me was in the mountains where they tended to be steep and poorly laid out going up and down more than seemed necessary.  )If I were to go back to venture into the mountains, I would get disc brakes and a lower Granny gear installed on Leonardo.)  In addition, signage in Puerto Rico left something to be desired as I lost my way a few times.