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1000 Pieces of Puerto Rico

Taking advantage of the “stay at home” order, I began to shuffle bins in an effort to “clean-up”. I pulled out our toy box filled with games and dusty puzzles and found a 1000 piece puzzle of Puerto Rico.  A map of the island with facts, history, people and places, occupied our time (mostly mine) for the next 4 days.

No need to feel guilty, after all I was learning more information about the country which has been my home for the past 36 years. So….forget about cleaning or combing my hair, I was hooked. The only thing that got me up was my aching back. How did I do it every Christmas when my parents set up a puzzle on a card table and left it for everyone to do? Anyway…we moved this one from outside to inside around 1pm when even a slight breeze could tip the beer boxes holding our pieces. Oh lord…don’t let us lose any pieces!

I’m pretty familiar with the map of Puerto Rico, an island 100 miles long by 33 wide, but I learned that there are LOTS of “puntas” all around the island: Punta Brea, Punta Ola Grande, Punta Las Tunas…and more. These are the coastal “points” known to surfers and boaters. I used to call all the beaches along Arecibo’s north coast “Islote”, the neighborhood in the area, but each cove and point has its own name…now I know a few more.

There are six other islands mentioned on the map:

  1. Culebra Island:  designated a national wildlife refuge and a prime nesting place for the endangered leatherback sea turtle as well as a prime vacation location.
  2. Vieques Island: a beach tourist spot as well as the former site of the US Naval Training Range.
  3. Caja de Muertos, a small island off of Ponce which is in the shape of a body

MonaDesecheo and Monito known as “The Galápagos Islands of the Caribbean“.

  1. Desecheo Island,
  2. Monito Island
  3. Mona Island  

Besides the map, the puzzle celebrated artists like Tito Puente, king of Puertorican salsa, Pablo Casals,(Spaniard who moved to PR) cello player, conductor, composer and the painter Francisco Oller. Actors Raul Julia and Rita Morena and singers Jose Feliciano and Ricky Martin are  local legends on the island. Baseball, Puerto Rico’s national sport, has renowned players like Roberto Clemente, killed in an airplane accident taking relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, Orlando Cepeda, or Carlos Beltran. Basketball star Carlos Arroyo was part of the Olympic team which beat the Dream Team at the Athens Games. Jockey Angel Cordero won the Kentucky Derby, Tito Trinidad won numerous boxing titles and ChiChi Rodriguez made his name in professional golf. 

I  formed a historical timeline from all the characters shown in the puzzle.

Puerto Rico timeline:

  • Christopher Columbus landed on Borinquen on Novemeber 19, 1493 calling the island San Juan Bautista .
  • King Ferdinand VII of Spain granted PR its crest (seal) in 1511.
  • Juan Ponce de León came to San Juan Bautista in 1508. He served as the first Spanish governor of Puerto Rico.
  • General Nelson A. Miles led the US fleet on July 25,1898 as it invaded Guanica and later Ponce. The US later won the war and under the Treaty of Paris, Spain surrendered its possessions of PR, Guam and the Philippines to the United States.
  • Luis Munoz Rivera (1859-1916) fought for the rights of Puerto Ricans when PR came under US rule. He served as the secretary of State and Chief of the Cabinet of the new independent Puerto Rican government.
  • Luis Munoz Marin (1898-1980), son of Luis Munoz Rivera, governor from 1949-1965, helped draft the island’s constitution and worked to make Puerto Rico a Commonwealth. Puerto Rico became a US Commonwealth on July 25,1952.
  • In 1917 Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones Act which allowed PR to elect its own senate and cabinet members. (It also has shipping regulations which apply today and many feel are antiquated and hurt PR’s economy.

The timeline made me curious as to what was happening when Tony’s family came to PR. His DNA story verifies the claim that Puertoricans are indeed a mixture from everywhere.

Ancestry traces his family’s arrival to south west Puerto Rico between 1750 and 1800. This makes sense according to the school text, Historia de Puerto Rico, which shows both the general population and the slave population increased substantially in the seventeen and eighteen hundreds. 

Historia de Puerto Rico, Formacion y desarrollo, 2004

Population Growth
Slave population

And so my puzzle is done and ready to frame. We’re onto a new one of irregular fishy pieces. It may not keep me thinking, but it will keep us busy. Things are not good in Puerto Rico at this time. We started out so well, but visitors came and now things are looking kind of grim. We were punished for the Zika virus which was “home grown”, but Covid is coming to us from outside. So this is not the time to come and vacation. Stay home and hopefully some day you can visit Puerto Rico, a truly “Enchanted Island”.

Image by Reynaldo Torres from Pixabay
Image by Amy Irizarry from Pixabay

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