Afro-Latin Experience in Puerto Rico (Lisa Young blog post)



Lisa Young

Friday, October 7, 2011

So we boarded the super cold bus at 3 am to go to Indianapolis Airport, but 11 hours later we emerged from the airport in Puerto Rico to be struck by the humidity of the colony. Our first stop was at El Murro. There we toured the historic fort which Puerto Ricans used to protect their city of Old San Juan from invasion and enemies. Our next stop was to check in to our hotel by the Pier, which was the Sheraton Old San Juan. Later in the evening, we had dinner at Latin Roots, a restaurant where we first learned some Salsa movements before engaging in a very appetizing Puerto Rican buffet which included plantains and the traditional Puerto Rican dessert, flan. While some of us ended the night with Latin Roots, others of us explored the city. We found that nearby there was a spot called Nuyorican Café. The Nuyorican Café also has a location in New York and it is primarily a lounge for various artists. We discovered the Nuyorican Café here, we decided to check it out to see if they were still doing spoken word. We were told that they no longer did spoken word, but that if we wanted, we could do it. Some members from Haraka got up and did a few pieces. Overall, the first day was a very informative one where we became exposed to Puerto Rican culture.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Day Two! So we have been in Puerto Rico two days now and the experience has been amazing as well as exhilarating! We started our morning with a Master Bomba class with the Cepeda family. Each of the girls within our group had skirts so we were very much involved. We learned the Bomba steps and counts for 2 hours, then we got the chance to dance Bomba to the drums with our own interpretation of the dance. Though it was a lot of work, it was more exhilarating than it was tiring. Next, we walked to the National Gallery Museum where we saw art pieces from Puerto Ricans such as Jose Campeché, Francisco Oller, and Ramón Frade. These artists tried to integrate a certain consciousness in their work in order to depict “average” Puerto Ricans and those Puerto Ricans which were either enslaved or forced to work because they had darker skin.

Our next stop was lunch at a place called Aureola where we had the traditional Puerto Rican cuisine of rice & beans. The vibe in the restaurant was very relaxed and had a Puerto Rican flair.

Our next stop was a creative writing workshop with writer Yolanda Arroyo Pizzaro. Yolanda designed workshops where we had the opportunity to write about our ancestors and to understand why we should have price in our history and where we came from. When she shared the story about her being teased and ultimately stabbed with pencils because of her race I realized how similar her experience is to a dark-skinned person or a person who is considered “black” in America.

Later in the evening, we got to meet former Purdue alumni who are now living in Puerto Rico and then see the Cepeda family perform a Bomba ceremony for us. At the end of the performance, they allowed us to take part and we ended up dancing for over an hour.

We had had a thrilling experience so far.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Today we went to Loiza, a 40-minute trip from Old San Juan where we took an aerobic Bomba class taught by Tico, who was very friendly & hyped! We learned hot to do a more African-influenced Bomba, which seemed to be much freer and inspired by how you feel than compared to the Bomba we larned with the Cepeda family. We also visited the Loiza Cultural Center and although the building was small, you could tell the devotion by the community to retain some part of their history. What was very inspiring for me was the fact that they took us to a beach and cooked us a traditional Puerto Rican dish on the beach. They really went out of their way to welcome us into their culture and community, and I’m sure if there wasn’t a language barrier we would have been able to have a much more interactive experience. The gesture of the cooking for us was still very thoughtful and kind.


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