Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Greetings from Puerto Rico!!!!

During Christmas season, Puerto Rico is the best place to be. Nobody is untouched by the festive mood. Houses are decorated beautifully, people are buying gifts, parties everywhere, choirs singing, plays being performed,  processions taking place, carols being sung everywhere including the several radio and tv channels called 'Parandas'. Christmas spirit is in the gifts, in the reunions, dressing up, in the smiles.
Christmas here stays for more than a month. It starts from 'Thanksgiving' (which is the last thursday of November) until the 'Three Kings Day',  6th of January (which really begins the previous night, remembered as the night when the three kings of the east brought gifts to baby Jesus). Yes, this is longer than many other countries in the world. The schools don't open until the 12th of January. What fun, isn't it?
Here, the best part of Christmas celebrations is food. There are loads of special dishes that are done in this season like, Lechon (Rosted Pork), Pasteles (dough made of plantains filled with tasty ingredients, which either boiled wrapped in banana leafs or fried), morcilla (a kind of sausage) arroz con gandules (rice done with lentils) , arroz y habichuela (rice and beans) and many other wonderful combinations.
Another important part of Christmas meals (only for the alcoholics) is Coquito.  The main ingredients of Coquito are coconut milk, cinnamon, sweetened condensed milk and rum, some people also add eggs to this wonderfully delicious drink. Now, don't forget alcohol and sugar is not very good for health so drink it in limits :-)
All in all, I think the best Christmas celebrations in the world are here in Puerto Rico. So, when you get a  chance, enjoy Christmas in the Boriqua way!!!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Waiting Lines: A Blessing in Disguise

It is interesting to observe people in Puerto Rico while waiting in a line. Lines in Puerto Rico are common. While the main purpose of sitting in a line is to receive a service it serves some other purposes as well. For example, people in a doctor’s clinic can be seen discussing politics or the neighborhood gossip. The best part is that they don’t have to be old friends to start a discussion in the waiting line. Lines are really the best socializing “space” that I have found in this Island.
These waiting rooms are usually air-conditioned, furnished with comfortable chairs and decorated according to the time of the year. On ocassion there are TV sets with the most popular “novela. ”Some of them even have vending machines where one can get a chilled beverage, chips or a hot cup of coffee.
In the beginning, none of these luxuries (in the eyes of this common Indian these facilities were more like luxuries) help to reduce the frustration of waiting for hours to get a little task done. Mainly because I wasn’t used to air-conditioning back at home and felt a bit chilly, I also wasn’t interested in the calories that the soda drink brought with them and lastly I preferred ‘masala’ tea to coffee.
Eventually, the frustration turned into a search for doable activities that I could enjoy during the waiting time. Lack of my favorite TV shows and availability of Internet made this quest a bit more challenging. I had to think of activities that would not disturb others in the room like playing video game on my cell phone, off course on a silent mode, day dreaming, reading or writing. Tried the video game first but got bored of playing the same game all the time. Daydreaming is good but in my case, too much of daydreaming without action doesn’t work. Reading helped but intake of all this new western focused information needed a way out.
Finally, in total despair, and after trying all the options, I took refuge in writing. I started to carry my computer wherever I went. I wrote what I felt, what I learned, what I observed. Now, I looked forward to going to the government offices, doctor’s office or even sit in the plaza of my adopted hometown. I would look for a place to sit and concentrate on giving words to my experiences.
The tranquility of Cayey provided the enabling environment to transfer little ideas to articles, poems and even a book. By the way, I realized that taking the laptop around is not the best idea after it died as result of its journeys to the hospitals, license office, electricity office, water office and other such places. Now a days, I carry my diary around which is lighter to carry and a little bit more durable for the falls and jerks on the way.
Currently, I am a published author of an acclaimed autobiography and I write three active blogs in two languages, i.e. English and Hindi (my mother tongue). Instead of focusing on the long and boring hours in the waiting lines, the serenity and warmth of this country now inspires me to write about peace and humanitarian poetry.
Having worked with the survivors of disasters and armed conflicts in, I feel that the beautiful green mountains that surround the valley of Cayey seem like the guardians sent from above to preserve peace and security in our lives. The hope that the rainbows that decorate the Puerto Rican sky give me, I share it with people throughout the world through my poetry.
And now the rest of the story:  if it wasn’t for the waiting lines in Puerto Rico, I probably would’ve never discovered a writer and a poet within me. My Boricua husband says, “si te dan limones, has limonada.” As things go I may soon be opening a “limonada” store called—“Limonada Tranquilidad Boricua” and sell it internationally! :-)

Monday, November 1, 2010

When an Indian attempts to turn Boricua…Published in Daily Sun, Puerto Rico 2009

When I first came here with my Puerto Rican friend, now my husband, I was amazed at the beauty of Puerto Rico even before our plane landed. The aerial view of the island was astonishingly beautiful. While I admired the serene beauty of the island, I also wondered what would it mean to live in a small island. Having been raised in India, a country where over a billion people live, I was ignorant to the island lifestyle. Soon to my surprise, I was told that this is the bigger island compare to our other islands ‘Vieques, Culebra, Mono Island and Dececheo’. 
In addition to the differences in physical characteristics and size of the population, what struck me the most was the status of women. They looked way more in control of their lives than what I saw my mother or myself growing up. The dressing style was very different, although the Puerto Rican women looked equally sensual and gorgeous. 
Another culture shock for me was to see a pig being roasted, tied to a rod, in Guavate. At first glance, it didn’t look good at all, but once I tasted it, I was no more concerned about the amount of fat I was going to put on. I fell in love with the local cuisine but couldn’t forget the taste of food I grew up on. So, I embarked on the fusion food. For example I use ‘sofrito’ to prepare ‘ paneer’ (cottage cheese) and make ‘pollo pinchos’ with Indian ‘masalas’ (spicies). 
It was not very difficult to adjust to the new culture while I enjoyed the stunning beaches, exploring the potential natural wonder of the world, ‘El Yunque’, and driving on the curvy roads in the central mountain region. Here life goes on with the enchanting beats of the native music. The luxury of living Puerto Rico is to sleep to the natural lullabies of coquis’ every night.
The best part of this lovely country is the people, the ‘Boricuas’. My first encounter with a Puerto Rican family is unforgettable. Warm hugs, which were combined with unexpected kisses was a nice way to make me feel welcomed. That was just the beginning of my long-lasting association with Puerto Rico. After making three visits as a tourist, I agreed with my husband to move to Puerto Rico with our son. 
Surprisingly, there are also similarities between the two cultures. Like India, there are strong family bonds. For me personally, another thing that was similar was the divine environment in the church and the affection and care we received from our church members. In terms of food, basic Puerto Rican food, ‘Arroz y Habichuelas’ is also a common plate in India called, ‘Rajma Chawal’. Lastly and more importantly, just like an Indian is proud to be an Indian, a Puerto Rican is proud to be a Boricua. My deepest thanks to my husband and all my Puerto Rican friends for letting my son and I be a part of your society.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

El Capitolio: Capital Building of Puerto Rico

The Capital Building of Puerto Rico is situated in San Juan by the Ponce de León and Muñoz Rivera Avenues with a beautiful of the Atlantic Ocean. 

This is an arial view of the building:

Photo courtesy of the Puerto Rico Office of Historic Preservation

There are beautiful murals and art work inside the building, a couple of examples are shown in the photos below:

Photo by Anjana Dayal

Photo by Anjana Dayal

Photo by Anjana Dayal

The North-Eastern side of the Building. From the stairs you get a view of the Atlantic ocean and the Fort of San Cristobal.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

TAINOS: Indigenous Puerto Ricans

Some people liked to believe that the indigenous people of Puerto Rico were eliminated by Spaniards hundreds of years ago but they were always there on their own land. They survived, maybe in small numbers, and multiplied with other races as well.

Today, 61% of Puerto Rican population carries Taino blood in their DNA. Tainos and their interracial brethren have chosen to move on with the modernization in the country.

Cuando mis ojos Indios miran los Indios Nativos de Puerto Rico, me pregunto cuanto nuestros ancestros tenia in comun.... (When my Indian eyes see the native Indians of Puerto Rico, I wonder if our ancestors had something in common...)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Your time has come, O Borinquen!

Puerto Rico, thank you for sharing your warmth with me
Thank you for letting me rest in the shadow of your flamboyant tree
while I was walking in the desert, thirsty and weary 
Thank you for what is obvious and for what the eyes cannot see...
Photo by petulino
Puerto Rico, you are beautiful!
Your culture is rich, profound and colorful,
Wherever I look, I see the magnificent art of the almighty,
Your landscapes and beaches are delightful!
Photo by Anjana Dayal de Prewitt
Puerto Rico, you have had hard times,
The path of progress was hindered at times,
But your time has come, O Borinquen,
Photo By Joseph O. Prewitt Diaz
Arise and shine, be victorious over the dark-times!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

El Yunque: Rain Forest in Puerto Rico

Fountain by the Atlantic Ocean where people put coins as in a wishing well

Ancient Chapel inside the Governor's Mansion, this mansion housed in the oldest fort in the new world.

El Morro

                      View of an ancient fort 'El Morro' at the shores of Atlantic Ocean

Borinquen: 'Isla Del Encanto'


Puerto Rico, a country full of natural beauty, good music, great food, lovely people with an amazing capacity of making you fall in love with it. Needless to say, I am in love with this small island not only because it is beautiful but also because it has given me a home away from home.

Puerto Rico is also known as 'Borinquen' and it is the 'Isla Del Encanto', which means enchanted island!


My husband, Joseph O. Prewitt Diaz is an apt ambassador for his country. His stories about his motherland made me like it, years before I ever visited it. So, when the option of moving to Puerto Rico was presented to me, I agreed without much resistance.

Although no place on earth can make an Indian forget the beauty and warmth of India, Puerto Rico has embraced me and my son with divine love. The island has us enchanted.

I dedicate this blog to this little island for its great culture, wonderful landscapes and marvelous heritage.  Thanks, Puerto Rico for letting me be a part of you.