Where wild horses run free

I chose to revisit Puerto Rico recently after having lived there in the early 80’s. Back then I worked for the old C.E.T.A. program – where I had suggested an internship program for high school seniors interested in working at the then over 90 radio stations that  dot the commonwealth.In my three months there I traveled all the major cities and met with educators and media types selling training and internships in exchange for tax exemptions- to stop high school drop out rates. I was 24 years old and the boss and I enjoyed living and working there so much I told my husband that I wanted to go back and check out my old life there. Unfortunately I was sorely disappointed at how the economy is stagnate and the people barely make ends meet. That is of course not to say that there isn’t a wealthy class because there is and they spend money just like wealthy people do. But the contrasts this time to me were unsettling. After 3 days in San Juan -we headed to the new W Hotel on Vieques Island where Spanish settlers brought many horses when they colonized- re-christened the Spanish Virgin Islands -when the U.S Navy returned them after a long occupation of using them as their backyard training ground. So to commemorate all things equine on this derby day I salute the wild horses of Vieques who like the people of PR. show a resolute determination to survive despite years of economic adversity and crushing unemployment.  Vieques is ironically a nature preserve but unlike the one I live on has designated zones for fun and repose. The island is beautiful but suffers from its being so far from the P.R. mainland that everything must be ferried in including gasoline- most cars are jeeps or vans and are used to transport tourists from hotel to town. San Juan in contrast suffers from years of neglect and an ever changing political climate that has the Island in bankruptcy and has caused what was once a thriving community into a deteriorating shadow of its former self. Old San Juan reminds one of Cuba- buildings decaying from lack of funds, unemployment and tourism that is sporadic at best. El Condado the equivalent of Miami Beach’s Collins and Brickell Ave. are similarly downbeat. I was shocked to see homes on the ocean completely boarded up (direct Ocean front) I wanted to pounce on them.. but why aren’t Americans getting into the game there? so much potential wasted….just give me some capital and that ocean front house would become an elite VIP retreat for those who want to rent a villa off the radar. The new Sheraton Convention Center Hotel a stones throw from the glass and steel pavilion across the plaza is a ghost town at night. A parking garage lies UN-constructed as the conventions are not convening a mere 2 and hours away from Miami. Its a shame…..but back to the horses….Wild horses couldn’t drag me away from feeling San Juan and the islands plight as they were part of my professional and personal history- they need our attention. Wild horses should like economies run free and unfettered to grow and prosper even in the wild Spanish Virgin Island called Vieques. Here’s a cheers with a mojito- their mint julip to our neighbors in Caribbean who wave our flag but aren’t riding with the caballeros in the race called prosperity today.

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