Friday, October 23, 2009

Puerto Rico's Southwest

The town hall in Lajas, which houses the mayor's office.

My work on a book about United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, whose mother comes from Lajas, brought me to this small town in the southwest corner of the island. The nineteenth-century town hall faces the plaza, which is dominated by a bright yellow church from the same era.

I was sad to leave. It had been my good fortune to drive along back roads where locals ride elegant Paso Fino horses and canopies of fruit trees block out the sun. It had been an even greater gift to visit a remote neighborhood in which people live in simple houses pounded into a rocky hillside, surrounded by papaya, mango, anona, banana, lemon, orange and carambola trees. They told me they live off the fruit, which I could almost reach out and pluck from their open-air rooms. Since coming home, I find myself revisiting them throughout the day, imagining them embraced in all that green and birdsong, holding avocados and sensing if they need to ripen for one more day, or two.

Isla de Ratones, a swimming spot reached by boat from Cabo Rojo .

The lighthouse at Punta Jaguey, overlooking 200-foot limestone cliffs. I had the luxury of being alone in this place for a good chunk of time late one afternoon and later wrote in my journal: "Is it possible to fall in love with a place? As if it were a person?" My emotional response was compounded by the fact that one month earlier I had dreamed about standing there, looking out at the sea from those cliffs, before I knew the place existed. Can a place call out to you in your sleep?

Sunset from Punta Jaguey.

Variations on the Sea

Francisco Matos Paoli
(transl. Frances R. Aparicio)

something false which triumphs.

something true
that weeps.

The Sea: a diamond
between the two.