Saturday, March 28, 2009

Observing from... the Island of Manhattan!

I arrived in New York a few days ago and it feels so great to be back! Although I was born in Puerto Rico, I consider myself to be a New Yorker at heart. I spent most of my life in this wonderful city and there's no other place on earth like it. Well, London comes quite close to it. Anyhow, it has been a long time since my last visit and it has been really nice catching up with friends. In some ways, it does feel a bit strange to be back. I began to notice things about the city which I never quite appreciated in the past, when I lived here.

The wide array of cuisines available here is one of the things which I truly miss. Last night, I went to one of my favorite Japanese restaurants, a soba house, in the city. Unfortunately, I don't believe there are any authentic Japanese restaurants in Puerto Rico. Most of the "Japanese" restaurants are owned by Chinese people. Needless to say, they are not authentic and you'll also end up paying an arm and a leg for it. In Puerto Rico, I tend to stick with comida criolla and eat arroz y habichuelas. I've also ended up dining at places like Pizzeria Uno and Maccaroni Grill, places which I rarely went to as a Manhattanite.

Grocery shopping in the city is also something which I miss dearly as well. I was at a Whole Foods last night and a wave of nostalgia swept over me. The bountiful array of organic products and beautiful display of produce was overwhelming. We do not have a Whole Foods in Puerto Rico. However, if we did, I'm convinced more boricuas would eat fruits and vegetables. Believe it or not, meat is cheaper than vegetables on the Island of Enchantment. This, in my opinion, is one of the reasons why obesity is such a huge problem in Puerto Rico. The average price of Gala apples in Puerto Rico is quite close to the price which Whole Foods charges, $1.99 (per lb.). However, the apples at Whole Foods taste better, look better and they're organic!

Back in PR, Costco is my Whole Foods. That's where you can find the freshest produce at the most decent prices, compared to most of the supermarkets you'll find on the island. It's funny how I've become such a huge Costco fan since moving to Puerto Rico. Purchasing in bulk, like anyone in Manhattan can tell you, is not common given the small apartments. The majority of Manhattanites don't have cars either. All said and done, I've adjusted and learned to live with fewer options and choices. There are many aspects of my former New York City life which I miss, but I certainly do not miss the exorbitant prices of Manhattan!

(Please note: Costco is not a paid advertiser of this blog).

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Fiery Red Celebration

It's hard not to notice how political most Puerto Ricans are on the island. What occurred outside the Federal court building this past Friday clearly demonstrates how loyal most boricuas are to their respective political parties. In case you didn't know, last Friday, former Puerto Rican governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá was found not guilty of all nine charges of electoral fraud, conspiracy, amongst others. His former assistant was also acquitted of all charges. What ensued was a huge celebration outside the courthouse. Puerto Rican flags were being waved, candles were lit, people were praying, crying and screaming with joy. It was absolutely unbelievable, I have never seen anything like it. What I saw reminded me of a huge football rally.

I was home watching this on TV and couldn't believe my eyes. Since the former governor is from the Partido Popular Democrático, all his supporters were wearing red, the party's color. All the local television stations were covering this most of the evening. Those who were present to cheer and congratulate the former governor were definitely die-hard fans and supporters. Friday night was without a doubt a huge night for the red party.

(Image obtained from

Saturday, March 14, 2009

It's Tax Season

Puerto Rican taxpayers, like their counterparts on the mainland U.S, must do their taxes no later than April 15th. Unless one has earned income from the mainland U.S, or works for the federal government, most Puerto Ricans do not have to file a 1040 form. That's right, the majority of Puerto Ricans do not have to pay federal income taxes. However, Puerto Ricans did get the federal refund last year. This year will be no exception either.

Doing your taxes online is a possibility here, but most people still do it the old fashioned way. This includes yours truly, when it comes to paying local taxes. For some reason, I just don't trust the online system here. Tax forms can be downloaded at the Departamento de Hacienda's website. They are available in both English and Spanish.

This is my second year filing taxes here on the island, which has actually been quite straight-forward and simple for me. While filling out my tax form, as I did last year, it never occurred to me of the various tax deductions which military families are eligible for. One of the questions specifically asks whether you've made a call to a military personnel in a combat zone. I suppose this does make sense, as many Puerto Ricans join the U.S military forces. This is actually an interesting topic which I'll touch upon in a future blog entry.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Topics of the Week

This past week was filled with interesting news here on the island. It started off with Governor Fortuño's announcement on Tuesday announcing the layoff of more than 30,000 public employees beginning July 1st of this year. This was met with many, but yet peaceful, demonstrations by la Fortaleza (the governor's residence) by unions. Many people are angry and upset, but I believe most do realize the dire economic situation which the island faces. There are no other options. In fact, the island's bond ratings are close to being downgraded to junk status by Moody's. Along with the $5 billion dollars coming from the federal government to help stimulate the local economy, Governor Fortuño has also proposed el plan estímulo criollo, which will inject an estimated $500 million to help numerous sectors of the economy, such as infraestructure projects, small to medium businesses, amongst others.

Now switching gears and moving on to another hot topic here on the island... the trial of former governor Anibal Acevedo Vila, who is accussed of breaking campaign finance laws, seems to be going well in his favor. Halfway into the trial, the judge has warned prosecutors saying they have not shown enough evidence to prove the governor was guilty of any conspiracy.

Moving onto sports, it's nice to finally see something else dominate the front page of the Sunday paper besides boxing. As most baseball fanatics might already know, the World Baseball Classic is currently taking place in several different countries, including Puerto Rico! Yesterday, Panama was defeated by Puerto Rico in a shutout game, 7-0. The biggest upset was the game between the Dominican Republic and the Netherlands, who were the underdogs. The Dutch won by 1-0! As I'm one who tends to root for the underdogs, and someone very close to me is Dutch, I can't help but say "hup Holland hup!"

(Images obtained from, photo by Juan Alicea).

Monday, March 2, 2009

Running in Puerto Rico

Yesterday was my second time running the "World's Best 10K" and it was just as much fun as the first, if not better! Due to the recession, less people participated this year but it sure didn't seem like it when I was struggling to get myself into running position. I've been running for quite some time now, but I had never participated in running events until I came back to the island. I enjoy doing sports and so Puerto Rico is the perfect place to be. Skiing and snowboarding, of course, would be two exceptions.

There are many running/walking events held in the island throughout the year, but here are some of the most prominent ones:
  • Medio Maratón San Blas: located in the town of Coamo, this is a challenging half-marathon which is usually held on the third Sunday of February.
  • World's Best 10K: takes you over the Teodoro Moscoso bridge in San Juan, usually held at the end of February or early March. You can either run it or walk it.
  • La Guadalupe Marathon: held in Ponce, usually in December, this is the only marathon held in Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, I couldn't find their official Website but click on this calendar of events and scroll down to the final event, where you'll find a phone number for more information.
  • Maratón Modesto Carrión: held in the town of Juncos, this is a half-marathon usually held in November.
  • Carrera Internacional Abraham Rosa: held in the city of Toa Baja, this is a challenging 10K race that's usually held in May.

Happy running!