Thursday, August 27, 2009

Crime in Puerto Rico

Last Sunday, El Nuevo Día (the local paper) published a very interesting article in its La Revista ("The Magazine") section titled "El miedo en la calle," (translation: the fear on the street). Beneath the title read: "La inseguridad en las capitales de América Latina" (translation: insecurity in the capital cities of Latin America). The article dealt with the rising crime levels facing many countries in Latin America, such as Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Venezuela, and of course, Puerto Rico, amongst others.

Based on the statistics provided, there were 491 murders were committed in the first quarter of this year in San Juan. When compared with the major U.S cities, this would make the capital city of Puerto Rico the second most dangerous, after Washington, D.C. Ironically, according to this article, Mexico City had 375 murders and Caracas had just 130 murders in that same period. Both cities, I assumed, would have murder rates far worse than San Juan. As for reported robberies, the total for the first quarter of this year is said to be at 3,381 in San Juan, while figures for Mexico City and Caracas were not available.

Unfortunately, crime in Puerto Rico is a reality. Almost a year ago, I became a victim of a robbery myself. Luckily, nobody was hurt but I couldn't stop thinking about it for months. In fact, I still sometimes think about that awful afternoon. It was the first time I had a gun pointed at me, and I kept re-playing the whole scenario and thought of things which I could have done differently. When I tell my friends in the mainland U.S or abroad about the crime rates here on the island, many are surprised. My intention in writing this blog entry is not to alarm people, but to bring to the attention to those who were not aware of the situation. Like you would anywhere else, please be careful wherever you go.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Visit to Perú

Just came back from a 10-day trip to Perú , a fascinating country which I would like to go back to one day. I enjoyed the culture, history, diversity, and last but not least... the food! Our journey started out quite difficult, since we had to get up before the crack of dawn to either catch a plane or bus, but it was well worth it. Machu Picchu was absolutely amazing, it's just a magical and beautiful place. Words can't fully describe it.

Lake Titicaca was also an incredibly special highlight of our trip. We visited the islands of Uros and Taquile. Personally, I found the latter to be the nicer of the two, because it was less touristic. However, it was really interesting to see Uros, since it was my first time on a floating island! The islands are inhabited by indigenous people, some of whom speak Quechua or Aymara. While visiting Cusco and Puno, I experienced a bit of trouble with the elevation. Luckily, I did bring some Tylenol with me, which helped me get rid of my headache.

During the last leg of our trip, we visited Arequipa, which is the second largest city in Peru. The city has a beautiful palm tree-lined plaza. We visited several beautiful churches, museums, as well as the famous Santa Catalina Monastery, which I highly recommend. The last day of our journey was spent in Lima, where we ate lots of ceviche and seafood. We also had a delicious dessert called suspiro de Limeña. Besides its exquisite cuisine, the main reason why I find Perú so fascinating is because it's a country with many different faces, and stark contrasts.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Hiking El Yunque Rainforest

One of the most strenuous hikes I've ever completed was in Mt. Baker, Washington, where a friend of mine got married several years ago. The trail which we hiked was quite steep and some stretches involved some rock climbing. I am by no means an experienced hiker, but I do enjoy hiking. For those who are seriously looking for a challenging climb, El Yunque Rainforest will most likely bore you. Nevertheless, it's a great place to enjoy nature in Puerto Rico. Over a year has passed since I last hiked around El Yunque, which has several different trails available for people to explore.

Hearing the coquis, seeing and hearing the waterfalls and just feeling that mountain breeze felt wonderful. We did a little over 3 miles of hiking today, starting off with the Baño de Oro, then the El Yunque Trail and we ended with the Mt. Britton trail. The last time I was at El Yunque, I hiked the La Mina trail, which brings you to a very pretty waterfall, where many people just hang out and soak their feet or take a dip. The most challenging of the three trails we did today was the El Yunque Trail. The wet and slippery rocks definitely made the hike a lot more difficult.

After climbing up the Mt. Britton Tower, where it was very foggy and windy, we headed back. Once we reached the main road, where there were many cars parked on the side, we had to walk another 10-15 minutes to our car. I would suggest people to put on a good pair of hiking shoes, bring a map, an insect and bug repellant spray, and sunblock when visiting the rainforest. Do also bring plenty of water, a snack and a camera would be absolutely essential too, of course! Most importantly, do not venture off the marked trails. Unfortunately, there have been incidents where people have gone missing.