Wednesday, January 24, 2007


In 1986, I was lucky enough to spend the summer working in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. I lived in an old building - it was built in the 1500's as Spanish Officer’s quarters. It was run in 1986 as an art gallery and boarding house. My mom still has the oil portrait that a young artist also staying there painted of me that summer.

One of the benefits of working in Puerto Rico is the number of Saint’s Days and holidays that are observed, one of which is St. John the Baptist Day. On this day, at midnight, people walk backward into the sea, and dunk below water three times. This ritual is performed to wash away the year's sins and ensure good luck for the following year.

On St. John the Baptist Day in 1986, my friend from school and I traveled by plane, after work, to Culebra - a small island off the coast of PR. We had befriended some people that had small planes and traveled frequently to Culebra, Vieques, and the Virgin Islands. There was an old truck at the landing strip (it wasn’t much of an airport - there was no tower), and we went to the beach house this family owned on Culebra. A bit before midnight we all headed out to a lonely beach. There was an old deserted WWII tank on the beach - both Culebra and Vieques were used as target practice by the military, and to this day, the occasional kid is blown up by some old unexploded mortar.

At midnight, we all held hands and walked into the Caribbean backwards, then dunked three times. After spending more time hanging out on the beach, swimming and drinking (needless to say), we headed back to the house in the truck - which promptly ran out of gas. One of the fellas managed to hitch a ride to the air strip to syphon some gas from the plane for the truck - it worked, and early the next morning we flew back to PR, and I went back to work . . .

This is an annual ritual in PR, even though a few Ricans drown every year celebrating St. John the Baptist Day.

9 Comments:

Blogger GetFlix said...

Nothing says remote like those dirt runways. Great story!!

6:02 PM  
Blogger sage said...

I like to live dangerously, but syphoning gas from the plane I hope to fly in to run the truck that doesn't need to leave the ground is a little more walking on the edge than I like!

6:13 PM  
Blogger LA said...

That read like the scene from a movie.

10:13 PM  
Blogger prunella jones said...

I've never been any place more tropical than Florida. Was it very beautiful?

7:59 AM  
Blogger EditThis said...

Great story. I wish I had more to tell like that.

8:02 AM  
Blogger M-M-M-Mishy said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:07 PM  
Blogger M-M-M-Mishy said...

Very cool story! I can't wait to travel, but I may stick to places that have airport towers. I'm freaked out just thinking about it!

6:09 PM  
Blogger PixieGaf said...

Wow Diane I am so jealous that you have travelled so much. Puerto Rico is very beautiful or so I've heard. :(

6:37 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

thanks all! PR is pretty and has a lot of history from it's colonial days. And it wasn't my idea to borrow gas from the plane - trust me! I was lucky to have travelled a bit in my younger days, and since 1999 have been trying to make it a part of my life again!

6:42 PM  

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