I believe Jerry Seinfeld once said - “What’s the deal with Puerto Rico?! It’s a state, it’s not a state, it’s a state, it’s not a state…” I could also be misremembering the quote, it’s very likely he never even said that. Regardless of my ability to make up quotes as a way to begin articles, the truth is Puerto Rico is simply a US territory and has been since 1898. As Wellness Warrior Foundation prepares to go on its 2nd trip to the small volcanic island in the Caribbean, I wanted to learn a bit more about this island that I have never visited. I enjoy learning a little bit of the history of all the places I travel around the world.
Let's go back to a time before becoming a US territory as a result of the Spanish-American war, and yet even before becoming a Spanish colony, like way before. Like…millions of years before. Puerto Rico began its life as a tiny volcano in the ocean, and that tiny volcano grew and grew forming the island of Puerto Rico. You’re probably thinking to yourself, ok, sure…that’s how most islands formed. What makes Puerto Rico a bit more interesting is its location in the ocean. The island sits between two major tectonic plates, North American Plate and the Caribbean Plate. This island lives in a very tectonically active region, which means it's quite prone to earthquakes. As a matter of fact, since 2019 Puerto Rico has had over 9,000 earthquakes. Most all of them were too small for people to feel on a day-to-day basis. That’s a lot of earthquakes! I live in CA and have felt my share of earthquakes, but to know dozens of earthquakes are happening daily as you go about your day is crazy to think about.
You know, one thing that never really occurred to me is that Puerto Rico is part of the Caribbean. That might not be the best thing to admit, but it always just felt like an island just south of Florida. Not a place people mention when they go on Caribbean cruises or jet set off to the Caribbean. But it is the 2nd largest island in the Caribbean by population (about 3.3 million). As suspected a lot of its economy is based on tourism, but also agriculture and medical supplies. Some of the island’s largest exports are medical equipment. Of course, I can’t leave out the high-quality Rum that comes from the island. Looking into some of the popular brands in Puerto Rico, one I have come across is called Ron Don Q. This brand dates back to 1932 and is names after the favorite character of the family heirs, Don Quixote. It is the islands top selling rum.
As I looked into traditional cuisines, I definitely got pretty excited to try all the different foods on my visit. Despite the fact that I tend to eat my food real fast, I do actually taste it. The main reason I typically eat too fast is because the food is delicious, and I have little control to slow down when eating tasty food. #1 on my list of food to eat is pasteles. It’s akin to a tamale. There seem to be lots of similarities, but a few differences. Instead of being wrapped in a corn husk, it’s wrapped in banana leaves. While tamales are having a corn-based masa, pasteles have a masa made from green plantains and root vegetable. These sounds like delicious differences, as I really love me some tamales.
**Quick side note - I didn’t eat a tamale until I was 35. And after eating one at age 35, I realized 35 years is too many years to have not eaten a tamale.**
Back to the article: The other food item I’m really wanting to try is the Jibarito. It basically looks like a burger, but instead of ground beef, it's got thin slices of steak and the “bread” is actually a fried piece of unripe plantain. The rest of the dish is like a burger - cheese, tomato, lettuce, mayo. One last thing on my Puerto Rican menu would be the rellenos de papa. This is basically a mashed potato ball filled with beef or pork, sofrito, onion, and sometimes cheese. It’s an appetizer type of food served as little bites.
Now - I want to keep this short and sweet, I feel like I could find myself getting a bit long winded and start to ramble on and on about any little factoid I find on Puerto Rico. So, I will cut myself off here. I know I will keep looking into more history of the island and practicing my Spanish. I’m excited to be going on this trip, to a new a place. I’m also equally excited to be going with Wellness Warrior Foundation as member of the board - to go to a place and help people, to teach them new things, and help give them resources to provide for themselves. It gives a whole new dimension to the trip besides gorging myself on pasteles and jibaritos. I also want to leave having learned as much from the locals as I can. It’s a two-way street, we trade knowledge. I’m sure there is something they can teach me about life that I could have never imagined. All I can do now is eagerly await the day we start this journey!
If you'd like to join us in Puerto Rico, space is limited - and registration information can be found here: Current Mission Trips | Wellness Warrior Foundation
It's going to be an awesome trip! I can't wait for you to join us.