Day 27 - Part 1: Dear Julio
I stopped by the Mambo food store to get some fruit before going to the beach. They didn’t have any. When I walked out, I found an old Puerto Rican man yelling at an American tourist in a Harvard t-shirt. When the old man saw me he said, “Hey, Diego! You how you been? You need a ride?”
I had no idea who he was. He probably picked me up at one point or another. I hopped in his car and we drove towards Esperanza. His name was Julio.
“So what was all that about?” I asked.
“Huh? Oh, you mean what I was talking about with el tonto? It was nothing. That guy wished me a happy Three Kings Day, that’s all. I was telling him I don’t celebrate Three Kings Day,” Julio said.
“Because you know what the Three Kings were? They were astrologists. You know what that means? It means they were associated with the devil, my friend. I don’t believe in that crap.”
“Also, how is anyone going to tell me a virgin gave birth to baby Jesus? That don’t make no sense. Every one of us, you and me included, came from sex between a man and woman. Am I right? That’s why I don’t celebrate any of this stuff and I definitely can’t have stupid people wishing me a happy Three Kings Day,” he said.
We talked for a bit and I learned Julio grew up in Vieques. He said he used to ride the wild horses to school every day. All his classmates did. They would simply find a horse along the way and jump on it.
“The horses let you do that?” I asked.
“Yeah, they were used to it,” he said. “They were semi-tamed, you know.”
“Yeah, that’s how it used to be. Life was easy. Now everything’s about money.”
“What do you mean?”
“Here, people used to live off the land,” he said waving his hand over the dashboard. “We got all our food from the ground. Papayas, bananas, you name it. People had their little farms and that was that. Sure, they didn’t have no money, but at least they could eat.”
He paused for a few seconds and seemed to collect his thoughts.
“Now, it’s all about property and who owns what. People have to have money to eat and there isn’t enough work.”
He looked over the fields we were passing.
“Did you know some Italian investor wanted to make this area a huge resort with a golf course and everything?” Julio said.
“No, but is there enough electricity on this island for those types of places to exist?”
“Exactly, my friend, exactly,” Julio said while slapping the steering wheel. “These people come in here with all the money in the world, trying to make luxury hotels and spas and all that junk, but don’t think about us or the island AT ALL. The people that live here keep getting poorer and poorer. We don’t see any of the money that gets invested in Vieques. We don’t even know where it goes. They just take away our land, build big walls around their resorts and then expect us to figure it out for ourselves.”
I got out at the Sun Bay entrance. I thanked Julio and started walking down the dirt road to Navio Beach.
© Diego Cupolo 2011