Dáme Puerto Rico

Llévame to the narrow, blue-grey cobblestone streets –
A US territory, but the buildings gothic and renaissance
like those I saw in Madrid
Taíno culture resists, despite centuries of colonization

Vamos al centro to the avenue behind the Capitol,
A grand structure of marble imported
from Spain, Italy, and Georgia
El Paseo de Presidentes with life-size figures of each US leader
to visit what was once Boriquen, land of the brave lord

Dáme Puerto Rico in April
84 degrees and alive, beating in a tranquil rhythm
In Plaza Colón, Columbus’ statue marks
the beginning of a new island, a new name
For better or worse, and San Juan Bautista stands tall
Against the fort walls, blue sky, bluer sea

Llévame al Santurce
Where street art climbs the walls of Calle Cerra
Vibrant murals and mosaic tiles, boricua legends in living color
and an artist on a ladder, paint can in hand pauses
to let me make art of him in a photo, painting a peacock

Vamos este, through la Isla Verde and Carolina
Discover alcapurrias at Dondé Olga in Loíza
Caribbean green bananas and yuca
Ground and shaped in a sea grape leaf
then stuffed with beef and fried to tantalize the senses

Dáme stories of West African slaves brought here
in the 16th Century to make the sugar cane industry thrive
And how they found power in their only weapon –
they drummed their rebellion on the bomba barrel, maracas, and cuá then
and today, Bomba’s in the protests for newcomers who
can’t accept that all beaches are public on this land

Vamos oeste along the northern coast with the Atlantic
in a Ford Mustang convertible with the top down
My brother in the driver’s seat, slowly inching our way to Rincón
Locals don’t give attention to turn signals or stop signs
and the posted speed limits are clearly too high for them.

Dáme una vida in Puerto Rico
No va de prisa, every inch paraíso
Let the ocean air loose the strands of my hair from its ponytail
Hazme tropical – messy, free, and alive
beating to the rhythm of a bomba barrel

Llévame – take me
Vamos – let’s go

Dáme – give me
Este – east
Oeste –  west
Al centro – the center
Va de prisa – not in a hurry
Paraíso – paradise
Hazme – make me

I’ve been posting a poem a day to celebrate National Poetry Month… but so far, they’ve all been older poems, selected from hundreds of other poems because I still like them, years later. Today’s share I wrote today while on spring break in Puerto Rico with my big brother, listening to the waves crash against the shore to the backdrop of palm trees and crystal blue. 

The history, landscapes, and people truly inspire me here.  Being bilingual helps me feel at home across the Atlantic; since I’ve been thinking in Spanglish, I thought I’d let that creep into the poem in nonintrusive ways. These words aren’t time-tested, but I’m willing to risk exposure for the greater good… and I hope I’ve captured enough to let readers experience this island along with me!

Muchas gracias to Stephanie for her riveting Puerto Rico’s Lifestyle and Culture Tour. If you’re ever in San Juan, I recommend with ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐.

One thought on “Dáme Puerto Rico

  1. Pingback: My Dreams are Chasing Puerto Rico | Writer's Growth

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