El Misterio de “La Isla” y del Turismo Interno

*For the iberolinguistically challenged, you can read the article in English below :)

Turismo Interno en Puerto Rico

Unas cuantas veces en las ultimas semanas, decidí salir a explorar un poco dentro di mi propia isla. Es lo que aquí en Puerto Rico le llamamos “turismo interno”. Lo encuentro un poco extraño que exista tal término, ya que si es dentro de mi propio país, ¿verdaderamente es turismo? De acuerdo al “World Tourism Organization”, el turismo se define como ¨viajar y quedarse en lugares fuera de su entorno usual, por no más de un año consecutivo, para propósitos de ocio, negocios, etc.¨ Ahí encontramos la palabra clave: “entorno usual”. Se ese es el caso,  cuando alguien se va de viaje por la isla fuera del área metro, sin duda se consideraría turismo. ¿Porqué? Hay un mundo de diferencia entre la vida en el area metro y la vida “en la isla”, como le llamamos; cuando alguien del área metro entra a la isla, seguramente es un cambio en su entorno usual.

El hecho de que exista un termino tal como “la isla”, un termino que se refiere a todo aquello que quede fuera del área metro, irrespectivamente del hecho que el área metro QUEDA EN LA MISMA ISLA. La existencia del termino habla por si solo. Cuando uno sale del área metro, sí se siente como otra isla, por lo menos en el sentido de que estamos tan acostumbrado a vivir en la zona metro, que se nos olvida que existe algo más allá de eso. Ciertamente, la experiencia diaría y el estilo de vida de una persona del area metro versus alguien que vive en la montañas de Adjuntas, debe ser muy distinta.

Hablando de Adjuntas, lo tomé como ejemplo porque hace unos años yo estuve por allá con dos de mis mejores amigos. ¿Que hacíamos en Adjuntas? Ya que es una zona montañosa, y lugar poco conocido por nosotros, decidimos que era un buen lugar para hacer senderismo/hiking. Para ser honesto, en adjuntas no hay ningún sistema de senderos (por lo menos que yo conozca). Lo que sí hay son muchas carreteras rurales, perfectas para hacer ejercicio y para disfrutarse buenas vistas. Pero aparte de eso, la mejor característica de esas carreteras rurales es que están pobladas. Puedes verle la cara a las personas que viven sus vidas allá, y eso te pone a pensar. Lo primero que nos vino a la mente y que también le vendría a cualquier  otra persona de la zona metro es “¿que hace esta gente con sus vidas por acá?” Teníamos tantas preguntas…”¿En que trabajan? ¿En donde? ¿Donde los niños van a la escuela, y como llegan? ¿Es buena la educación en esas escuelas? ¿Donde janguean?” Con cada pregunta, nos surgía una nueva. Osea, nosotros vivimos tan fuera de contacto de estas áreas, que me puso a mi en duda sobre mi conocimiento de Puerto Rico, y sus habitantes.

Seré yo ignorante, o solo caí en cuenta de la famosa sabiduría Socratica: Yo sólo sé que no sé nada. Vivimos en un mundo conectadísimo, donde casi cualquier pedazo de información es accesible al instante. Podemos buscar información de ciudades remotas…Paris, Cairo, Jakarta, La Paz…y aprender sobre ellas. Pero sobre Adjuntas, y lo mas seguro la mayoría de los municipios menos conocidos de Puerto Rico, ¿que información hay? Fotos, anécdotas, documentales…de eso no hay mucho, si es que hay algo. Lo que sí hay son números:

Adjuntas, Censo 2010 según la Oficina del Contralor del ELA de PR: 

  • Población: 19,483
  • Ingreso Per Capita: $5,974 (anual)
  • Población de 25 años o más graduada de escuela superior, o más: 58.4%
  • Población debajo del nivel de pobreza: 56.1%

Estos números dicen mucho. Para comenzar, es un municipio pobre. Hay falta de educación. Es claro que aunque Puerto Rico se considere un país primer-mundista económicamente, la situación es un poco mas gris. En San Juan, el ingreso per capita es $16,031, casi tres veces el de Adjuntas. Estén como estén las cosas en la zona metro, aquí en Adjuntas, y en otros municipios alrededor de PR, entramos a otro mundo. O por lo menos, a otra isla.  Pero ver unos números en un documento gubernamental jamás puede comunicar la experiencia de esas personas. Al contrario, lo que logran esos números es crear más preguntas. Aunque los números digan “estas personas son pobre”, yo no quiero asumir su experiencia. Puede que sean pobres y miserables, como también puede ser que vivan felices, más felices de lo que vivimos aquí en la zona metro. Lo único que yo puedo asumir es que yo no se.  Y que quiero aprender más. Quiero ver más allá de números. Quiero ver fotos, quiero ver anécdotas, quiero ver documentación. Si alguien no se tira la de “Travels with Charley” en Puerto Rico, me la tiro yo.

Un wikén de estos me tiraré a Adjuntas otra vez, y en los próximos meses me interesaría visitar a otros sitios menos frecuentados en PR, sitios que a uno no se le occuriria ir como destinos turísticos.  Tengo ganas de conocer a esta isla un poco más. Puede ser que mida 100×35, pero sin importar sus dimensiones diminutas, hay una gran variedad cultural, social y económica. Vamos a ver de que se compone esa variedad. Hay mucho que ver, y muchos puertorriqueños para conocer fuera de la zona metro.

Asi que motivate, y sal pa’ fuera a aprender un poco más sobre “la isla” y quitale el misterio al termino.


 

The Mystery of “La Isla” and Internal Tourism

 

Last weekend, I decided to do a bit of exploring in within my own borders, what we in Puerto Rico like to call “turismo interno” or internal tourism. It’s a bit strange that there is a term for that. I mean, if it’s within your own country, is it really tourism? Well according to the World Tourism Organization,tourism is defined as “traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes.” There is a key word clause there: traveling to places outside their usual environment. So if that’s the case, whenever someone who lives in the San Juan metro area goes on a trip outside of it, then yes. It’s definitely tourism. Why? There is a world of difference between life in the metro area, and life “en la isla” as we call it, so whenever someone leaves the metro area, it’s surely a change in their usual environment.

The fact that a term like “la isla” (the island) exists (a term that refers to everywhere in Puerto Rico that is NOT the metro area, even though the metro area is in fact, part of the same island ) should speak for itself. When one leaves the metro area, it does feel like a different island, at least in the sense that we’re so used to living in the metro area, that we forget that there is more beyond it. For sure, the life experience and lifestyle of a person living in the metro area versus someone that lives in the mountains of Adjuntas (a municipality here in PR) must be very different.

Speaking of Adjuntas, I took it as an example because a few years back, I was there with two of my best friends. What were we doing in Adjuntas? It’s a mountainous area, and a spot that we knew very little about. So we thought it was a good spot to do some hiking. To be honest, there aren’t any trail systems in Adjuntas (that I know of at least). What there are a lot of however, are country roads, perfect for for working out on a hike and enjoying good views. But besides that, the best characteristic of these country roads are the fact that there are people living there. And that makes you think. The first thing that came to mind, that would also most likely come to the mind of anyone that is from the metro area, is “what do people here DO?” We had so many questions…”What do they do for a living? Where do they work? Where do kids go to school? Do they receive good education in these schools? How do they even get to school? Where does everyone hang out? Every question drove us to a new one. I mean, we live so far out of teach with these areas that it really made me doubt my own knowledge of Puerto Rico, and its inhabitants.

So either I’m ignorant, or I just took note of the famous piece of socratic knowledge: “All I know is that I know nothing”. We live in a world that is ever-connected, where almost every piece of information is available instantly. We can look up information about cities that are far away…Paris, Cairo, Jakarta, La Paz…and learn about what life is like there. But regarding Adjuntas, what information is there? Photos, anecdotes, documentaries…of that, there is not much. What we do have, is numbers.

Adjuntas, Census 2010 according to the Census office of PR:

  • Population: 19,483
  • Income Per Capita: $5,974 (annually)
  • Population 25 or older that completed high school: 58.4%
  • Population below poverty line: 56.1%

 

These numbers say a lot. For starters, it’s a poor place. There is a lack of education. It’s clear that while PR is considered a first-world country in economic terms, the situation is a bit more gray. In San Juan, the income per capita is $16,031, almost three times that of Adjuntas. No matter how things are at the Metro Area, here in Adjuntas, and in other municipalities across the island, we’re entering into a different world. Or at least, another island. But seeing some numbers on a government document can’t really communicate what the experience is like for these people. On the contrary, the only things those numbers create are more questions. Even though those numbers  might say “these people are poor”, I don’t want to assume anything about their experience. It may be that they are poor and miserable, just as well as it might be that they are happy, happier than we are in the metro area. The only thing I can assume is that I don’t know. And that I want to learn more. I want to see more than just numbers. I want to see photos, I want to see anecdotes, I want to see documentation. If someone doesn’t pull a “travels with charley” here in PR, then I’ll do it myself.

One of these weekends, I’ll head down to Adjuntas one more time. In the next few months, I would like to visit more places in PR, places that one wouldn’t think of as tourist destinations. I want to learn about this island a bit more. It may be that it only measures 100×35 miles, but regardless of its small dimensions, it’s clear that there is a large cultural, social, and economic variety. Let’s found out what makes up that variety. There’s a lot to see, and a lot of people to meet outside of the metro area.

So get motivated, and head outside to learn about more about this island.

 

Population Density of Puerto Rico – All those light spots…those are the places we gotta visit.

Welcome to the blog!

Welcome to “Adventure First. Explanations Later.” , a blog about my travels around the world, and the adventures to be found in it.

I’m in the process of kick-starting this blog, formerly known as fotoethnographies.blogspot.com, in its new home at www.rrsuro.com. I just got back from Indonesia, where I spent a year as a volunteer doing research. Thanks to that amazing experience over there, and with the help of Dr. Cheryl Knott and Tim Laman – Wildlife Photojournalist, I got awarded a National Geographic Young Explorer’s grant! So next year, I’ll be heading back out into the field to commence my NatGeo Young Explorer’s Project, “The Lives of Orangutans.”

It’s still a couple months until my adventure begins, and until then, I have a lot of planning to do…website programming, promoting, fund-raising, obtaining research permits…I got my work cut out for me. In the meantime though, I’m going to be keeping this blog updated with news about my progress, and I’ll also be publishing some great stories about my time in Indonesia, that I just didn’t get the opportunity to share before (partly because the rainforest has really bad internet service, and partly because I was too deep into the jungle life).

So stay tune for more.

Until then, enjoy this photo of the Andes I took from a plane on the way to Tiputini Biodiversity Station in Ecuador. I feel a special connection to the Andes, due to one of my greatest memories: climbing the 5,897 m volcano, Cotopaxi. This was a life-changing moment for me, a moment that spurred me to try to lead a life of adventure, and never be afraid to step outside the boundaries. For each day can be an adventure, if we just reach out and grasp it.

Welcome to the blog.

-Robert

Flying on crystal clear days over some mountains like this is amazing.

The large volcano in the foreground is Cayambe. Behind that one, the most visible volcanoes are Antisana on the left, and Cotopaxi (my favorite!) on the right. In the far background, you can also see Chimborazo in the middle, and the twin peaks of the Illinizas on the right.