A lot of tourists are just that…tourists. There’s nothing wrong with staying at a resort or fancy hotel and only doing the activities within like lounging by the pool adjacent to the cool waters of the ocean but that’s just not what I’m into. This happens a lot in Caribbean destinations. I ask tourists what they like the best so far about Puerto Rico only hearing back that the extravagant dinners, spas, or the beach at the resort are the best parts.
For travelers who want to explore deep into the culture of the people of that destination, museums are a great place to start. I hate to admit it but I’ve only been to one museum so far here in San Juan. I even live a few blocks away from the Art Museum but I haven’t made it over there yet. The one I have been to is located in Old San Juan right by El Morro fort so it’s perfect to visit while you’re exploring the historic part of the city.
There are about half a dozen salas, rooms with exhibits, to walk through around a huge plaza. It reminded me of the Plaza Mayor in Spain with its red paint and arches. The salas that are open right now include popular/current art (featuring creations about the hurricane season of 2017), taino art, artifacts and information about the Spanish Conquista period, and about the African heritage in the Caribbean. Over 4,700 visitors come explore the museum annually and it’s pretty inexpensive to get in. Adults can expect to pay $6 for a ticket but there is a discounted rate for students and seniors.
I absolutely loved walking through the exhibits and learning about the culture and history of my roots (I’m native Taino and Western African that settled here), so I took many photos. Here are my favorites and what you can expect at the Museum of the Americas in San Juan.
The previous were all from the popular/current events exhibit depicting life after the hurricane season. The last photo I thought was really powerful. It’s titled Guernica Puertorriqena. I’ve seen the real Guernica painted by Pablo Picasso in the Reina Sofia and this one was just as moving. This one is done in the same style as the original in Spain except about Puerto Rico after the hurricane. You can see a woman holding an empty water jug in one hand and a full roll of paper towels in the other (done to mock when Trump threw paper towels in a crowd of residents receiving aid). Broken trees and debris fill the painting as well as a man almost drowning in water. These are all elements that are not exaggerated. Still, several months after the hurricane season of 2017, this is a reality for so many people here. Want to donate to a great cause to actually help the people of Puerto Rico? Check out Direct Relief. This charity has a 4 out of 4 rating on Charity Watch. It’s on Forbes 100 best charities at number 7 and has a 100% efficiency rating so it’s a very trustworthy place to send your money. I’ve donated $10 USD to the Hurricane Response – Puerto Rico today and I encourage you to do the same.
Unfortunately, cock fighting is a reality here in Puerto Rico. There’s even a stadium for the “sport.”
Even though the Spanish Conquista period was horrific and catastrophic to the Western Hemisphere, it did ultimately make Puerto Rico was it is today. There isn’t a lot to take photos of in this section. A lot of the information about the history is on the plaques you can read while in the sala.
The Spanish and other colonizers brought Africans (primarily from West Africa) over to work the tobacco, sugar, and coffee plantations in Puerto Rico. We all know how brutal the slave trade was but you should definitely not miss a chance to see the exhibit here. At the museum of the Americas in San Juan, there’s a whole room dedicated to teaching you about what life in Puerto Rico was like as a slave. You can see ships that were used to transport Africans to Puerto Rico and how they were aligned to fit, the weapons used against them, and then information about how it was abolished here. Even through all that bad, came great things. We have the African influence to thank for introducing Bomba and Plena music which is a mixture of the African, Taino, and Spanish cultures. Also, pasteles and mofongo, two of the islands most popular dishes are influenced by the Africans. Being an Afro-Latino myself I was very drawn to this exhibit. I spent the most time here learning about the African influence in Puerto Rico since my one part of my dad’s side is West African (Senegalese and Malian) that were brought over by the Portuguese and the other side is native Taino, indigenous to Puerto Rico.
I hope you liked my photos from The Museum of the Americas in San Juan. I didn’t bother to edit all of them but I know they still send a powerful message. Let me know what your favorite piece is in the comments below!