Humor as a tool for revolution and coping mechanism for the current Puerto Rican situation  

Puerto Rico no se deja - Natalia Benitez

Photo credit: Natalia Bénitez

My friend said that if memes could be properly monetized, Puerto Ricans right now would be making bank. In the midst of a political crisis and arguably the start of a revolution for change, Puerto Ricans have shown no fear manifesting their beliefs with creativity, both physically and virtually. From divers underwater showing their protest signs to yogis leading a peaceful yoga class in front of the governor’s mansion – our creativity knows no bounds. If you are Puerto Rican, I bet you are receiving a constant flow of memes from family members, friends, and even coworkers. You have to admit they are good! 

How can a country that is undergoing what has been said to be a historical manifestation have the strength to continue to fight, while also entertaining millions with constant hysterical remarks?

The two coexist as part of a conscious or unconscious strategy, as one of the obstacles that important education and political messages often face is the ability to reach those who need to know said message. From a basic communication standpoint, humor is easy to share, it even strengthens interpersonal relationships. I have seen memes circulating social media that have encouraged me to do my own research to further understand the jokes and/or claims being made. In a culture where we are so overwhelmed by information and opinions from every device imaginable, researching has become key. I have had conversations with my grandma in which it is evident that solely relying on one TV station for your news is never going to be enough again. It is simply impossible to properly capture an entire movement when it is happening virtually and physically, EVERYWHERE.

Puerto Ricans are loud and proud, and it is in our nature to find humor in all situations, for some, in too many situations. You can blame the tropical climate for our “warmth” but perhaps, it is more accurate to look at years and years of situations (political or not) that are so beyond ridiculous that all you can do is laugh. People often say “hay que reír para no llorar” (essentially, you have to laugh to keep yourself from crying) and although that shows our resilience and spirit, it uncovers another big issue that Puerto Ricans are facing: a vulnerable mental health state.

After Hurricane Maria, the suicide rates reportedly went up in the island. The entire nation lived day after day full of worries, desperation, and angst. Those in the island were too busy surviving to have the time to call out shady government actions or even worse, lack of action. Those in the diaspora essentially dropped everything they were doing to desperately try to find feasible and effective ways to help, overwhelmed by the inability to connect with family members on the island. I am no medical professional, but I think it is safe to say that the island has gone through trauma. By definition, a coping mechanism is an adaptation to environmental stress that is based on conscious or unconscious choice and that enhances control over behavior or gives psychological comfort.

Interestingly enough, you could argue that this “humor as a coping mechanism” strategy was the governor’s own downfall. He claims the expressions said on the controversial leaked Telegram chat (charged with sexist and homophobic remarks) was his way of “releasing tension” from the pressure of his job. So while humor is a powerful tool for awareness and joy, it can also be poisonous and dangerous. Nonetheless, it is undeniable that the majority of the humor utilized lately in public conversations has been positively fueling the right for people to manifest themselves and hold the government accountable. It has also been key in the spreading of information and unification of a country that had been divided for far too long. Now, nothing will ever be perfect and while I can assure you there will be future memes mocking the fighting spirit of Puerto Ricans these days, it is important to remember what fueled the humor from the beginning: indignation and the overwhelming feeling that Puerto Rico has had ENOUGH.

Rico & Melo: Puerto Rican Pups Adoption Story

Ricus, Melus, Ricks, Melito, Riquito, Meloncito, Riquibiris, Meluskis, Bubu.

Those are just some of the ways I address my two little furballs Rico and Melo. I hear no complaints from them… yet. They also have their own Instagram because look at them.

I’ve always wanted a dog. Always. I was (and still am) that person that would drool over cute dogs on the streets and had to fight the need to pet them. A lot of my friends growing up had dogs and I would make sure I visited often to solidify my spot as their dog’s number one favorite. Whether it was my mom saying “no” (I love you still, ma) or life circumstances (college, etc.) I was never able to make my dreams come true. It sounds tragic because it was, don’t judge me.

I always knew my time would come, I just never quite expected it to be this way. As you may or may not know, Hurricane Maria battered my island of Puerto Rico this past September 2017. It destroyed crops, shattered homes and basically turned everything upside down. Little did I know that while I was completely focused on my family’s well-being during the storm, my two little pups were somewhere out there on the streets fighting the storm on their own. This thought still breaks my heart.

Our pups Rico & Melo were rescued from the streets the day after the hurricane hit. No collars, no home but hundreds of tics and two little empty stomachs. My good friends took them in and gave them everything they needed to survive and be well. One thing led to another, and somehow, me and Brian agreed to adopt not one, but two dogs.

Two. What were we thinking? As I type this, I glance over and see little Rico napping on top of Melo and I know that we did the right thing. These two wouldn’t have survived a minute without each other. They may fight and lick each other inappropriately, but they adore each other.

And us? We are officially obsessed.

Like, actually obsessed. It’s impressive how much you can love a non-human, little ball of fur. They are sweet, hilarious, cuddly and loving (watch out, Brian!). They are definitely an undertaking though, and God forbid something happens to them, all hell will break loose. They are worth it though, every cold walk in the morning and every dollar spent buying them toys I know they will destroy in seconds. Not to mention the phone chargers and shoes lost in the process…

Even before they got to us here in Hoboken, they were already teaching us about compassion. In the midst of hurricane relief, strangers to me partnered up to ensure these two could find a safe way to our home. My friend’s family fostered them and provided them with everything they needed, my other friend brought carriers with her all the way from Miami, a couple who didn’t even know us volunteered to fly the pups with them in the cabin during their already scheduled flight. It took a village.

I look at these two and although I know they don’t understand everything I say and feel, I know that at some level they have to know how loved they are. I hope they know because otherwise, I feel like they hate us for having brought them to this bitter cold. They have to know that they are family now and we will protect them forever.

I may never know their past and everything they have endured, but they are home now and our lives will never be the same.

Follow @ricoandmelo on Instagram for more of these two little goof balls!

Sorry, I’m Not Sorry


Current mood: vacation. I’m enjoying some time in my beautiful island, Puerto Rico. Have some great stuff to share soon, stay tuned, it’s going to be a good summer. 🙂

[Puerto Rico] Strolling Through Old San Juan

IMG_2580

In anticipation of my next trip to Puerto Rico (this week!!!), here are some pictures of my last stroll through Old San Juan back during the beginning of the year. We were hunting down the sunset and even though clouds got in the way, the journey itself was worth it. Shout out to Señor Paleta, a cool popsicle shop in Old San Juan that offers delicious island flavors like coconut and even strawberry mojito. Their popsicles are great, but I also enjoy their branding. They’ve established a fun and approachable community, go check them out! Can’t wait to be home very soon!!!
IMG_2590IMG_2584IMG_2619IMG_2653IMG_2602

[Puerto Rico] Sunset in Guánica and a Little Bit More

File_000 (19)

If you are looking for a romantic and downright amazing getaway in Puerto Rico, you have to consider Copamarina Beach Resort & Spa in Guánica. It’s about 2 hours away from San Juan, but oh so worthy.

File_000 (6)

They have their own beach, but what’s really cool about this place is that you can actually take a small boat out to Guilligan’s Island (official name is Cayo Aurora). This is a small island with white sand and beautiful, clear water.

Also in Guánica, you can find a beautiful sunflower farm. I still have not been, but it’s on my list. A less popular but still interesting visit is a stop at the Guánica State Forest, better know as the “Bosque Seco de Guánica” or dry forest. It does not sound appealing but it’s home to some really interesting plants and animals.

copamarina beach resort puerto rico

Back in Copamarina, you have a nice selection of food, although it falls a little short compared to other restaurants in the south that serve delicious traditional Puerto Rican food. The main restaurant was also closed during my stay, so I can only speak for the more casual dining space.

copamarina puerto rico guanica

Although a day trip to Guilligan’s Island is amazing, you don’t even have to leave the resort to have a wonderful day since they have plenty of activities to choose from. I wanted to do paddle boarding but as you can see from the pictures in a kayak, I was not successful. In my defense, we tried to do two in one, didn’t work too well.

puerto rico guanica copamarina

Let’s face it, he was doing all the work. I was busy holding on tight to the GoPro.

Now, let’s get real. Copamarina is now one of the most special places in Puerto Rico to me because right at the beginning of the year, during the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen, my boyfriend proposed. It was a freaking dream and writing about it makes everything feel even more surreal. As I type, I can’t help to notice the ring on my finger shining back at me as a confirmation that everything did happen and I am indeed marrying my partner in crime and love of my life. Permission to gag. Still, not apologizing for being cheesy. 🙂

puerto rico beach paradise beaches & brie

Here I am thinking what a beautiful day, how can it get any better? Little did I know…

puerto rico sunset guanica

File_000 (16)

File_000 (21)

puerto rico sunset guanica

Then, this happened…

puerto rico engagement

So yeah, I’m getting married! I promise I won’t turn into bridezilla… as long as I am well fed. Also MAJOR thanks to the couple that took the picture right in the moment. I don’t know your names but I will be literally forever thankful.

puerto rico

I’m still learning the ropes on this whole “being engaged” thing so feel free to comment with advice, warnings or recommendations! 🙂

copamarina guanica puerto rico cristina nogueras

 

[Puerto Rico] Vieques Sunset

   
Vieques sunsets are beautiful and breathtaking, all without a filter. I know it’s getting cold for most of us, so I figured we could all use a little sunshine.

I’m spending some days down in Atlanta and I can’t way to eat my way through this city. Recommendations? Comment below!

Follow along on Instagram, don’t be shy 🙂

If You Like Piña Coladas

img_6060

How did it get to be 2016 already? I’ve been MIA, I know, all for good reasons though. I’m excited to be sharing some things about my blog and my life, just bare with me! 

In the meantime, please enjoy this photo of a piña colada that I enjoyed during my time in Puerto Rico earlier this month. Ahh, to be sipping frozen drinks by the beach. Those were the days. Also, you can always catch me on Instagram, of course.

5 Places I am Thankful for

I love this time of year. There are so many reasons to celebrate, be with family and EAT. In spite of everything people have to say about Thanksgiving and how we are superficial for celebrating one day and then shopping our lives away the rest of the season, I still love this day.

This year, I decided to  count my blessings in the form of places, thankful for everything these places represent and what they have offered me.

IMG_13055. Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

The oldest settlement in Puerto Rico, this old town is full of wonders. You can’t get bored in Old San Juan. You can find all types of food, from food trucks to fancy latin fusion cuisine. You can also find all sorts of drinks, from Puerto Rican “moonshine” or “chichaito” to a classic passion fruit sangría. I am thankful for all the fun times Old San Juan has given me, from late night with friends to fun days with family, it all happens here.

 4. Strasbourg, France

Yes, I love Paris and all of its enchantment. Still, I am completely biased to Strasbourg. This city in the region of Alsace, just minutes away from Germany, is very underrated. The unique fusion you find here is quite incomparable. L’Alsace for dummies? Like if France and Germany had a baby, but of course, there is so much more to it. I am thankful for Strasbourg’s culture and history, this city opened my eyes to so many things and I will always be thankful for that. Thanks to Strasbourg and my wonderful host family, I also discovered my true love for food.

 3. Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona is always on my list. It is a special city I am always waiting to return to. Have only been there for a few days, but I fell in love with it. I’m thankful for this city’s vibrant colors, inspiring architecture and delicious food.

 2. New York, New York

Ah, where to begin with this little gem? I have a love/hate relationship with this city. It is easy to forget it’s electric magic when you are deep in the trenches questioning your life choices, but this place makes you better and stronger by just being there. I am thankful for everything this city inspires me to be and for all the food from the world I have at my reach. New York, you make me stronger and wiser with each passing day.

20131226-170718.jpg1. Puerto Rico

You think I would limit Puerto Rico to just Old San Juan? Wrong. Puerto Rico is my favorite place in the world. I doubt any of the places in my bucket list could ever change that. I am thankful for Puerto Rico’s people, we are not perfect, but we are pretty awesome. I am thankful for the incredible ecological diversity you can find in this little island. I’m thankful for all the amazing food you can taste here, from my mother’s cooking to the many restaurants that offer hundreds of plantain plate varieties. I am thankful for Puerto Rico because it is an intrical part of who I am.

What places are you thankful for? Would love to hear your stories!

Happy Thanksgiving!

[San Juan, Puerto Rico] La Fortaleza

IMG_1429

Just a simple #tbt to one of my favorite places, El Viejo San Juan. This time, close to sunset, with the colors taking a whole different beautiful light. Views like this make me miss home.

[Puerto Rico] Orocovis: Roka Dura & Casa Bavaria

Orocovis Casa Bavaria

As you may have seen earlier this week, I was recently home in Puerto Rico and while I was there I got to do some fun zip-lining. Toro Verde Adventure Park is located in Orocovis, right in the middle of the mountains of Puerto Rico. A lot of people don’t think of mountains when they think of Puerto Rico, they just focus on the beaches but it really is a beautiful area. I mean, we do have amazing beaches, but our mountains offer a very different kind of beauty.

Orocovis Roka Dura

On our way down from Toro Verde we made two nice stops. After a morning filled with adventure and thrill, we were obviously starving. Locals to the area recommended we had lunch at Roka Dura, just a few minutes outside of the park. They said food was delicious and portions were generous.

Orocovis Roka Dura

They were not lying. This mouthwatering “mofongo” filled with chicken was even more delicious than it looks. The plate below is chicken with garlic cassava, better known as “yuca al mojo”. The chicken was nothing special, but the “yuca” was on point. I love “yuca” but have never ventured to cook it myself, I’m not even sure if I would be able to buy some around here so it’s always one of those special plates I treat myself with when I’m visiting home.

Orocovis Roka Dura

This spot had really nice views. It was early Friday afternoon and you could see the little bars around or “chinchorros” starting to get busy with people celebrating the weekend’s arrival. Although I was on vacation, I also joined the celebration admiring the killer view.

Orocovis Roka Dura Medalla

Second stop was Casa Bavaria. This one holds special memories for me. With a fusion of Caribbean and German traditions, Casa Bavaria was founded by a German couple who fell in love with the island and decided to make a life here. Its claim to fame has been their great Oktoberfest celebrations, that’s how I first got there. It is (or was?) tradition to organize “party” buses to take groups of people up the mountains and bring Oktoberfest to life in Puerto Rico. Each bus had different t-shirts and unique stories, often captured and plastered on Facebook. It was, well, a hot mess. Ahh, memories.

Stopping by this time with a fresh (and sober) pair of eyes, I was able to find so much more beauty in this place. People are so nice and the views are to die for. We only had drinks here, but a lot of people were enjoying a full meal around us. Oktoberfest or not, definitely worth the stop.