De Isla del Enchanto

Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, is here today with fond memories of time spent on a lovely island.

The third Christy Bristol Astrology Mystery, A Snitch in Time, is in bookstores now.   //

It was supposed to be the city of San Juan’s 497th birthday. Hurricane Maria came instead. It obliterated Puerto Rico.

For me the island was, and always will be, De Isla del Enchanto. I was stationed at Roosevelt Roads Naval Base in the ‘70’s. I’d volunteered for duty, although most of the people assigned there with no choice hated the place.

Puerto Rico isn’t a large island. It’s 100 miles long and 35 miles wide. Population at the last census was 3.5 million. After Maria, who knows?

I loved the warm Caribbean ocean after enduring the rough New England shores. People spontaneously broke out in music and dance. The food was wonderful, especially plantains and red beans and rice. We could take a motorcycle ride up to El Yunque, the rain forest, then down to Blue Beach in an afternoon. I was tanning on the beach on New Year’s Day.

Phosphorous Bay is best seen on a moonless night where, by dipping your hand in the water, all the tiny fish light up like stars. I climbed on the Arecibo satellite dish, largest in the world. Friends and I ate at the oldest restaurant on the island, picking our meal from fresh catch laid out on the sand. We went on a search for the best pina colada. We found it at the airport.

On liberty, my girlfriends and I took rooms in an old convent. We went to the Don Q rum tasting room (everyone on the island knew it was better than Bacardi) where the host plied us with exotic drinks. The next morning we went to the little panaderia and ate our pastries in Parque de las Paloma, Pigeon Park.

And such a rich history! Ponce de Leon was the first governor although he never lived there. He was hunting for the fountain of youth in Florida when he died. El Morro Fort protected the city as well as the wall that encompassed the city. The bricks were covered with steel from melted cannon balls and were expected to last forever. I wonder how they fared in the hurricane.

It was a playground for a 22 year old WAVE. Now I look at the devastation from aerial photographs and it looks like the island was hit by an atom bomb. I always dreamed of going back but my memories of what was will sustain.