|Edition description:||Bilingual English-Spanish Edition|
Table of ContentsPuerto Rico �Magnífico!
The Caribbean & Columbus
Above It All
Mi Querido San Juan
Indeed, in my second book about Puerto Rico, published nearly ten years ago, I referred to her as Borinquen Querida (meaning "Beloved Borinquen"), employing the affectionate term derived from the name the Taino Indians had given this land long before Columbus arrived in 1493. (For the Spanish-challenged, the pronunciation is: Bor-EEN-ken Care-EE-thah.) The present volume, Puerto Rico �Magnífico! (Mag-NEE-fee-ko) is thus my third book about this remarkable island in the past two decades.
How can an author-photographer produce three books about one relatively small island in less than twenty years? Well, for one thing, the island keeps changing - indeed, many would say that the pace of change in Puerto Rico over the past few decades has been nothing less than frenetic. More about that in a moment. The second factor is that, as a photographer, I keep changing as well. In my first book about the island, Images of Puerto Rico, originally published in 1983, my approach was determinedly photojournalistic, and I sought to present as broad a depiction as possible of Puerto Rico and Puerto Rican life. Eight years later, Puerto Rico, Borinquen Querida took a more impressionistic view, emphasizing the history, architecture, and culture of the island. While the present volume continues a strong attention to the island's architecture, I have for the first time devoted major space to aerial views of the island. Those familiar with my two earlier books will notice that - also for the first time - a large proportion of the photographs in this book focus on the island's coastline and beaches. I have also indulged my passion for photographing the magnificent cloudscapes that are inextricably linked with my vision of, and love for, the Caribbean.
While the changes in my personal photographic vision and approach have been considerable over the past twenty years, they pale in comparison to the changes which have swept over Puerto Rico in the past few decades. As with any major cultural transition, many causal factors have been involved: in Puerto Rico's case, among the most important were the advent of inexpensive air travel, the proliferation of the automobile and television, and, above all, the Puerto Ricans' enormously improved economic circumstances.
There has been another cultural transition as well: When I first arrived on the island in 1969, Puerto Rico's culture was still overwhelmingly Latin American. And while there can be no question that that culture remains predominant in Puerto Rico today, with each passing year I see the island's culture as increasingly a blend of Latin America and that of the United States. Largely because of the gap between the cultures of the island and the mainland, only a few years ago I would have said that it was highly unlikely that Puerto Rico would ever become more highly integrated with the United States. Today, at the dawn of the new millennium, I am far less certain: while I do not know if complete integration with the United States is any more probable, I do believe that it is increasingly possible. For me, the major irony in this evolution is that this increased possibility is due as much to changes in the culture of the United States as it is to changes in the culture of Puerto Rico. There can be no doubt that America's culture has become increasingly diverse and inclusive over the past few decades, and as it has become so, the differences between the culture of the island and that of the mainland become increasingly less significant.
I see an additional irony in the island's cultural evolution: as Puerto Rico's culture becomes ever more a blend of two cultures, the Puerto Ricans' pride in their traditional culture grows ever stronger. That deep pride manifests itself in many ways: one small example, seen on the facing page, is the growing number of people and competitions devoted to the paso fino. Another is the proliferation - unmatched anywhere in the world, in my experience - of tee-shirts, bumper stickers, car-mirror flags, etc., that proclaim their owners' pride in Puerto Rican identity.
I have written before that I do not pretend to fully understand the complexity of Puerto Rican life and culture, and I would repeat that caveat now. And while I have pretty much given up hope of ever reaching the goal of complete understanding, the journey of discovery that has brought me this far has been a rich and fascinating one. I have every hope of continuing the journey.