Sunday, September 7, 2014

Puerto Rico Part 1 - Ponce, Two Archaeological Sites, and a Cave

     Since we only seem to talk about the kitchen around here, I thought it would be nice to shake things up and share some photos from Puerto Rico. Steven was assigned to work there for four weeks, and I went to visit for a few days back in the middle of August. This opportunity was too good to pass up - thank you to those who helped make this possible! We are so grateful for dear family and neighbors :)

     When I arrived, Steven was working in Ponce, located on the south central coast of the island. We got to see the heart of downtown Ponce, Plaza Las Delicias, and admired the historic landmarks and "Parade of Lions" displays.

Catedral de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe was originally built in the 1830s and extensively reconstructed in the 1930s following earthquake and fire damage. I wish we could have checked out the inside, but it was closed for an event :(

Parque de Bombas was built in the 1880s and served as Ponce's firehouse for a century. The building now houses a museum dedicated to the city's firemen.

The lion is a prominent emblem used around Ponce, and several of these lion statues painted by local artists were displayed downtown as part of La Parada de los Leones. It reminded me of the painted peanuts around Dothan, Alabama.

Ponce is a great place to visit if you enjoy strolling through museums (or simply getting out of the stifling heat!). From what I read, the Museo de Arte de Ponce is one of the most popular cultural attractions in the city. I'm no art connoisseur, but I thoroughly enjoyed looking at the museum's collection and was impressed with its diversity. We saw works ranging from seventeenth-century Baroque paintings to twentieth-century Puerto Rican silkscreen prints.

     Steven had been telling me about all this mofongo he had been eating in Puerto Rico, so I was excited to try it when I got there. I'm not sure if it's the official dish of Puerto Rico, but it was listed as a specialty on many of the restaurants' menus. Mofongo is basically fried green plantains mixed with seafood, pork, or chicken plus some tasty seasonings. It would be fun to try making some!

Mofongo with red snapper and delicious toasty garlic bread at Pito's Seafood in Ponce.

Centro Ceremonial Indígena de Tibes
     Located on the north side of Ponce, Tibes is one of the most significant archaeological sites in the Caribbean. Ceramic studies indicate that this ceremonial center was in use from approximately 300 B.C. to 1200 A.D. Additionally, the remains of at least 149 individuals have been excavated from the site. The stone structures are the main attraction for park visitors. Tibes features seven bateyes (ball courts) and two plazas, plus evidence of more structures that have not yet been restored. The site was rediscovered in 1975 after Hurricane Eloise caused major flooding in the vicinity which revealed portions of the stone structures.

Plaza Principal

For the archaeologically inclined:
Curet, L. Antonio, and Lisa M. Stringer (editors)
2010     Tibes: People, Power, and Ritual at the Center of the Cosmos. The University of Alabama Press.

Centro Ceremonial Indígena de Caguana
     This archaeological site is located in the northwest portion of Puerto Rico near Utuado, and, likes Tibes, it features stone-lined bateyes. The numerous structures at Caguana were constructed later than those at Tibes, and the Taíno Indians continued to use the site through the Spanish contact period.

Steven checking out the petroglyphs.

Cavernas del Río Camuy
     Steven had already gone on a trip with some local cavers before I got there, and they told him to check out Camuy Caverns while he was in Puerto Rico. Camuy Caverns is similar to Cathedral Caverns in Woodville, Alabama, in that the cave has been made very accessible to all visitors by having a concrete walkway installed through it. However, the walk through Camuy is much shorter than the one at Cathedral Caverns. We rode a trolley down a steep, winding road that was JUST wide enough for the trolley to get to the entrance.

Looking back to the entrance after we got inside for the tour.

This sinkhole was around the halfway point of the tour, and you get to hear the Camuy River flowing under you on the way out. The Camuy is one of the largest subterranean rivers in the world!

     Let's call this Part 1 before it gets out of hand... I'll post Part 2 in a couple days, and it will include sites/tastes from Isabela, Luquillo, and Palmas del Mar. Even though Puerto Rico is a small island, we were really impressed with all you can cover in a two- or three-hour roadtrip.

Hope you're enjoying this break from the kitchen as much as I am!

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