Echar pa’lante is a saying which means ” keep moving forward”.
Just six months have passed since Maria devastated the Caribbean. I wrote about my hometown in Puerto Rico and about my grandma. I wrote in the hopes of educating people who may not be as familiar with Puerto Rico other than knowing about the capital, San Juan. I wrote it in the hopes of getting help for my grandma.
Six months later and the island is still recovering; still struggling.
This was originally written after Maria hit with a link to a fundraiser to help my grandma. The fundraiser was successful and I was able to send her care packages and eventually visit her about a year after the hurricane. So, thank you very much if you read the original post and shared/donated. My grandma is alive because of your help.
Note: stroked through text is no longer applicable. I just did not want to delete it.
I had hoped my first post here would have been an introductory one, but circumstances have made it so this one is my first instead.
I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Puerto Rico (along with the USVI and other Caribbean islands) were devastated by Maria. Northeastern Puerto Rico was recovering from Irma which hit them two weeks prior. This time, however, all of Puerto Rico was hit.
You’ve probably never heard of Cabo Rojo. That’s because most people are only aware of our capital, San Juan, and the surrounding metro area. Which is understandable but in cases like these, Cabo Rojo and the rest of southwestern Puerto Rico get forgotten. Joyuda and Puerto Real are coastal communities in Cabo Rojo and many homes and businesses were wiped out due to Maria. Since Cabo Rojo is more rural and isolated some places are still without power, water and food is becoming scarce. Over 50% of Cabo Rojo’s wooden houses were destroyed.
My grandma lives in Cabo Rojo. After Maria hit, I didn’t hear from my family for almost a week. After what seemed like the longest 6 days of my life, I finally got through to my older brother. During the storm, grandma fell and broke her hip. She is 80 and in declining health. She needs surgery. Puerto Rico was already in a precarious situation before the storm and things for my family and many others will only get worse. I originally started the fundraiser so I’d have something to send once I knew what help was needed. However, now this money will go to medical bills as well. My mother is going to Puerto Rico to help and figure out what we’ll do. I suspect that grandma will need to come over here for her care. Our town is without power; the hospital she’s in running on a generator.
So, let me tell you a little about my hometown:
Cabo Rojo translates to Red Cape, its name derived from the reddish color of Las Salinas; the salt flats. According to local legend, our town got its name from Cristóbal Colón (you know him as Christopher Columbus). Cabo Rojo is home to the Cabo Rojo Wildlife Refuge and Los Morrillos Lighthouse , known locally as El Faro, which was first lit in 1882.
Some famous Caborrojeños include:
Ramón Emeterio Betances (April 8, 1827 – September 16, 1898)
Doctor, surgeon, abolitionist, poet and diplomat, he was called El Padre de la Patria and El Padre de los Pobres. Along with these he was also considered the Father of the Puerto Rican Independence movement, because he was one of the instigators of El Grito de Lares, the first revolution against Spanish colonial rule.
Salvador Brau y Asencio (January 11, 1842 – November 5, 1912)
Brau y Asencio was a journalist, novelist and sociologist. He was named Commissioner for the Provincial Deputation so moved to Spain to investigate more about Puerto Rico’s history. It was there he uncovered several writings concerning the Taíno people, their way of life and how harshly they were treated by Spanish settlers. Eventually he would be named Puerto Rico’s official historian by American-appointed governor William Henry Hunt.
Rebekah Colberg (December 25, 1918 – July 8, 1995)
One of my favorite historical women, Dr. Colberg broke barriers and won gold in discus and javelin throwing at the 1938 Central American and Caribbean Games. In the games celebrated in 1946 she won gold in softball. While attending Columbia University, she was part of the school’s field hockey and lacrosse championship teams. For her contribution to sports she would eventually be considered the Mother of Women’s Sports in Puerto Rico.
Cabo Rojo boasts many beaches, including El Combate (The Battle) so named for a fight between Caborrojeños and the people from the neighboring town of Lajas. It was in that fight that Caborrojeños earned the nickname “mata con hacha” (kills with axes) because they wielded axes as weapons. Along with El Combate beach, there’s Buye, La Playuela and my favorite Boquerón, among many others.
This is just a bit of my town’s history. And I hope you enjoyed it and the pictures I shared. I love Puerto Rico and I love my hometown, which while I wasn’t born there, I will consider my hometown or ciudad natal, over NYC. (Though technically I’m a Nuyorican, a Diaspora Puerto Rican born in NYC.)
Sería Boricua aunque naciera en la luna. I’d be Boricua even if I had been born on the moon.