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Photo EssaysPhotographyPuerto Rico

The Graffiti of Río Piedras – San Juan, Puerto Rico

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Río Piedras is a neighborhood in San Juan, Puerto Rico known for its graffiti. It’s not popular with tourists because it doesn’t have the reputation as being particularly safe. It is more inland, which means further away from beaches, fancy hotels, and Old San Juan which tourists tend to prefer. Which is why I felt more relaxed here. I really can’t stand tourist areas.

It was raining and quiet on a sunday in June. The streets were empty except for a few people. Shops were closed. Somehow this made the graffiti speak louder, scream actually.

graffiti of aliens, beautiful birds, lizards, exotic creatures

graffiti of beautiful intricate golden bird

empty street in black and white while raining

Fever Ray – Keep the Streets Empty for Me

graffiti that says gringo go home

My personal favorite – Gringo Go Home
more graffiti

graffiti, fujifilm, black and white, photography

rooster, gaino, photography, rio piedras, puerto rico, san juan

graffiti, photography, fujifilm, puerto rico, san juan

There are a lot of students here. Students all around the world tend to be the ones to spark protest and action. The graffiti stands as a protest without violence, without active police beatings and tear gas. It lasts for a long time. It says we are active and don’t like how things have become. We will not be silent. Plus, we like roosters. 🙂

 

PlacesPuerto Rico

Old San Juan – Higher Powers

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In the middle of Old San Juan, on Sunday, after arriving at 6am without sleep on an overnight flight, I was still going strong with coffee and more coffee through midday. I wandered by this church, which was completely open and mass was just starting. The church was beautiful, so I just took a few photos by the doorway and didn’t wander inside to respect the mass. I liked this one because of the significance it tells me of the moment. There was something peaceful and special about it. Man and his God.

PlacesPuerto Rico

Old San Juan – Puerto Rico

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In Old San Juan, the flag of Puerto Rico is everywhere, in all forms. Even painted on a knocked down tree stump. You can’t do anything but admire this country and their communities. I wish the island had never been destroyed the way it was, and I’m not only talking about Maria and previous natural disasters. I’m going way back and then not so far back. I’m talking about the Spanish destroying the Tainos, and then the United States invading and reining with total and unbelievable destruction and abuse. Just google it. Or read The Intercept, or independent newspapers.

Most people in my culture (from the USA/New England) only think of Puerto Rico as a convenient vacation spot, an island paradise where they can go easily and have a caribbean fantasy. Where businesses can get tax breaks. So many people ask me, “Oh, are they US citizens?” or “Oh, PR, where is that?” or “Oh, PR, are they a state?”. This is maddening. They do not even begin to comprehend the history that their own country and culture has with this island. You won’t find this is any mainstream media, but the island’s residents know it and so do independent and alternative non-mainstream-usa news sources. Just to start, the invasion by the US military right when they were going to get independence from Spain, undercutting the economy and chopping their currency making it worthless, abuse by Wall-Street, giving them an illegal debt to pay that isn’t theirs, the horrible Jones Act, the Junta, U.S. Navy bombing and chemical test practice that contaminated the environment, experimenting and forced sterilization of women using government funds, using puerto rican women as guinea pigs for the first birth control pill testing (using government funds), etc, etc, etc…  That’s right, citizens of the United States, we paid for all of that.

Puerto RicoThoughtsTravel

Libertad Para Los Gatos!

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Los gatos en Puerto Rico son preciosos! As someone who comes from a culture where we lock up our animals all day and leash them to allow them outside for a mere few minutes compared to the time they spend indoors, I love the way most cats and dogs are free in Puerto Rico. Not just Puerto Rico, but many many cultures. Yes, there is the debate for public health, but this is really just laziness and the community not wanting to care for these animals. My thoughts. Let’s remember that we are the ones that made the world unsanitary with our whole civilization thing. We are the ones who introduced garbage and disease to nature. We are the problem and the invasion, not the cats. Just sayin 🙂

There is a strong community in San Juan that cares for these animals. This is what they need, not a prison. How would you like to be locked up all day inside when your instincts are telling you to run, hunt, and play with others? No, instead you become depressed on the couch, kinda just like your owner after he/she comes home from work…and how would you like the only time you get to be outside to have a noose around your neck and someone constantly tugging on it? I would certainly not like that.

These cats/los gatos are so friendly! They will come up and say hi, they are curious about you, and are even happier if you respond and engage with them or even feed them (probably what they are looking for). I saw this one playing with an Iguana, who couldn’t be bothered and probably wanted to just take a nap and then climbed up a tree to rid himself/herself of the nuisance. The cat was so free and happy, it was such a stunning sight.

Dogs, the same! Yes, there are some that die, but that’s the circle of life. There are more than die because of our hand in things, in messing with nature, than those that die of natural causes.

CaliforniaPlacesTravelUSA

Surfing California’s Coastal Pacific

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Hola, Bienvenidos a X Here X There y a Californie! My American patriots, excuse me, I have Spanish and French on the mind 🙂 I am learning these so I do not sound like an idiot when I go to Spain and France. I will probably still sound like an idiot, but less so than if I knew nothing 🙂

If I could sum up California in one photo, it would be this one. I know this leaves my others to risk of secondary placement if I want to tell a story of place, but’s that’s fine. This is it. The quintessential California shot of the surfer on the path to the beach, the path cracked and dry like so much of the landscape in the summer. This was early in the evening on the PCH, and on the way to San Francisco. It was magical as the sun had peeked out through the cloud cover that was there for most of the day to shine on that very path, and that very surfer. Beautiful, no?

CaliforniaTravel

Foggy Days on the PCH

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There is something very romantic about fog, perhaps it’s the mystery, the unknown. Too much of it though can wear easily. The entire time driving up the PCH from LA to SF, it was covered in fog.

This photo is from the “Big Sur” section of the PCH and specifically in the Julia Pfiffer State Park. Boy, was it beautiful!! We had slept in the car the night before because there was no cheap place to stay on the way. It was actually really awesome, we stopped at this small resort hotel that was wayy too expensive for us, but they had this little trinket market shop next to it where we purchased some water, beer, and ramen. They had a microwave where they let us cook everything. Once we had our very healthy dinner, we pick-nicked in the car in the hotel parking lot, raised a bottle to a fabulous road-trip so far, and curled up in our sleeping bags. Early the next morning found us driving through this place, where we stopped and checked out one of the most famous views on the PCH. It was stunning and it was just us.

 

CaliforniaPlacesUSA

Observing the Observatory

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Observing the Observatory. This is the edge of one of the corners of the Griffith Observatory in L.A. You can see the entire skyline from here, it is quite a staggering view. I had actually posted the view from there here. The Observatory itself is a cool subject. It holds an amazing telescope that you can walk up and see, for free!

I love this angle of the Observatory because it seems like the world drops off at the edge when in reality it’s only 50ft down to the hill. Just another example of how photography doesn’t show us all the reality, just a hint of it, just a moment, just a crop of life. 🙂

CaliforniaUSA

Cat Napping Overnight in Yosemite

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Yosemite – a place of giants 🙂 I had to get myself back to Vegas from San Francisco all in less than 24 hours and it was about a 11 drive with no stops. Crazy right?! The things you resort to after about 8 hours to entertain yourself, I’m glad I was alone. The scenery helped. I chose to take the route through Yosemite and down the desert of Nevada. It was brilliantly beautiful and f***ing hot! The max was 115 degrees and I’m very glad the car held through. Because NO ONE was out there.

I started driving back from SF later in the afternoon and didn’t make it into Yosemite until after dark. I saw nothing because it’s Yosemite and completely dark, there was no moonlight either, it was a new moon. So I was getting tired and had already pulled over at a small motel to take a nap. It was about 2/3 in the morning. I was driving up and up and up and then saw a pulloff, which I took full advantage of and settled in to sleep. Not the most comfortable night, but when the light in the morning woke me up, I was astounded. I had unknowingly parked next to one of the most beautiful views I had ever seen, with the most beautiful sunrise coming along. I was surrounded by mountains, tall pines, and a view of the downhill that was spectacular. It was such a precious moment.

So I started driving again and just couldn’t close my mouth, I think “wow” came out at a rate of 100 times per minute. I couldn’t stop too long or I would miss my flight waiting for me in Vegas, but I made a few and snapped this photo. It was so peaceful. I only ran into one couple who had stopped in the same spot as me. This was also 5/6 in the morning and the tourists hadn’t started packing in yet.

EcuadorPlacesThoughts

In with the New in Ecuador

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In Baños de Agua Santa in Ecuador, there’s a school in the middle of town and everyone gets out in the early afternoon for lunch and a break, like what we would call a “siesta”. What a beautiful thing. We need to work on this, and I’m talkin to you, USA. Sigh…

Not in Baños, but in another place, I did a lot of driving and saw a lot of times during the day where school was let out, whether for the lunch/afternoon break or later. I saw really young kids, walking along the side of the road (where there are no sidewalks), by themselves, holding hands, staying together, but no adults. I was impressed. They were very independent. These kids looked to be five years or six years old. I also saw older kids walking younger kids, no adults. I never saw any fighting between them. On that same note, I never saw a child in Ecuador being disrespectful to her or his parents or throwing a hissy fit, and I saw A LOT of kids. This was also impressive. I was there for two weeks and traveled all the way from North to South of the country. Compared to New England, everywhere I go, everywhere I see kids, there’s ALWAYS someone not being nice, back talking their parents, crying because they didn’t get a toy, fighting etc. I saw NONE of this anywhere in Ecuador, to the point that I noticed it, and it felt so weird, but in the best way possible. Even in the malls where I got some provisions. Nada!

EcuadorPlaces

Baños de Agua Santa – Owning a Mountain

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If I had $500,000, I could own a mountain right now in Ecuador. When Rigoberto offered me his mountain, I almost said yes, and we’ll work out the details later. It was the most beautiful mountain. High above the town of Baños de Agua Santa, yet only a 10 minute drive up. Surrounded by clouds, waterfalls, farms, cows, green, mist, and other mountains of course. I think he wanted to retire. You see, he owned one of the best hosterías/hotels/hostals/B&Bs I’ve ever stayed in.

I would go back and live there if I could afford it. But it’s a lot of work. Him and his wife, Mercedes, run the hotel together and they know a thing or two about service and hoteling. They offered me an amazing herbal tea upon arrival when I was so tired from driving. They upgraded me to their best suite because I was the only one staying there, and I had only booked the treehouse. It was the honeymoon suite and you should see the bathtub! I’ve never experienced this in all the places I’ve paid more to stay in the United States. In the US, you pay double to stay in a shitty motel and deal with whatever grumpy desk clerk is there. And you most certainly do not get freshly made, organic, delicious hot tea. Capitalism…

I am going to have to write a long-form post on this place, just this place. Then one more on Baños. I left a piece of my heart in this mountain and I’m grateful that I was able to go there, and that Rigoberto and Mercedes tolerated my americantourist-nonspanishspeaking-self. Even if their business depends on travelers like me or other traveling Ecuadorians, some of us Americans can be downright ignorant and intolerable.

Anyways, this is about photography right? – this photo was standing at the front door looking out at the side of the mountain. The clouds at the top of the frame are hiding the rest of the mountain, no it doesn’t even stop there, we’re talking a volcano, think higher… Those plastic coverings are farms and they run up the mountain. Yeah, you thought farming was rough in the US, try vertical farming, on a mountain, in high altitudes. These people are really tough.

Ecuador

Cotopaxi – a rare sighting!

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Everyone, say hello to Cotopaxi, an active volcano in Ecuador located just south of Quito. Cotopaxi enjoys spending its days surrounded by clouds, being climbed by hikers and bikers alike, and posing for photos. It is the second highest summit in Ecuador and stands at an elevation of approx. 20,000ft. Hi Cotopaxi!

Charming, really. This is one volcano that likes to keep a shroud of mystery about it. The day I arrived was the first day in weeks (the inn-owner said) it had been clear to see Cotopaxi. The days following were also dreary and gray and the massive peak was not visible. Suffice it to say, I was really really lucky to grab this shot. I only stayed for the one night. Then it was off to somewhere else. However, the glimpse of this volcano was something magical. Ecuador, with it’s elevation changes and volcanos and well basically everything is beautiful, is a completely different landscape and is SO big, it’s engulfing. You can’t help but feel so small and as if you could just be swallowed by the scale of things there.

I stayed at the Rondador Cotopaxi hostel/inn/hotel. It’s right off the main highway and on the road leading into to one of the entrances to Cotopaxi. I was the only one there! The owners, Jenny and her husband were so nice, and the food they made was incredible. I quickly became obsessed with a soup called locro de papas, a popular potato soup in Ecuador. All the food in Ecuador was incredible actually. Everything was fresh and homemade and in most cases, made by the owners. You could most definitely taste the difference. Also, everyone has fireplaces, and most importantly, they use them! They are not gas, real wood fireplaces, real wood fires. I could live there if I didn’t feel like an invader in the country.