Local Culture

la-cambija-300x225One of the things we appreciate most about living for three months in Puerto Rico is the opportunity to immerse ourselves in local culture. Friends who have visited Jamaica and the Dominican Republic report the wonderful food and services provided behind the fences of their all-inclusives. Guests at these resorts are discouraged from mixing with locals, with the threat of harm to body or possessions implied. The west coast of Puerto Rico offers numerous opportunities to mix with locals, an overwhelmingly kind and generous people.  One of our favorite things to do is to find small eating place, where the vast majority of patrons are Rinconians. One of these, La Cambija, offers reasonably priced, very tasty Puerto Rican food. For years, we frequented a local place called the Shipwreck, only to spend a good deal of money on mediocre food in the company of other snowbirds, plus a group of young surfers whose interest in us was minimal. It’s not that I have a problem with places like the latter; but, isn’t it more fun to do something that isn’t packaged, and experience people who are different from those one meets on Main Street USA? How do you feel about this . . . are you an explorer; or, is it Disney all the way for you?

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8 Comments on “Local Culture

  1. I really enjoy Shipwreck and I am partial to their Fish Tacos! That being said, there is something magical about a neighborhood outdoor restaurant, serving great food to locals and visitors alike. I really like the heterogeneous feel, rather than the homogenous atmosphere in restaurants that cater to visitors only.

  2. You rubbed off on me more that I realized, Dr. Okrant! My travels in the last 17 years have involved exploring new places from a local perspective and immersing myself in local culture as much as possible. One of my most memorable trips was 3 months spent in Hawai’i housesitting. I met local people, a few of whom have become close friends, who took me to places tourists never find out about: a cave underneath a small off-shore island that we needed to swim into locals call “The Blue Room”, a little shop that makes the best malasadas which were first created on the Madeira Islands, and time spend “talking story” on tucked-away beaches.

    It’s interesting to hear of your experience in Puerto Rico. A large percentage of my students are from Puerto Rico so I have always sought out places that offer variety to my life, but I may have to reconsider!!

    • I’m so happy to learn that you are both a traveler and an educator, Anny. Of course, anything you accomplish won’t surprise me. I won’t criticize people for their leisure styles. However, people who are wiling to open their minds to cultural and environmental differences not only have amazing experiences, but make a difference in the lives of people they encounter. And Marla, while we have been together, our appreciation of others has enriched our lives immeasurably.

      • Oh, thank you for the kind sentiment. And I agree wholeheartedly about people willing to embrace perceived differences in others by taking a dive deeper into an unfamiliar culture to discover the connections we can make, opening our eyes to new experiences and ways of life. The stories and experiences that can be shared with others from that space contain life lessons with a much more rich texture as opposed to a tour bus drive-by experience, although I too would never judge how people decide to spend their leisure.

        • I wish we could get people from the touring companies to wade in on this discussion. I’m certain that safety and security are key motivators for doing things the way they do. However, I’d love to see them broaden their thinking.

  3. We have friends who visit Mexico every year even amidst the talk of gun fire, etc. On their first visit, they made good friends with the Taxi driver who drove them to their resort! While they stayed in a lavish resort, their new friend introduced them to the “good” Mexico, even inviting them to his home. Now, when they go each year, they have a close friend to trust and fun times to share!

    • This is a terrific example of what can be good about tourism, Dot. At its best, tourism provides a medium through which people of different cultures mix comfortably. The result is two-fold: a new friend (perhaps lifelong) as well as understanding/respect for the other person’s way of life. Louis D’Amore contends that this is the way we promote world peace through tourism. Then, there is the alternative, a bunch of people in a tour bus, sitting in air conditioned comfort, pointing their cameras at local people participating in subsistence activity. The latter exacerbates the feeling about ugly Americans, and does nothing for the cause of mutual understanding.

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