Apr 082013

Old San Juan -2

Red Gate to Old San Juan

Huge stone walls of the Fort surround sun-soaked Old San Juan, a cobble stoned enclave of 16th & 17th century restored buildings.  A UNESCO World Heritage City, Old San Juan is home to several thousand Puerto Ricans and ex-pats.  It’s packed with gracious palaces and mansions, many now functioning as museums. I counted 13.

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El Convento, the aptly named former convent converted to a small very fine hotel, was home for a week. It sits kitty corner to Old San Juan Cathedral, where the body of Ponce de Leon lies entombed in the 16th church.  I lit a candle for my youth.

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Happy Hour is about to begin at El Convento, with a sunset view toward the Cathedral and beyond.

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View from the Fort to San Juan Bay.  A strategic port to the Americas, the Fort was built by the Spanish where they fiercely defended their interest in the New World for many centuries.

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Small cafes, shops, fine restaurants and a rainbow of charming houses make Old San Juan a walkers paradise. Through narrow blue cobble stoned streets, we enjoyed life at a leisurely pace. Sunny days of around 30C kept things fluid, as did the numerous small tucked away spots serving expertly mixed ice cold beverages,  many containing rum. Puerto Ricans also produce awesome coffee to keep you fueled and upright.

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The local theatre company takes set design to a new street side high.

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Old walls and new graphics make great partners.

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Locals take pride in their doorway presentations.  You can find posters and books of the celebrated doorways of Old San Juan.  It’s a photographers dream.  Yes, I am a doorway fan and we will be publishing another doorways book of Old San Juan.

Look for our doorways books at www.blurb.com. Titles are Doorways of Turkey and Norway’s Doorways.

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Toward the Cruise Ship dock from the Fort.  When cruise ship passengers hit the streets en mass, there’s great people watching. Passengers get off the boat for a short time and make haste to the souvenir shops and local attractions. Most cruisers reminded me of enormous kids on a field trip from a day care:   huge shorts, super white running shoes, baseball caps, all wearing the big cruise ship ID card on a string around their neck.   If this is future of tourism, it ain’t pretty.

Old San Juan Cobblestones-61

Late afternoon portrait with cobblestones.  My husband and intrepid travel companion Andrew Loen is most often the discerning eye behind the lens.




Apr 032013

Puerto Rico Museum of Art

Museum of Art Puerto Rico

For a city of about 400 thousand, San Juan has an impressive line up of museums and art galleries. First stop was the Puerto Rico Museum of Art. It proved to be a perfect introduction to fine arts of the region.

Roman Frade-Our Daily Bread, 1905

Pan Nuestro (Our Daily Bread) 1905 – Ramon Frade

There were numerous interpretations and appropriations of this powerful painting by Ramon Frade, Puerto Rico’s renowned painter and architect. Frade, and the painting, are icons of Puerto Rico. The piece informs the work of many artists, and their search and affirmation for a national identity.

The original piece is in the National Gallery in Old San Juan which I visited the following day. It keeps company there with hundreds of other masterworks of Puerto Rican art.

Victor Vazquez-Our Daily Bread, 1998

Our Daily Bread, 1998.  Victor Vazquez’ interpretation.  The hand painted silver gelatin print with wax (48 x 48″) again presents the human form with plantains, an important crop and staple food of the region.

Luis Hernandez-A Story of Passion. mixed media drawing

Four in a series of twelve mixed media drawings by Luis Hernandez titled A Story of Passion. Stretched along a hallway between galleries, they told an alluring story.  Each measured about 22 x 28″. I liked seeing this big abstract series with a strong visual narrative.

Puerto Rico has a long history of printmaking through government sponsorship. The results of this legacy were in abundant evidence in the Museum, with one room devoted to Lootings: An Anthology of Cultural Production.  This unique and quirky edition of 1000 handmade books by 52 artists and 24 authors was curated by Professor Dorian Lugo Bertran.  All profits from the sale of the books went to charity.

Pepin Osorio-No Crying in the Barbershop

No Crying in the Barbershop, 1994, Pepin Osorio.

This fantastic and celebratory installation speaks volumes about Puerto Rican culture and the values that inform many of its artists’ work.