When you are a stranger in strange land, you hear things others don’t. Some sounds absorb you simply because you haven’t heard them before, like coqui frogs behind garden pots and the rhythmic shush of waves breaking. When you’re in a strange land, you are instinctively more alert to your surroundings. You may startle easily, and all you can do then is laugh at yourself and re-catch your breath.
Half of what I hear on the streets of Old San Juan I probably imagine. I hear tongues no longer spoken. I hear the foot-fall, merry-making, and quiet weeping of people who aren’t there: the grateful dead.
People of this enchanted island have had to work diligently, love passionately, and pray feverishly to survive the past five centuries. Tourism helps the territory’s economy, of course. Yet whether tourists come or don’t come, Puerto Rico’s 4 million inhabitants will continue to live, as they have always lived: ears to the ground, eyes on the horizon.