VCFA MFA in Writing Residency in Puerto Rico -- 4th Entry
El 7 y 8 de Enero, 2011 – January 7 & 8, 2011
San Juan and El Yunque, Puerto Rico
It’s interesting to be writing this without knowing if any one will see it! I’m sitting on the balcony of my room at the Casa Cubuy Eco Lodge in the middle of El Yunque, Puerto Rico’s rainforest. I’m typing to a full orchestra of coqui song, accompanied by the roar of nearby waterfalls. Seriously, the view is awe-inspiring, unbelievably lush and green, peppered with splashes of brightly colored impatiens, grapefruit trees, and red ginger plants. Beautiful, yes. Wifi friendly? No. Seems the erratic cloud cover brings the satellite in and out. But no matter. Who needs internet access in paradise?
But I digress. I haven’t yet told you about yesterday! And what a day it was. Once again it began with workshops, followed by a wonderful lecture from graduating student Karmen Lizzul entitled “The Female Hero’s Journey: Mythic Structure in Regards to the Female Protagonist in Classic and Modern Literary Works.” We perched across Tere’s glamorous furniture and were rapt (even with the occasional growl of the tourist buses that passed by on their way to the fort).
Then we made our way up Calle San Sebastian to El Museo de la Raíz Africana (Museum of our African Roots). We had a fascinating tour through the exhibits of tribal masks, religious symbolism, art and music, all part of this important part of Puerto Rican heritage. Once again we were struck by how beautifully this visit tied in with all our earlier conversations and lectures about race and Puerto Rican identity.
After lunch, we returned to Tere’s house and faculty member Laurie Alberts gave an invigorating lecture on travel writing, including a writing exercise where we were each assigned a particular style of common travel voice (I had been hoping for Gonzo but was happy to write in the Search for Self travel writing voice). Then we enjoyed a reading from faculty member Rigoberto Gonzalez and graduating student Jennifer Koski. Both were just wonderful.
Then we headed across the old city to meet with author and journalist Hector Feliciano. He and his wife graciously opened their gorgeous home to us and we sat in the open air sitting room with the mango tree branches waving behind our heads. He told us about the 8 years of research and writing he did for his non-fiction book: The Lost Museum: The Nazi Conspiracy to Steal the World's Greatest Works of Art. I couldn’t help but wonder what it must feel like to know that 2,000 works of art were recovered due to your research and book? And to remain so humble and warm at the same time… Hector then led us to the house’s rooftop terrace where we enjoyed hors d’oevres, fresh tropical fruit juice, and the view of the sun setting over the harbor while Hector read from the book. The day really could not have been fuller or more fulfilling.
We spent this morning traveling east along the northern coast, the wild Puerto Rican traffic buzzing around us. We knew when our mini vans slowly snaked up and up along the narrow mountain roads that we were in for something spectacular. We entered Casa Cubuy and took in the expanse of rainforest above and below us with a group sharp intake of breath. Then we made our way down the muddy path that led directly from the hotel to the breathtaking (a cliché, I know, but when the shoe fits!) waterfall below. Many of us swam in the cool, clean water while others sat on the rocks, sunning like lagartijas (lizards).
Tomorrow brings with it a 6 hour hike through the rainforest with an experienced guide. I can only imagine the beautiful writing that will come from that experience…