Thursday, April 2, 2015

Puerto Rican Plazas--A Step Back in Time

Chain stores and restaurants are taking over Puerto Rico. There is literally a Walgreen's on almost every corner. Walmart, Costco, and Kmart can be found in just about every city. Plaza Las Americas in San Juan has the world's largest JCP and the highest grossing Macy's in the world. Fast food chains are everywhere even in the small towns. That sounds just like the US. What I have found different about Puerto Rico is that the old downtown areas in most cities and towns are still pretty lively even with the influx of chain stores and suburban shopping centers. 

As we travel around the island visiting apartments trying to fix problems and deliver needed supplies, we often miss the downtown areas. However, lately we've been trying to see more of the old parts of town. Some of the missionaries live in the suburbs, but some live in town. Every town has a town square with a big church. Most of the streets downtown are very narrow. Even in small towns, the traffic is always very congested. I find the juxtaposition of old narrow streets and historic buildings with so many modern cars rather interesting. Most of the streets are one way because they are so narrow and we often end up going the wrong way!

Here are some pictures of some downtown areas in Puerto Rico:

Juana Diaz is located in the south central part of Puerto Rico. Although the town has a lot of suburban areas and a giant Cooper Vision plant, the downtown has one of the prettiest plazas I have seen. 

A view of the cathedral and the plaza.

A beautifully shaped tree at the edge of the Juana Diaz plaza. Men were playing dominoes under the tree. When I took the picture of the tree, one of them started shouting "camera, camera" and everyone started laughing thinking I was taking a picture of them.

Juana Diaz is famous for the three kings. Every year on January 6 people of all ages come to town to celebrate Three Kings Day. The main event is a parade down Comercio Street to the town's plaza where a big altar is set up for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. The Eucharist begins with an act of the prophets announcing the coming of a messiah. The prophesies are followed by the sighting of three kings by the shepherds. The holy mass follows and at the end the three kings find and adore baby Jesus. 

Some pretty buildings across the street from the Juana Diaz plaza.

A plaza isn't complete without a fountain, is it? Many I've seen do not have water in them.

Another domino playing group under a large tree.

San German is the second oldest city in Puerto Rico after San Juan. It is located in the southwest corner of the island. We visited San German this week to take a new bed to an elder who has been sleeping on a bed with a completely smashed box spring. The elders said that every new missionary in that apartment has slept on the sagging broken bed. We visited last week to do inspections and saw the broken bed. No one had mentioned it before!

Porta Coeli is one of the oldest religious buildings in the western hemisphere. It was built in 1609. However, I was a little disappointed to find that the original building was demolished in 1874 and this building was built in the 1960s!. I think part of the original building still stands to the side of the church which now is a museum of religious artifacts.

The one and only Victorian style building I have seen in Puerto Rico. It's across the street from the old church. I don't know what it is used for.

John in front of the old part.

Chris locked up in the ruins.

Aibonito is one of my favorite mountain towns in the southeast part of the island. While Mom and Dad were here we visited an apartment in Aibonito to do an inspection.

Waiting on the streets of Aibonito while John drove the missionaries to their next appointment since we could not all fit in the car. 

Ponce is on the south central coast of Puerto Rico. Recently, I drove to Ponce by myself because I had to visit the water company there to resolve a problem we have with one of our water accounts. I was unable to get the problem solved after my two hour drive, but because the water company is located downtown, I decided to walk around a bit before I headed home. The buildings right next to the square are quite beautiful and are in nice condition. There are a lot of museums and other tourist-friendly areas. A block or two from the square, there are many abandoned buildings, a common sight here in Puerto Rico. 

This building looks like it is being renovated. I thought it was pretty. 
Ponce is famous for its Parque de Bombas, a historic firehouse that is now a museum.

The outside of the firehouse museum is painted red and black. 
The Ponce Cathedral at the top of the Ponce plaza. The first church was built here in 1670. This cathedral dates back to 1839. It was damaged in the 1918 earthquake, but the original building forms the core of this current structure which was reconstructed in the 1930s. 
Plaza Las Delicias in Ponce.The cathedral is in the center of this plaza.

The Ponce Lions. Lions are the city's symbol.

A muncipal building next to the plaza in Ponce

Another building across the street from the plaza in Ponce.

The Banco de Ponce Building built in 1924. The bank has now merged with Banco Popular.

Another downtown Ponce building.

A typical downtown street a block or two from the plaza. Many of the buildings appear to be abandoned as you get farther from the center of town

A beautiful home near the plaza.

Autoridad de Acueductos y Alcantarillados--the bane of my existence and my destination for this trip to Ponce. Most of the AAA offices are a bit more modern than this one. I waited in line only to be told that I couldn't change the account from commercial to residential without a permiso de uso stating that the apartment is a residential dwelling. The lease states it clearly and the permiso wasn't needed to set up the account. I just need it now to correct the error that AAA made. Meanwhile, we are being charged $350 month for water for two elders. 

Another interesting old building in downtown Ponce.
I think this is a muncipal building. The city building are usually the nicest in town.

One of the museums housed in a historic building. I will have to go back with John and visit some of the many Ponce museums. I had to get back for a dinner and who wants to go to a museum alone anyway?

A pretty door I walked by.

I liked this flowering tree. I have noticed lately that many trees have lost a lot of leaves. I didn't know that happened at all in this climate. Many, however, bloom year round.

Another museum. I think this one would be pretty interesting. 

Another historic building. Shutters in the window are characteristic of the architectural style of the old buildings here especially in Old San Juan. 

Another museum. 
 Old San Juan is one of my favorite places even though I think Puerto Rico is prettiest outside of the cities. I've posted a lot of pictures of Old San Juan before. Last Saturday, I joined two of the other senior couples to walk around the lower part of Old San Juan to look at some of the statues on Avenida de Constitucion while John was golfing. The are many statues in the area including life-size statues of US presidents who have a significance to Puerto Rico (very few Republicans). I didn't take any pictures of the president statues. There are also a lot of statues of Puerto Rican politicians.

This statue represents the country farmer who comes to town to sell his produce and is often disappointed.

Elder and Sister Lee in front of the farmer statue.

This building says School of Tropical Medicine. What is tropical medicine? Drink a pina colada and call me in the morning?

The capitol building in the distance and a rather pretty gazebo.

I have no idea what this symbolizes. I liked the mural thing in the back that shows the history of Puerto Rico.

The capitol building. I would like to go inside sometime. I also would like to visit La Forteleza, the governor's home, but I think you to need to make an appointment in advance and we haven't done that yet.

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