My trip to Puerto Rico as a student attorney in the University at Buffalo School of Law’s Puerto Rico Recovery Assistance Legal Clinic came to an end after 6 days. After the first part of our trip spent in San Juan, we transitioned to Mayagüez, where we spent the last two nights. This time in the “City of Pure Waters” was a pleasant switch from the bustling streets of Puerto Rico’s capitol.
We arrived late at night, but we were happy to see the beautiful view from our windows first thing in the morning. We saw the magnificent Caribbean Sea out in the distance and tropical greenery in our backyard. The streets were wide, the houses spread out, and the atmosphere calm. Driving around, we examined the beautiful homes in the neighborhood. Some were perched on protruding land formations or conveniently overlooking a valley. Some of us even were checking out houses for sale, imagining having a vacation home there. I think that everybody began to develop a soft spot for this city. It was truly remarkable.
While most of our time in San Juan was exclusively work-related, in Mayagüez we somehow managed to feel like guests. Most of our client interactions were in San Juan. But on the other side of the island, despite us having meetings at the University of Puerto Rico- Mayagüez about policy work that will lead to increased resilience which started early in the morning and went throughout the day, it was much more relaxed. We embraced the last full day in Puerto Rico. We met great people and had lovely conversations about how Puerto Rico could use collaborations with entities like our clinic to build a stronger future with people affiliated with INESI (National Institute of Energy and Sustainability Isleña). Although it was a short time together, by the time we reached the service-learning work in Mayagüez, our clinic team was very tight. We had a sit down where we shared jokes and even ghost stories.
Originally, we planned to go to Mayagüez first – but a Buffalo snowstorm imposed a one-day delay and required we switch the order or our locations. Although we did lose a day, I liked that we finished off our trip there. It gave me a great sense of peace and satisfaction. There was a connection that I developed with that place, unlike San Juan. It made me think, “If I ever return to Puerto Rico and don’t come back here, my trip wouldn’t be complete.” In other words, I received a sense of completion. It’s the little cherry on top that made me leave Puerto Rico with a smile.
I was the only one who admitted to missing the cold of Buffalo on our team. For me, winter should be cold. My body struggled to accept the change. We all had families and friends back home. I live in the peaceful countryside of Niagara County. So while we were in San Juan, I didn’t feel at home. There was the sense of longing to go back. I know that many love the buzz of the city, but it wasn’t for me. Though it may be rich in youthfulness and culture, I didn’t feel the personal connection to that city. I still appreciated San Juan for the city that it was.
Yet Mayagüez made me feel at home. It only took one day for me to come to that feeling, and if I was truly honest, maybe even just a couple of hours. Not many cities made me feel like that. Even previous cities that I visited that I considered “homey” had their shortcomings. Hong Kong was too busy, dense and loud. Bergen and Edinburgh weren’t great on food. Some Budapest locals left me a sour impression.
As I look back, no negative comes to mind concerning Mayagüez. Maybe I didn’t fully experience it or see it enough, but I rather keep it at that. It will forever leave a lasting impression on me. Yes, back home I am enjoying the cold. Although, I have this desire to go back. I am one who believes that when traveling to a place, you should experience it to the fullest and never plan to go back. I feel that there are so many places in the world that if you continue to return to the same place over and over again, you will miss out on the rest of the world. In all my previous travels, two places have me longing to go back: The Isle of Skye and Liechtenstein. Now to that list I will add Mayagüez.