Liming in Puerto Rico with Liat

 Last year, I had the opportunity to go shopping in Puerto Rico, whoo hoo! Article and images below with a link to Zing Magazine where the story appeared this month.

 

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The Caribbean is often a mish-mash of culture, of peoples and of experiences, and our neighbour in the north, Puerto Rico, is no different; She shares her history with Spanish conquistadors, with Amerindian peoples and with African slaves almost equally, and yet her inextricable link to the United States is often her defining characteristic. 
In 1493 when Columbus made his second voyage to the Caribbean and Puerto Rico was one of the islands he claimed in the name of the Spanish crown. The Amerindian people he found there, the Taino, were enslaved and in the end nearly exterminated. But, as with many Caribbean people, the story of the original inhabitants of the island still lives on in the hearts and minds of many Puerto Ricans. 

Pigeon handler at Capella del Cristo- Old San Juan © Risée Chaderton 2011

Today this island is filled with modern sky-rises set against a backdrop of verdant tropical expression. From majestic mountain ranges and tropical forests in the centre of the island, to coral stone caves and wide expanses of sandy beaches along the coasts, Puerto Rico has a little of everything. 

The rich history of the island can be seen in Old San Juan in the blue cobblestoned streets and Spanish forts, and in the Taino petroglyphs that can be found in the mountains of El Yunque National Rainfrorest. Many people visit Puerto Rico for its rich and diverse history – but they are also tempted by its varied shopping options. 

Closer than Miami, and with excellent and affordable accommodation choices, it is an easy decision to take a quick flight to San Juan in order to shop until you drop at one of the many large malls. 

Plaza Las Americas is one of the largest malls in the region, and with shopping options ranging from Abercrombie and Fitch to Macy’s and Charlotte Russe, bumping into a Caribbean neighbour, arms loaded with shopping bags, isn’t such an usual thing. 

 

San José Church - Iglesia San José © Risée Chaderton 2011

Carolina Mall has a much smaller variety of stores but remains at the top of the heap for many bargain-hunting fashionistas. Savvy shoppers will be happy with the choices: high-fashion Mango with its designer line and sleek store; Best Buy and Radio Shack for the techies; Aldo for shoppers with a shoe fetish; American Eagle Outfitters for the rugged but stylish, and G by Guess. And if all that shopping works up an appetite, the variety of food is astounding, from Pizza Hut pizza to Japanese teriyaki chicken, my favourite stop was Strawberry farms, with its homemade cookies and chocolate-dipped everything. Bags, shoes, make-up, food and accessories can easily create a credit card crisis during a casual stroll through this mall! 

Once your shopping is complete, LIAT has partnered with Cargo Solutions International located in Barbados to help you get your purchases home without the hassle of overweight fees. They even help you make an informed choice between barrels or durable containers, depending on your budget, and offer a pick-up service from your hotel.

the wide expanse of Carolinas beach © Risée Chaderton 2011

 

If you want a hint of culture to spice up your shopping trip make your way to Old San Juan, where the architecture will take you back a hundred years, and the juxtaposition of Ralph Lauren and jalousied windows somehow makes perfect sense and where the best food is often found by abandoning your tour guide and following the locals. The best breakfast I had during my time in the city was in a tiny café where no one spoke English. Here I was served mouth-watering fresh orange juice, home made bread and coffee potent enough to impress any aficionado. 

James Larkins of The Parrot Club © Risée Chaderton 2011

 

The city is more than five hundred years old and its history as a military fortification is evident in every stone. The streets are paved with a unique blue brick that lends an air of artistry to the city. Its brilliant blue colour is a residue left by the iron baked into the clay. Many stories tell of the bricks being brought to Puerto Rico as ballast on the ships of the Spanish, but most Puerto Ricans disavow that tale, telling instead a more likely story of English foundries, iron kilns and a desire to maintain the historic value of a city as well as a little old-fashioned mystery. The city’s architectural integrity is maintained by strict town and country planning laws that restrict the type of new buildings that can be erected. This ensures that the city remains beautifully enshrined in its historically accurate mask even as the people evolve and flow through it like a tide. Old San Juan was founded in the early 15th Century as a military site used to defend the island from many who came after Columbus and tried to claim her.

The gates of Old San Juan © Risée Chaderton 2011

Even today most of the protective walls remain, and the main fort, Fort San Cristobal, rises like a sentinel in the East, silent and insurmountable. Monuments to Christopher Columbus are numerous on the island, despite the fact that many Puerto Ricans seem ambivalent or mildly irritated by the mention of the Genoese sailor.  James Larkins, a resident of Old San Juan, described the dichotomy this way: ‘Puerto Rico is a country of contrast and controversy. Many people are not very happy about Christopher Columbus,’ he shrugs, ‘but the statue is still there.’ In the shadow of that statue in Plaza De Cólon you will find local craftspeople selling jewellery made of sea shells, clay beads and bone, wooden mortar and pestles. It is one of the few places I visited where I was able to see indigenous art—in the shadow of Columbus. 

Gates of Old San Juan in the morning © Risée Chaderton 2011

Puerto Rico is historically rich, culturally vibrant and visually stunning, and it is certainly a shopping stop not to be missed.

 

Risée liming on the street in Old San Juan— I'm working, I swear!

No, that wasn’t funny, that was racist.

I received a FWD in my inbox today, I don’t often get forwards as I have my spam filters set to block them but somehow this one got through. It was titled “Funnies” and it was peppered with racist, anti-islamic and anti-immigrant humour, it wasn’t at all funny.

It was sent to me by someone who would never consider themselves racist, who would be horrified by such a charge and yet this is precisely how racism grows and is spread, we don’t think, and by not thinking we perpetuate stereotypes and feed racism . Here is a link to an excellent article on stereotyping and why we sometimes laugh at racist jokes and I have posted my response to the forwarded email below.

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“The Red Cross just knocked on my door and asked if we could contribute towards the floods in Pakistan. I said we’d love to, but our garden hose only reaches to the driveway”

I was devastated to find out my wife was having an affair but, by turning to religion, I was soon able to come to terms with the whole the thing.

I converted to Islam, and we’re stoning her in the morning!

Question – Are there too many immigrants in Britain ?
17% said yes;
11% said No;
72% said “I am not understanding the question please.”

“There’s a new Muslim clothing shop that opened in our shopping center, but  they threw me out after I asked if I could look at some of the bomber jackets.”—

Dear….,

This one in particular hurts, insert any of our Caribbean countries or people instead of Pakistan, it’s the same thing. I know you didn’t think too hard about these “jokes” but I was deeply upset when I saw them. Dehumanising people who are not like us through popular “jokes” are the actions that make it easy to act in racist ways, these types of actions, when directed at black people- President Obama as a witch doctor or as a dreadlocked, weed smoking drug dealer- offend us greatly and with justification, we cannot stand by and do the same thing to Indians and Muslims.

When I visited England to stay with my ex’s parents this was precisely the kind of thing his family found funny and I was told racist things like this on more than one occasion. Regarding immigrants in England I was told “this is a white country you know” all this said while I held my little brown half-English baby in my arms.

We cringe (or at least I cringe) when I hear of Iraqi civillians dead from the war, mothers, children, sisters, brothers, babies I cringe because I see my own family in their faces, they are human, with human wants, human needs and human loves, when we help spread the belief that Muslims and Pakistanis are not human, that they “sell bomber jackets” implying that they are all terrorists, or that the way to “help” flood victims in Pakistan would be to add water presumably so more Pakistanis can die we reduce their humanity and make it easier to accept the atrocities committed against them.

These are the same tactics used against black people in the early twentieth Century and still in play today, all the mockery, the coonery, the “humour” about black pickanninies stealing chicken and eating watermelon, the blackface, the “jokes” about black people living on welfare, or having multiple babies by multiple fathers, about our women being overly sexual-a charge often still leveled at young black victims of sexual assault in the media and in popular culture- all of that desensitised a nation so that when pregnant Mary Turner was strung from a tree by her ankles, burned and disemboweled and her foetus stomped on no one was prosecuted, no one was charged, few people even remember and even fewer care.

“Snow White and de Sebben Dwarves” featuring the over sexualisation of black women and the Mammy caricature, it also portrays us as stupid, uneducated and more interested in money, sex and bling than in self improvement…sound familiar?

I took the time to write all this because I love you, because this hurts, because I can see some unthinking person saying these things about my brown, vaguely Arab/Muslim-looking child and mostly because it matters that we brown people not fall into the traps set for us by white supremacist culture.

Here are some “jokes” about us from around the web, I don’t find them funny and essentially they are the same thing.
BLACK:
1.Q:why are black peoples nostrils so big?
A:because thats what GOD held them by when he was painting them.
2.Q:what do you get when you search for the word baboon from the dictionary?
A:a picture of Robert Mugabe.
3.Q: What is black, purple,and yellow?
A: A black person goin to church.

4.Q: What do you call a black guy who goes to college?
A: A Basketball player.

5.Q: What does it mean when you see a bunch of blacks running in one direction?
A: Jail break

6.Q: Why do black men have bigger manlinesses than white men?
A: Because as kids white men had toys to play with

7.Q: What does FUBU really stand for?
A: Farmers used to buy us.

8.Q: Did you hear about the black who died yesterday on Rt. 80?
A: He stuck his head out of the window at 100 mph and his lips beat him to death!

9.Q: What do you call 400 black people swiming in a river?
A: An oil spill

http://www.authentichistory.com/diversity/african/3-coon/5-chickwatermelon/index.html  A really good link about racism in popular culture. I’ve also attached some images that were considered both amusing and appropriate when they were released.
love…
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The Christmas Sparrow

I woke this morning to the sight of an origami bird perched on a silver wrapping paper lake. The lights twinkled from the tree above reflected in silver and white on my present. The cool pre-dawn breeze was perfect and a hungry mosquito swiftly meets her demise as I interrupt her breakfast with a slap. The sky glows with streaks of pink and vermillion as the sun breeches the horizon and promises a crisp, clear hot Christmas Day.

The wrapping is far from perfect—his formidable skills lie elsewhere— the tape is askew in places and the paper bulges; the origami bird, however, is perfect. It sits, taped to the upper corner of my present like a tiny sparrow ready to alight on my hand if I let it and on the opposite corner he has carefully written my name. I have never seen my name in calligraphy before and I smile.  

I wasn’t expecting a present, but now there it sits lovingly looking at me from under the tree. I don’t want to open it, he has taken so much care with it, the bird, the calligraphy, the wrapping paper. The wings of my bird beckon and they read “Open Me” and so, like Alice, I do. I carefully smooth each fold and read what he has written inside, tears well in my eyes; I don’t need to know what is in the silver box.

This is Christmas and it has been wonderful.

Peace, love and joy to you.

Stealth Sharia Butterball Turkey

I was washing the dishes, minding my own business when I was presented with this video.

I sputtered and burst out in hysterical fits of laughter, tears, belly laugh… wait, what is this you say— this is not a Saturday Night Live sketch? Seth Meyers wasn’t going to come on and play the straight guy to the madness I was seeing? What is that you say? This was THE NEWS! Yes folks, Americans are being told to fear the great Muslim conspiracy… Sharia Turkey. I just want you guys to know that I am having difficulty typing this without fits of the giggles. Thankfully Muslims don’t seem to be taking this ignorant, bigoted claptrap seriously. Here is a hilarious takedown of  blogger Pamela Geller, from whom the Halal Butterball Stealth Sharia Turkey originated. I’d say she was insane, but I am not a psychiatrist, and so must refrain from making clinical judgements. Still, I can confirm that she is both bigoted and clearly willfully ignorant, based solely on the statements she makes publicly.

Geller states in her article, “Did you know that the turkey you’re going to enjoy on Thanksgiving Day this Thursday is probably halal? If it’s a Butterball turkey, then it certainly is…”  I’m not so sure about that, but why stop there? Geller goes on to call halal meat, “[…] meat slaughtered by means of a torturous method: Islamic slaughter.” Does she count the method that is used for kosher meat as “tortuous” or does it only become PETA-petition-worthy when Muslims are involved?  I like halal chicken, I am a bit of a girly-girl in the kitchen and I like to pretend that my meat was never actually attached to a living creature, I dislike seeing blood on or near my food, ick….bring on the halal chicken, turkey too if you have it!

Talking Points Memo also takes on Geller’s claims and I eagerly await their report on the “Communist infiltration of the turducken

Jihadist-Turkey.

Stealth-Sharia-Butterball-Turkey

Wanda, Wanda, Wanda

I wrote yesterday about Tomiko Fraser’s hair in the new Gain Fabric Softener commercial and while I was googling the other star of the commercial, Wanda Sykes, I came across these fabulous photographs of Sykes and her wife Alex.  Wanda’s hair looks fantastic and wifey’s tux would look great in my closet.

Alex gave birth to the couple’s twins in April and is looking fabulous.

Of fabric softener and kinky hair

For a few days now a Gain fabric softener commercial has been catching my eye, the ad features model/actress Tomiko Fraser with Wanda Sykes doing a delightful voiceover but the star of the ad is neither Sykes nor Fraser herself, but it is Fraser’s fabulous TWA, teeny weeny afro. It is rare to see natural hair on American television and even more rare for that hair to be tightly kinked on a dark skinned woman.

Photo credit: D'André Michael

I can’t help but have mad love for both the ad agency who conceptualised this and for Tomiko Fraser who made it look so very good.  Fraser has been sporting her natural hair for a while now and speaks candidly and publicly of her journey. I am really happy to see natural hair embraced in this way and I look forward to more black models with kinky hair gracing my TV screen and magazines in the future.

Here are some pics from her public Facebook page so you guys can see that she looks like a regular (gorgeous) woman and that her ‘fro looks fabulous even when not photographed by a pro.

Edit: Visit Gain’s Facebook page to tell them you love seeing kinky natural hair in a mainstream ad, maybe with enough positive feedback we can encourage more people to love the nap.