Imelda’s Reflection: Memorable Boat Tour Experience in Rincón

Imelda’s Reflection: Memorable Boat Tour Experience in Rincón

I remember waking up unusually early on Thursday morning after having a long but fantastic day in San Juan. We drove from San Juan to Rincón, ate late dinner with the practicum team, and followed by the after-hour agenda…. socializing and listening to how everyone’s day was…

I walked towards the ocean barefoot to explore while looking for an inspiration for blogging. I was distracted by the beautiful ocean scenery as the sun slowly made an appearance. For once, I saw not too massive collection of birds float across the sky…flocking. It was wonderful! People, the hotel guests, employees, carpenters who were fixing the house next to the hotel, pool cleaning service started to show up and ready to begin their day. ¡Buenos Dias, señora! ¡Hola! ¿como estás? Is what I heard along the way. I smiled, almost stumbled because I was looking at them and trying to greet them back. To me, that morning vibe represented the spirit of being resilient. Not wanting to waste any more time, I pulled out my camera and tripod and started to videotape from different angles. The cleaning gentleman by the pool was smiling. He probably knew how excited and appreciative I was visiting their beautiful town of Rincón…

The time has finally come for us to leave for the boat trip. I could sense the excitement from my colleagues. Everyone seemed to have their cameras and phones ready, fully charged. With comfortable clothes, towels, sunscreen, and sunnies…I think the squad was ready to roll…then Chapa (the unofficial mayor of Rincón) arrived, shook our hands and started to quickly brief us.

Rincón coastline was one among several that was severely damaged. Lucky that we were able to see the sand because, during a certain time, the south wind would create choppy waves and erode the sand along the shoreline. “Everything that the swells from the trade winds brought in (sand), the south wind took away…We called it the devil’s wind…,” explained Joe, the boat captain. Him and with the assistance from Miguel Canales from CariCOOS have been assessing the dynamics of the coastline and the physical attributes using pressure gauges and regular monitoring by boat. Joe has been living in Rincón for a long time he knows his area and how deep the drop is when we are a mile offshore. Picking on local knowledge, I constantly reminded myself...

Assessing the impacts from Maria from the boat was a memorable experience. We were proceeding slowly and witnessing the physical damages that must be unbearable for the business owners and homeowners, but we also saw small businesses started to pop up again. Chapa mentioned the fishing shack was back in operational mode, providing fresh fish to local businesses and communities. Starting a new normal…I let my thoughts wandered from the day Maria hit to those days after Maria where everything was still in chaos, and a few weeks after Maria where supports flowed in, and a few months after Maria where the rebuilding mode began…and...present day. I was impressed by how everything was running in this town.  

It was a hot sunny day, and as we were all listening and paying attention to what these experts had to say, we also couldn’t wait to jump off the boat and feel the water…

Joe added, “the influx of tourism here is amazing! Bars and restaurants are usually packed, and even my guest house. There’s definitely a direct impact.” Joe also mentioned how wonderful the work that surf riders have done in order to keep the beach clean. Their enthusiasm was incredible, however, there was always frustration when attempting to get resources from municipalities…He said the government got caught up in red tape every single time.

I was under the impression that these people and Chapa, despite the disadvantage that they had as one of those municipalities that sometimes being left out or getting disproportionate shared, still have that spirit and put together enormous efforts to build back Rincón. It is truly a very grassroots community, and post-Maria people would come together and find the solution for debris removal. We are using Rincón as our case study and we were continuously picking their brains, those who know and might know what the solution be to address coastal-related problems. I quoted Chapa, “We first need to remove sand from the buildings, then beach nourishment project and artificial reefs to protect the shore and bring the sand back! Mayor has to get involved and it is our responsibility to do something because we want Rincón to be good and we want to bring its natural attraction.”

Overall, it was a fantastic session with Chapa. We finally jumped off the boat and snorkeled. Being underwater and witnessing the beauty of Puerto Rico ocean was a great way to achieve an inner peace and also enrich my experience. When we were back on shore, the beach was already filled in with locals. It's only Thursday but it felt like weekend. I guess this is another similarity that we shared with Puerto Rico; as an island, beaching seems to be an essential activity and part of the routine...We headed back to rinse off and returned the snorkel gears, but I realized after halfway walking back barefoot, I should have picked up one of those succulent homemade paleta

Yes, the popsicle! 

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