13 Surprising Facts About Ricky Martin’s Puerto Rico You Won’t Believe Are True – Caribbean Islands 2
Port of San Juan, Puerto Rico
A multi-purpose port, it handles dry and liquid bulk, Ro-Ro, containers and cruise. This port overs 3 areas of San Juan harbor – Puerta de Tiera, Isla Grande and Puerto Nuevo. It is composed of 16 piers, 8 of which are used for passenger ships and the rest for cargo. Port of San Juan is one of the busiest in the Caribbean and Latin America and is located along San Antonio Canal, a narrow navigable section of San Juan Bay.
San Juan is the most enticing port in the Caribbean wherein it vibrates to a lively salsa beat. In pre-pandemic times, more than a million passengers sail in or out of the Port of San Juan yearly. And for centuries, it was a key harbor in the New World and considered a “rich port” (puerto rico) due to its position as a fine port of call for shipping.
An Overview On Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico‘s exuberance is derived from more than 500 years of rich history and the blending of various cultures. It has been inhabited first by Taino Indians before the Spanish arrival and were governed by Agueybana which called the island “Borinquen”, meaning “land of the valiant Lord”. Christopher Columbus arrived in 1493 which ended the Taino settlement. He named the island “San Juan Bautista” (St. John The Baptist) but later on the Spaniards changed it to Puerto Rico (rich port) due to the presence of gold in its rivers. The capital town would later take the name of San Juan.
Under the Spanish regime, Puerto Rico developed into a burgeoning agricultural island. Sugar cane, coffee and tobacco were among its major exports and because of the increasing demand in its products, Spain brought in African slaves to the island. It became an important military outpost as well and was attacked by the Dutch, French and English in a series of failed attempts. In the late 1800s, the desire for independence from Spain sparked in the island which led the Spanish crown to grant autonomy the Puerto Ricans. But the “freedom” did not last long because after the Spanish-American War ended in 1898, Puerto Rico, together with Guam and the Philippines were ceded to the United States under the Treaty of Paris. Puerto Rico has maintained its provincial status up to this day and its official name is Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico (Free Commonwealth of Puerto Rico).
I joined the tanker, IVS Leopard Moon at the Port of San Juan in Puerto Rico on November 2014 where we stayed at the island for 4 days then chartered by Hess Oil (my 2nd time though Leopard Moon is another company, owned by Island View Shipping, Singapore). A “la isla del encanto” with a year-round sunshine and 270 miles of beaches, this is a place that attracts visitors from far and wide. Home of the salsa and reggae, this island takes pride in its rich culture- passionate and vibrant. Let’s dig deep on 13 surprising facts about Ricky Martin’s Puerto Rico you won’t believe are true.
1. It is NOT a country, though it ACTS like one.
Due to its strong cultural identity, you might think Puerto Rico is a country, but no it’s not, though it acts like one which is a surprising fact about Ricky Martin’s Puerto Rico you won’t believe is true. It is a territory of the United States of America and the US dollar is used as a currency here which locals call it “peso”. Puerto Rico competes as an “independent country” in international events like the Olympics and Miss Universe.
2. Residents are US citizens but can not vote in US Presidential elections.
Under the Treaty of Paris of 1898, Spain ceded Puerto Rico together with Guam and the Philippines to the U.S. but it was the Jones-Shafroth Act of 1917 that this island became a territory of the U.S.A. granting US citizenship to Puerto Ricans. However they can not vote for US Presidential elections unless they live permanently in one of the 50 states, a surprising fact about Ricky Martin’s Puerto Rico you won’t believe is true. And Puerto Ricans do not pay income tax as well.
3. It has uninhabited smaller islands including a semi-Galapagos type.
Often mistaken too as a single island, Puerto Rico in actuality is an archipelago, The 3 main islands- Puerto Rico, Culebra and Vieques are the only inhabited ones. This territory has a dozen of uninhabited smaller islands perfect for a relaxing day trip like Gilligans and Mona islands. Mona Island is considered as the “Galapagos of the Caribbean” because of its enormous colony of iguanas and in being an unspoiled natural beauty, a surprising fact about Ricky Martin’s Puerto Rico you won’t believe is true.
4. Home of the Bacardi rum.
Light, dark, aniejo or aged…the choice is yours and Puerto Rico is home to Bacardi rum produced by Casa Bacardi which is the largest rum distillery in the world, a surprising fact about Ricky Martin’s Puerto Rico you won’t believe is true. About 86% of all rum sold in the US comes from the territory and it is the only producer in the world to maintain a minimum aging law for its rum.
5. Birthplace of the pina colada.
The official drink of Puerto Rico pina colada was invented by a bartender named Ramon “Monchito” Marrero at Caribe Hilton hotel in San Juan in 1954. Translates as “strained pineapple”, it was first served at the hotel’s Beachcomber Bar which took the world by a storm, a surprising fact about Ricky Martin’s Puerto Rico you won’t believe is true. During that time, the management of Caribe Hilton requested Monchito to mix a new drink that would make the palate of the celebrity-studded clientele happy. He accepted the challenge and after 3 months of blending rum, coconut cream and pineapple juice together, the 1st pina colada was born on August 16, 1954.
6. An island of beauty queens.
Over the years, this island has also produced its share beauty queens, a surprising fact about Ricky Martin’s Puerto Rico you won’t believe is true. For 5 times it had won Miss Universe (Marisol Maclaret, Deborah Carthy-Deu, Dayanara Torres, Denise Quinones and Zuleyka Rivera), 2 Miss World (Stephanie del Valle and Wilnelia Merced), 2 Miss International (Valerie Hernandez and Laurie Simpson) and 1 Miss Earth (Nellys Pimentel). It might be small in geography but its women know how to shine. Miss Universe 1993, Dayanara Torres has enjoyed popularity for some time not only as a beauty queen but as a movie star in my country, the Philippines and was romantically linked to a local actor, Aga Muhlach.
7. Cradle of famous celebrities.
Like what I’ve said before, Puerto Rico may come out as a little island but has produced a big hitter be it film, music or sports. This territory is a cradle of famous celebrities, a surprising fact about Ricky Martin’s Puerto Rico you won’t believe is true. Here is a short round up of some Puerto Ricans who take pride of being “hijos de la isla” on an international level that you know and admire but not aware that they hold ties to the island:
Benicio del Toro, Best Supporting Actor, Oscar for “Traffic”; Joaquin Phoenix, Academy Award nominee; Erik Estrada, known for his role in the ’80s-’90s TV series CHIPs; Carlos Ponce, 1990s heartthrob; Gina Rodriguez, Golden Globe Winner for “Jane The Virgin” star.
Ricky Martin, Livin’ La Vida Loca singer and former Menudo member; Daddy Yankee, singer/songwriter/rapper/actor for “Despacito”; Luis Fonsi, singer/songwriter for “Despacito”; Jose Feliciano, 1960s’ composer/singer for “Light My Fire” and “Feliz Navidad”.
Ivan Rodriguez, Major League Baseball player; Miguel Cotto, boxer and once had a match with the Philippines’ Manny Pacquiao.
8. Puerto Rico’s El Yunque is the only rain forest in the world without snakes.
One of the most visited sights of Puerto Rico is El Yunque Rain Forest, a 28,000-acre of tropical palms and dense foliage that has remained unchanged for centuries. Hiking in its numerous trails and taking a dip under its invigorating waterfalls are highly recommended because you will be happy to learn that there are no snakes or dangerous animals found in this protected area, a surprising fact about Ricky Martin’s Puerto Rico you won’t believe is true.
9. The streets of Old San Juan are famous for its blue-colored cobblestones.
During the 1700s, Spain started using cobblestones as counterbalance on their empty ships coming in to Puerto Rico from Europe. And beginning in 1784, their cobblestones were used to pave the streets of Old San Juan and they are not just typical cobblestones, they’re in grey-ish blue made from iron stag. Over the years, the blue cobblestones were replaced but there are still originals that can be seen at most of the streets like Calle del Cristo, (pictured above) a surprising fact about Ricky Martin’s Puerto Rico you won’t believe is true.
10. Up so close and very personal during a conversation is considered respectful in Puerto Rico.
That’s right, you are appreciated for being well-mannered if you kiss someone on the cheek when you greet them in Puerto Rico. And while engaged in a conversation, it is appropriate to stand very close to the person you are talking to, a surprising fact about Ricky Martin’s Puerto Rico you won’t believe is true.
11. It is one of the cruise capital in the world.
Considered as the 2nd largest in the Western Hemisphere, the cruise port of San Juan is one of the cruise capital in the world, a surprising fact about Ricky Martin’s Puerto Rico you won’t believe is true. Before the outset of COVID-19, more than 2 million passengers had arrived at this port. A very popular cruise destination, most tourists may have come from the USA and Canada but of late, there’s a growing number of Asians (Chinese, Japanese and South Koreans) and Europeans sailing on cruises as well.
12. Mosquito Bay is 2008 Guinness Book of World Records “Brightest Bioluminescent Bay.”
There are numerous marine ecosystems around the world that take pride with high levels of bioluminescence like Japan and Mexico, but Mosquito Bay in the island of Vieques off the coast of Puerto Rico is the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world. In 2008, Guinness listed it as the most reliable example of this phenomenon in the world, a surprising fact about Ricky Martin’s Puerto Rico you won’t believe is true. Best to experience it on a new moon, it will be a magical and priceless memory to remember for a lifetime when you go kayaking at this phase as the lights of the dinoflagellates stand out more when the bay is dark.
13. Ricky Martin began singing at age 6 but was actually rejected for Menudo twice.
Christened Enrique “Ricky” Martin Morales, this Livin’ La Vida Loca star began singing at age 6 using kitchen spoons as microphones but when he auditioned for Menudo, he was rejected for “being too small and too young” in 1983. He tried out again and rejected for the 2nd time but was selected to join the group at his 3rd attempt in 1984 at the height of the band’s fame. From an anonymous 12-year-old to a heartthrob performing for millions of fans around the world, he was an overnight sensation, a surprising fact about Ricky Martin’s Puerto Rico you won’t believe is true. In 2010, he came out clean from the closet and admitted he is gay.
Why go to Puerto Rico? It has a combination of history, diverse culture and heritage. For sure, you will not have enough time to see everything in one visit. This is a home to friendly and vibrant people who love to party and spend time outdoors. From having the largest rum distillery on the globe to a forest without snakes, this is definitely an area to visit.