Subtle Signs of Malaise in Puerto Rico


East of San Juan, a boardwalk and walking/jogging trail runs along the shore line of Puerto Rico. It would be an exaggeration to describe the views as “stunning,” but they certainly qualify as picturesque. The beaches aren’t wide enough to attract the interest of big hotel developers, but the sand is clean and the views more interesting than anything you’ll find along the crowded shores of the Outer Banks.

When the Bacon family and friends visited Saturday, the beach-side promenade was little used. The action was concentrated near clusters of open-air restaurants specializing in fried and barbecued food and blasting out catchy Latin music. The roads and parking lots were clogged with locals. But it was evident that the island had seen better days. Many establishments abutting the boardwalk looked abandoned and dilapidated — a consequence, I suppose, of Puerto Rico’s shrinking, debt-ridden economy.

This vantage point offered a tremendous view of waves crashing on coal rocks. But what’s that yellow piece of metal junk doing there?

One of many abandoned properties along the beach-front walking trail.

I often fantasize about relocating the Global Command Center of Bacon’s Rebellion from Richmond to some sunny locale where the temperature rarely strays from 75º. I wonder if there are some bottom-fishing opportunities in Puerto Rico. I find it astonishing that just a couple of miles from one of the largest metropolitan areas in the Caribbean, properties fronting the boardwalk and trail are being abandoned. My friends (not to mention my wife) think I’m crazy. Puerto Rico still has a long way to fall, they say. The territory’s massive indebtedness will lead to a deterioration of infrastructure and services, and even more people will immigrate. Wait until the next recession when the tourism industry takes a hit, and beach-front property will go for a song.

I suppose that’s good investment advice. I feel badly for the Puerto Ricans, though. They are a welcoming and friendly people, and they have a beautiful country. It’s a shame that their government and ruling elites have served them so poorly.

Note to readers: We’ll be boarding a cruise ship this afternoon, and I refuse the pay the extortionate $40-per-day Internet charge. I’ll try to blog if I can find free Wi-Fi on shore. But, then, I may have better ways to spend my Caribbean vacation hunched over a laptop at Senor Frogs.

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6 responses to “Subtle Signs of Malaise in Puerto Rico

  1. The little use on the beach-side promenade might be a small symptom of a decline in population on the island, but isn’t this the season when the waters are roughest and only tourists swim at San Juan?

    If all the Luquillo kiosks are still open, then there’s still a steady stream of tourists in January…

  2. Have a great trip and don’t blame you a bit over the cost of internet – outrageous!

    a quick comparison of Virginia to Puerto Rico is interesting:

    Puerto Rico – per capita income = $28,123
    Virginia per capita income = $$33,671

    Puerto Rico – median household income = $19,518
    Virginia – median household income = $$61,486

    if I understand it right – it means there is huge income inequality
    in Puerto Rico…

    Puerto Rico is a territory not a state – and as result it does not have the same Federal entitlement benefits that States do for things like Medicare, MedicAid and Obamacare..

    The US basically tried to buy Puerto Rico way back in 1898 for 160 million and was refused..( that was equivalent to $4,396,676,410 Billion in 2016 dollars) then got it ceded to us after war with Spain (along with the Philippines) but unlike the Philippines – we never agreed to let Puerto Rico become a sovereign nation but we wouldn’t let them become a state either… so they’ve essentially twisted in the wind as a nation … neither fish nor fowl and who knows if to their detriment or benefit .. i.e. a sovereign nation could end up with a dictator or like the Philippines or Cuba today.

  3. Jim, you could spend some of your gift of offline time studying some of the history that led to the conditions in this territory of ours. (A great-uncle of mine, Enoch Crowder, worked on the constitutions of the Phillipines, Puerto Rico, and Cuba, in the 1920’s. An uncle, last name of Beasely, was the last “American” governor of Puerto Rico – 1950’s?)

    Download some articles when you have free wifi and read them offline at your leisure.

  4. Dear Jim,

    Thanks for sharing these “postcards from paradise.” Sorry they are having so many problems.



  5. As the sleet and rain fall and the wind blows here in McLean, your sunny, warm beach looks like paradise — even with that piece of junk.

  6. The Outer Banks are crowded? Maybe around Nags Head, but the vast majority of its beaches are remote, beautiful and unpopulated.

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