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Vieques Puerto Rico Part One

Vieques Puerto Rico Part One
  Written by Bianca Cruz
I’m up in the atmosphere where the sky and water are an indistinguishable blue. Unsure of where the ocean and horizon meet, I look at the island surrounded by it. The place my grandfather called home, and to home I returned. We decided to start our trip here as Vieques is such a well-kept secret. The island is quiet, kind, and there’s a large chance you can have an entire beach to yourself!

            Vieques’s beauty and warmth nearly made me forget the tumultuous journey it took to get here––running pregnant in a crowded and overly airconditioned airport to catch my connecting flight. After twenty minutes on one of the smallest airplanes I’ve ever been on, we finally landed and were on our way to Finca Victoria, the popular treehouse hotel that I fell in love with the minute I arrived. I knew this was the hotel to be at when a puppy greeted my husband and I in the lobby (did I mention Finca Victoria is dog-friendly?!). While checking in, I couldn’t help but admire the sounds of windchimes and tropical birds singing to us. The manager gave us a tour of the property and offered us some fresh coffee and tea. I couldn’t resist such a delicious offering, so I grabbed a cup of herbal tea and prepared myself for dinner.

            Finca Victoria was known for having incredibly delicious vegetarian and vegan food. We enjoyed a hearty Green Goddess Soup with locally grown produce to an herbaceous Beetroot Falafel with veggies, perfectly Grilled Zucchini Boats stuffed with a legume medley and quinoa tabbouleh salad, all finished with a heavenly Baklava á la mode and a decadent digestive tea to finish off the night–it’s safe to say I left full and satisfied. Afterwards headed straight to our small multistory haven-esque house.

            We were thrilled to see our treehouse was at the top of the hill and had an incredible ocean front view. The house was midcentury tropical with large windows, shutter doors, and shiplap walls, surrounded by greenery and flowers. Along with our bedroom was a living room, an outdoor shower and kitchenette, and not one, but two bathrooms! We went to bed that night to the soothing sound of Coquis and the relaxing smell of essential oils from the complimentary diffuser in our bedroom.

            In the morning, the air was cold and the earth felt asleep. My husband and I headed to the 8AM pool-side yoga class to unwind and prepare our bodies for the day. Afterwards we nourished ourselves with a . We headed over for a well-earned spa treatment and after, it was finally time to head over to Playa Negra, a quiet cliffside beach where the sands are black and where the ocean is full of aquatic life––something that unfortunately wasn’t the case a few years ago... Can we also add that wild horses even came to greet us on the beach.

            Vieques was once an American military testing site for weapons of mass destruction. Many beaches were closed off to natives, tourism was abysmal, and the waters were being heavily polluted. Many residents would fall ill with cancer shortly after and Puerto Ricans fought for justice and reparations. Vieques and Puerto Rico as a whole, has a rich history of resilience from being subjected to slavery and exploitation by Spanish colonization, to the recent and tragedy of hurricane Maria, which left Vieques without a hospital, and reliable and affordable transportation off-island.

However, the island always finds a way to rebuild itself and become stronger than before. Being on the island of Vieques fueled my inspiration and gave me an unfathomable appreciation for its residents. Vieques residents fought tooth-and-nail for their island with the support from Willie Colón, Ricky Martin, and dozens of other celebrity activists. Eventually the U.S. military would withdraw from Vieques and would designate it as a National Wildlife Refuge, promising to clean up the island and reverse the damage caused. Vieques would see another victory after being granted $39.5 million by FEMA in 2020 to rebuild its hospital.

            Every part of me wanted to stay in this paradise but I knew I had to return to San Juan to continue to the next part of our trip in PR. Vieques showed me the part of Puerto Rico that was untouched and natural in somewhat the islands original form. It inspired me to see Puerto Rico through my grandfather’s eyes. That’s when I decided to take Puerto Rico with me. The pieces that were inspired by my trip and ancestry are reflective of my favorite naturistic and cultural aspects of the island­­––from the eloquently detailed La Isla necklace, showcasing Puerto Rico’s national flower, the fort, a cuarto guitar, a banana leaf, and a plantain to the Wepa earrings, referencing the iconic expression that roughly translates to “Oh yeah!”. While Vieques stole my heart, the towns we visited after made me never want to leave… I can’t wait to share that experience with you!




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