Tag Archives: Puerto Rico

A Prayer for Puerto Rico

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

Crescent moon high above the Castillo San Felipe del Morro

Vlad loved Puerto Rico. One of his dreams was that we’d go there together some day, perhaps even circumnavigate the island by kayak (though he warned me about sharks).

Vlad knew the island well. For many years, he collaborated with a colleague at the Institute for Neurobiology at the University of Puerto Rico. That meant taking regular trips to Puerto Rico, at least annually, sometimes more often. And he took advantage of those trips to explore the island and its environs.

View of La Perla from the Institute of Neurobiology

Entirely aside from the exciting work he did with his colleagues, Vlad really loved the place itself: the warm, moist tropical air, the vivid colors, and most of all, the people.  He often told stories about his time there. One of my favorites was about the “palmetto bugs” that scientists caught from the lab floor for experiments (apparently it was cheaper and easier to catch your own than to order them from suppliers.)

View from the Castillo San Felipe del Morro

But my all-time favorite story was when he talked about how the scientists in his lab were almost universally young, beautiful women. I didn’t believe him, so he forwarded a photo “as evidence” (as he put it). Unfortunately I can no longer find it, but the photo indeed featured a half-dozen or so mini-skirt-clad young women holding martini glasses and smiling at the camera (it was an evening outing of the lab). Not exactly the first image that comes to mind when one thinks of “a gathering of neuroscientists”–no wonder Vlad was enamored of the place!

Beyond the sheer physical beauty of the island and its inhabitants, Vlad also appreciated its many biological wonders. Among  them: the bioluminescent bay
at Vieques Island, the bat caves, and the El Yunque Rain Forest.

Clouds after sunset, San Juan, Puerto Rico

I know he would be deeply saddened by the devastation that Hurricane Maria has wreaked on Puerto Rico. Fortunately the Institute for Neurobiology has reported that it has survived; but recovery will be a long, slow, painful process for them, and for everyone affected by the storm.

If you want to contribute, here is a list of charities that have been highly rated by CharityWatch and are contributing to Irma relief in Puerto Rico.

Landscape

By Vladimir Brezina

Landscape 1Just as wild as the natural landscape

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is the urban landscape in which we live

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A contribution to this week’s Photo Challenge, Landscape.

Cover Art

By Vladimir Brezina

Last week, the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge theme was Cover Art. How very timely!

Earlier this year, I was contacted by an author, Carmen de Monteflores, about using one of my photos on the cover of her forthcoming new book. And recently, a copy of the published book arrived in my mailbox. Thanks, Carmen!

¡Jíbara!¡Jíbara! by Carmen de Monteflores, AuthorHouse, August 2014

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Unfortunately, I haven’t yet had time to read ¡Jíbara! (which, despite its Spanish title, is written in English) thoroughly. But, skimming it, it looks to be very well written and promises to draw in anyone interested in Puerto Rican culture and history. Here’s a synopsis:

Carmen de Monteflores brings her intimate knowledge of Puerto Rican culture and history to this story of a rural mountain girl-a jibara-struggling to become a teacher during the turbulent changes of the 1930s in the island. After a devastating hurricane, Juanita and her mother, Cisa, to whom she is fiercely attached, are forced to move to San Juan to find work. Like many others arriving from the country, they end up living in a slum. Unexpected circumstances introduce Juanita to Clara. They become close, but their lives take different paths. Juanita enters the university to be tested both by violent politics and her mother’s illness. Clara’s influential relatives introduce her to society life and her husband-to-be. Relationships become strained and lies and secrets explode when Juanita asks for help from a former teacher and from a close friend of Clara’s as Cisa gets sicker and Clara’s marriage collapses.

The finished book illustrates some of the perils of selecting photos for cover art. The book has a portrait format. But the original photo had a landscape format, and consequently most of it had to to be cropped away. And, inevitably, the colors came out differently on the printed cover. Oh well—I did get paid ;-)

Here’s the whole original photo:

Mountain view, Puerto Rico

More photos from that day in October 2001, high up in the Cordillera Central of Puerto Rico, are here.

Travel Theme: Statues

By Vladimir Brezina

Ailsa’s travel-themed photo challenge this week is Statues.

I note the plural: Statues. So, here in one photo are hundreds of statues (click on the photo to see them more clearly), each helping to safeguard the city, on this day against surf of an unprecedented size

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San Juan, Puerto Rico, March 2008.

Travel Theme: Distance

By Vladimir Brezina

Ailsa’s travel-themed photo challenge this week is Distance.

Distant views from the Cordillera Central of Puerto Rico, October 2001.

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Travel Theme: Mountains

By Vladimir Brezina

Ailsa’s travel-themed photo challenge this week is Mountains.

Hmmm… The water that we kayak on is usually horizontal and the waves are usually not mountainous. So I don’t have many photos of mountains.

I have visited the Alps and the Rockies. But I’ve found that I like best the smaller mountain ranges that, with perhaps no more than a thousand feet of elevation, still look and feel like real mountains. You can climb them in the morning and still be back below for supper. Yet up there, you still have those sharp peaks, precipitous slopes, and—especially when the mist rolls in—that exposed, lonely thrill. And when the mist clears, there are sunlit views far into the lowlands, even as far as the sea.

DCP_0331 croppedAs, for example, in the Cordillera Central of Puerto Rico—

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Weekly Photo Challenge & Travel Theme: Couple in Silhouette

By Vladimir Brezina

The Daily Post’s Photo Challenge this week is Silhouette. And Ailsa’s Travel-Themed Photo Challenge is Couples. Here’s a photo that combines both themes…

Additional interpretations of “Silhouette” are here and here. And of “Couples”, here and here.