PR: La Isla del Encanto or Is It?


Me in 2009 while visiting El Morro in Old San Juan. As you can see, beyond the walls of this historical site, there is life and poverty, hidden away from the taller buildings in the distance which are resorts.

After reading Naia’s post of Puerto Rican Tourism sites and Maribi’s post on DR tourism, I felt compelled to share my own experience. As a Puerto Rican myself, I’ve been privy to many of the “secrets” of this island of enchantment. As a tourist at one point, I was lucky enough to have family in the area to really explore all the island had to offer. I visited obscure beaches on the outskirts of resorts. Areas that although beautiful, were substantially poorer than what I imagine those next to hotels were. The beaches were littered and only small areas were accessible for swimming while resorts occupied the larger areas. I also noticed something interesting, these resorts tended to also be hidden away in areas far from highways, and surrounded by trees and tropical areas (that is unless it’s San Juan, in which case, they are far from the favelas). In many ways it is easy to be enchanted by the beauty of the island regardless of being in a resort or not, but I do know that certain areas are truly disenchanting.

Online on tourism websites, this is also very evident. Nary is there an image of the poor reality of the island. Only gorgeous images that are colorful, fun, and attractive can be seen. An example of this is Meet Puerto Rico a site that attempts to provide not only information of the island but encourages tourism much the SeePuertoRico site, Naia mentioned, does. The site is made up entirely on images leading to more informational pages. All we see are smiling people, not all are white, which is important to note, but happy, and excited for the the potential visitor. The colors are vivid, beautiful, and charming but show nothing of the truth that allows them to be there. Puerto Rico online, not just on this site, but various others, is an idyllic place, void of serious issues. It exists in cyberspace and in pictures as “la isla del encanto” (the island of enchantment), but this superficial image leaves much to be desired, especially for me.

As scholar Curwen Best puts it, “A reality of Caribbean cultural and social evolution and its critique in the new technological era is the effacement of core issues to with essence, existence, identity, destiny, and truth. This calculated erasure has thrown into greater relief the need for emerging digital and cyber critics to work within yet to work behind, the facade of the matrix of language, jargon, technology and political correctness.” In other words, hiding the truth of what is really available there makes it important for us to not only criticize this work but to also encourage more images of reality. Sanitized images not only make it seem as though problems in PR are not of importance, but they also make them second class citizens in their own country where tourists come first. What Best has said here in regards to the digital images of the Caribbean is also true of the physical reality there.

In conclusion, It is highly problematic that tourism, online and physically, which contribute to the Caribbean economy greatly, creates this many issues. It would seem that money is the purpose for which these “secrets” are hidden. In a capitalist sense, they do what must be done to survive on a global scale for the American dollar. Maybe this what we should be considering when discussing what tourism erases from the Caribbean online and in realty. 

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