We Bought a Gua-Gua!

Posted by Cassie

Long story short, today we bought a gua-gua.

Kicking the Tire

Now, here is the long story…

Yesterday we went to Mayaguez, the largest city on this western side of Puerto Rico, to run a few errands and also to start the search for a vehicle. We stopped at a couple of places, but really didn’t see any small used trucks…what we quickly learned are called gua-guas (wa-was or wow-wows).  I had heard that buses and large SUVs were gua-guas, but didn’t realize that pick-up trucks were until I said in Spanish that we were looking for a “troca” or “camioneta” and they said “Oh, si, gua-guas!”.

Finally, we talked with one of the salesmen and he said that they didn’t have anything except brand new gua-guas there on the car lot, but that he had his own personal truck that he would be willing to sell to us! He asked for our phone number, but we don’t have one. Then, the motivated salesman offered to drive the truck over to our property in Rincon the next morning. Ok, sure, we said. We will be there working and hope to see you.

We sort of laughed it off and didn’t really think we would be seeing him again. But I stuck around the property this morning, just in case. Britton is still trying to sort out the mail situation (another long story for another post), so he went down to the post office and then came back. The time came and went when the salesman was supposed to arrive, so we just started doing yard work. Suddenly, I looked up and yelled to Britton, “Blue Truck! The blue truck is here!” Then Britton dropped the weedwacker and we both went running to catch him -me with a pruner and Britton with the machete still in hand.

Under the Hood

We managed to flag the salesman, Don Rafael, down. Then we inspected the truck and the three of us piled into it for a test drive. It was just about everything we needed except we were hoping for a slightly extended cab to seat people if we needed. It was also a little older than we had hoped (a ’94 Dodge Dakota) but it only had 40k miles. So, we asked the price and he threw one out that was a little higher than we thought it should be. So we went back and forth a couple of times until we agreed on a number. Now came the exciting next 6 hours of the day trying to accomplish the task of actually buying the gua-gua…

The first stop was the bank (Banco Popular) to see if they would take a check from Colorado. They would, but it would be held for 5 to 7 days before the money would be available. Don Rafael thought if we opened an account that that would make it work, but the clerk said it would take the same amount of time either way. And wouldn’t be available for 5-7 days. We thought this might happen, so we also had cash available and decided to just do a cash deal.


Don Rafael agreed to go with us to the Colecturia in Aguadilla to change the title over since we had no idea what to do for that. The title is basically the same as a title in Colorado, but you leave the plates on and the “marbete” also goes with the vehicle and must be renewed once a year. The marbete is a sticker that goes in the front windshield and acts sort of like liability insurance and registration. Because Rafael had recently paid the marbete, we won’t have to do that until next July.

Anyway, we were off on the drive to Aguadilla to the Driver’s Center. Rafael rode with us in our rental car and was our friendly navigator to the center that is hidden near the Ramey Base and airport. First we had to get sellos (stamps). Rafael bought these, so we are not sure exactly what they are for or how much they cost (around $10 we think), but apparently you need them before you can go change the title over. Don Rafael is over 60 years old, so he was able to go to the express line and didn’t have to wait like everyone else in the “fila” (line). That was a nice benefit! I think we need to bring a senior with us anytime we have to do government business! Once we had the sellos, we had to walk over to the Driver’s Center.

Another Govt Office

When we got to the clerk there, he said we had everything we needed (Colorado driver’s license was fine for ID and social security card) EXCEPT we needed an electric or water bill. What? Why would we need an electricity bill to buy a car? They said it established the address that would go on the title and would be where they would send the notice for the new marbete. Can’t we just tell you our address? No, we need something official. Well, we didn’t have it with us, so what now?

We didn’t even have one at home, so we thought for a minute and then came up with the idea to print one off from the electricity or water websites. Rafael checks with the clerk who thinks that would be fine. Ok, good. Now…where do we print that at? We also do not have a printer at home and we are in Aguadilla at this point, 30 minutes from Rincon. Hmmm. Rafael says he has a friend that works at the Rincon Coop (credit union) and he thinks we could print out the bill there. We asked if there was a Kinkos or Internet cafe with a printer or something, but Rafael doesn’t seem to know much about the tech world, so we decide to go with his idea and drive the 30 minutes back to Rincon.


We went to the Rincon Coopertiva singly through the double locking doors only to be told that, no, they cannot let us use their computers to print anything, but that there is a little school supply store down the road that we probably could print from. So we walk about a block in the steamy rain, following the fast and agile Rafael as he leads us to the store.

At the school supply store, they were very friendly and we easily found and printed off a copy of our bills as well as made a copy of the driver’s license and social security card. We also made a mental note of this store (Rincon School Supply).

Now we had to make our way back to Aguadilla to the Driver’s Center through flooded roads and slow school zone traffic. I made use of our time and had fun asking Rafael all sorts of questions about Puerto Rico, his life, new Spanish vocabulary (for instance, they call cars “cajos” here whereas in Colorado in Spanish they are “carros”, “chevere” is the best way to say “good”, “guia” means drive not “guide”, you need to watch out for “comejen” though I am still unsure what it is exactly and “limbers” are some sort of ice cream drink named after Limbergh).

Finally, we arrived and went through the express lane where the clerk said that what we had now was complete. In about 5 minutes the title was transfered. But, wait, the clerk said. Your mailing address is to Colorado. We need a mailing address in Puerto Rico. Ok, just use the physical address that is listed on the bill, isn’t that why we went all that way to get the bill? We also told him that we are still working on the mail situation, and hope to have that figured out in the next week or so but we have only been on the island about a week. Finally the clerk relented and said that we just will need to come back some time before the marbete expires and update our address with a proper mailing address, not just the physical address.

We stopped by another Banco Popular branch to deposit the cash into Rafael’s bank and then he asked to be dropped off at the Aguadilla mall. We grabbed a celebratory ice cream cone (after all that “limber” talk) and picked up the pick-up. The gua-gua is now ours…wow-wow is right.

….And tomorrow we make yet another trip to Aguadilla to drop off the rental car…lol.

What do you think of this post?
  • WOW (5)
  • Awesome (2)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (1)
  • Bummer (0)
  • Yikes (0)

10 thoughts on “We Bought a Gua-Gua!

  1. Rick Foley

    Hi Cassie & Britton
    Sounds like your tipical Puerto Rico run around. We had to do the same thing luckily I had a copy of the electric bill with me. I recommend you get a PO box at your local post office that’s what we had to do. Good Luck with your new Gua-Gua ,smart move getting a truck you will need it. It’s always an adventure in PR.
    Take Care

  2. Annie

    Looked up comejen (accent on last syllable), and you probably know it means termite. That word may come in handy down the road, but I don’t think Don Rafael was referring to that.

    However: there is a cool song which has a reference to BUS DRIVING?! You can find it by entering comejen, puerto rican slang. Can see them referring to those crazy bus drivers as …. termites. They call them worse in Mexico.
    For what it is worth!
    Favorite videos – YouTube
    Translate this page
    El comejen – Wilfrido Vargas … “Double Dutch Bus” is a 1981 funk song by Frankie Smith, made famous for its extensive use of the “izz” infix form of slang. … had unsuccessfully applied for a bus driving position; the Transpass referred to in the … Maria and Alberto Rivera/natives of Orocovis, Puerto Rico, now living in Tampa.

  3. Leslie Castillo

    I just love your blog and frequent updates. I also admire your bravery of leaving behind the familiar and embarking on this new adventure. My dreams are to one day (hopefully in 16 years) retire in Rincon. I visited and have fallen in love with the town. We try to fly to PR every year and Rincon is a must stop!

    Comejen = termites….and yes they thrive in the heat and humidity of PR. I have a house in Bayamon (I inhereted after my mom passed away) and that has been a big problem there. There are also real tiny ants…I believe they are called abayarde….you cant see them…but you will feel them…they have a sting similar to that of fire ants…watch out for those too.

    And yes, we Puerto Ricans have adopted our own dialect, if you will….our “rr” sounds more like a “j” so you will hear cajo for carro…pejo for perro…and the “r” in the middle of a word can ound like “L”….puelta instead of puerta.

    But Puerto Ricans are outgoing, happy people!!! We don’t envy anyone and are for the most part very welcoming. Although I must admit I am envying you just a bit right now….but in a good way!!!

    Much luck with the house, your guagua (by the way that word came to us from the Canary Islands in Spain and I believe Andalucia as well), and everything else. Looking forward to more of your posts and being your neighbor in 16 years!!

  4. Sage

    Haha, that is a typical Puerto Rican car registration experience! I love it! I would advise that you give us a call before doing anything official. You wouldn’t believe the stories that we have about bureaucratic fun. We actually made multiple folders with copies of every single official and personal document included. We would just hand the folder over to whoever we were talking to and they pulled out whatever they needed. The fact that half of them were either forged or completely manufactured didn’t matter at all! Welcome to island life!

  5. adolfojp

    You know you’re in Puerto Rico when you see a couple armed with bladed instruments chasing an old man down the road. :-) Happy early Halloween!

    And welcome to the old car club. A frequently overlooked advantage of driving an old car in Puerto Rico is that it makes you a smaller target. And knowing that you’re a smaller target gives you not only greater peace of mind but also a larger amount of freedom. And 40 thousand miles on a 20 year old truck? Talk about Sunday drivers!

    About the odd pronunciation of car as cajo, that’s old Puerto Rican jíbaro hillbilly talk. And I know this because I come from a long line of Jíbaros. However, this alternate pronunciation of the r as j is dying and most people roll their Rs these days instead of… expectorating them… for a lack of a better word. I used to talk with this alternative pronunciation when I was a child, and one of my brothers still does it, but I changed it when I was around five when I realized that rolling the r was so much easier. And to a lot of people that old peasant pronunciation is considered to be uncouth.

    We use the word guagua to refer to SUVs, minivans, buses, and even pick up trucks, however, the most common word for a pick up truck is pick up, which we pronounce as pikóp. And to add to the confusion, some people call hatchbacks guaguas too! You can blame the Canarians for that.

    You can find two kinds of Limbers on the island. The first kind is the kind that old ladies who live next to elementary schools make and sell for 75 cents. They’re basically frozen Kool-Aid popsicles in a cup. The second kind is gourmet, or artisan, or craft Limbers and they’re pretty good. But don’t let those words scare you because they’re still about a dollar and you can buy them at many gas stations.

    And the comejen? Those are just termites. They make large parasitic nests in trees and will destroy your stuff. Most people burn the nests as soon as they see them.

    Stay safe and don’t forget to purchase an Auto Expreso pass when you hit the highways.

    Edit: I might have posted this comment twice because I’m a bit of an idiot.

  6. Cassie Post author

    Rick: thanks for the support! We are really happy having a 4×4 truck. We need it for the hill we live on!

    Annie: Interesting find! I do think he was referring to termites, but when I tried to confirm by asking if comejen were insects he said, kind of like insects and you have to get oil and burn it. I think he maybe was talking about the nest rather than the bugs themselves. So I was a little confused. This was in reference to some of the weed trees we had in our yard. He said those particular trees attract comejen and we should take them down (which we have been, so that was a good confirmation). He was also pointing out the pica-pica vines to us to kill as well.

    Leslie Castillo: Gracias por el comentario and welcome to the blog! Let us know when you are in Rincon, we’d love to talk with you more about Puerto Rico. I love the history of language! Also we look forward to being vecinos in 16 years (or sooner! :-)

    Sage: haha yah it was pretty wild. In some things they are actually more efficient like not having to replace the plates, but the whole stamp business and all the random documents you need to just buy a car was new. What would they do if you just wanted to buy a car but didn’t actually live in Puerto Rico for instance? We will contact you for anything we might anticipate involving red tape (or just for fun) :-)

    Adolfo: Like usual, your comments are super helpful. But I do have to say, we are actually life-time members of the old car club! Neither of us have ever owned a car from this current millennium :-) And yes, there are lots of overlooked advantages to this including that we will not be targets nor will we be too upset if something goes wrong or someone bumps or scratches it.

    I was wondering if Rafael’s manner of speaking was “jibaro” because I really had to clarify a lot of what he said. Not only was he using lots of Puerto Ricanisms but the “j”s for “r”s was really throwing me off. Britton said he thought we were talking about boxes (cajas) when we were talking about cars (cajos)! My brain is still trying to sort out all the wisdom of Don Rafael. Like using bacalao (codfish) to get rid of the bats in the walls? Or how to fricassee a conejo (rabbit) because he knew someone with rabbits. And how we should use cloro (bleach) all over the house to get rid of the rats. Any question or issue we had, he knew the solution! Quite the character. It was great having a chance to talk with him even if it was because of government run-around.

    We are now looking forward to trying a good limber (or fricasseed rabbit maybe even!) :-)

  7. Torrie

    It took me a minute to figure out who the heck was in the first picture, lol. I then realized that was my brother. Nice little truck.

  8. Reinaldo

    Vehicle registration and obtaining a driver licence in PR is not different like in Miami or New York City. You only need identification of who you are and proof of residence so dont make a big deal like a scince about this topic

  9. Cassie Post author

    Thanks Mel! We love it here! Every day is an adventure.
    Torrie: already can’t recognize your own brother, ut oh! :-)
    Hi Reinaldo,
    I don’t know what it is like in Miami or New York City, but this process was actually quite a bit different from how we did it in Colorado.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>