Just as in the states, it is currently political season here in Puerto Rico. The politics of Puerto Rico is a bit different than in the states, but in one way it is very similar: it is nuts!
Caravanas clogging the roads
Just as a quick primer on Puerto Rico politics, here’s a few things to know.
There are two main parties: 1) Populares (also known as PPD- Partido Popular Democrático) and 2) PNP (Partido Nuevo Progresista) which they pronounce in passing in Spanish as Pay-Nay-Pay. The distant 3rd party is PIP (Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño).
Popular is Red. Popular is symbolized by ”la pava” which is the old jíbaro hat.
PPD: Pan, Tierra, Libertad = Bread (food), Land and Liberty
PNP is Blue. Symbolized by “la palma” the palm tree.
PNP: Estadidad, Seguridad, Progreso =Statehood, Security and Progress
PIP Independents are green. The main platform is to become independent from the United States.
But basically it is a 2 party system. The main platform for all the parties is identity in relation to the US. They are trying to answer the question of whether or not to stay a commonwealth of the US or become a state (or in the case of PIP to become an independent country). The red populares favor commonwealth status quo and the blue PNPs want statehood. PNPs are aligned somewhat with the Republican party at the national level though overall Puerto Ricans in general are politically liberal. The PNP governor candidate (of the party aligned with the Republicans) in fact is a liberal Democrat at the national level.
So while Puerto Ricans who are all US citizens (including us transplants) have all been disenfranchised and cannot vote for president of the United States, politics is still serious business here and everyone has an opinion on the state of things. Puerto Ricans also love to party. So what better way to connect the pastimes of complaining about politics and hanging out than having huge rallies and caravans!? We’ve passed by a few rallies and they are interesting. There’s often free food like lechón, live music and the candidate making long-winded speeches promising the world.
At a political rally in Rincon. Live music, fun…and politics?
But it really is the caravanas that you will not forget if you happen to visit Puerto Rico during a major election year such as this one. They are basically long loud parades with huge speakertrucks, buses full of people waving flags, people walking and yelling, fireworks, long lines of cars honking and lights flashing. If you are part of the caravan it might be kind of fun, but if you get stuck in one unsuspectingly, it can be downright nuts and you WILL be late to wherever you were planning on going! I got stuck behind a caravan one night and it was sooo loud and wild I had to pull over just to calm down and let it pass.
Here’s a compilation (above) of a few of the caravanas we have been exposed to this year. This is not all of them, but just ones with videos…I am not sure where the tradition of caravans came from. Perhaps from a time before television or radio where the only way to get your news was from people actually going around and telling others about it. It seems a little absurd this day and age, but it’s also kind of interesting as a cultural remnant.
Thankfully political season will be over after Tuesday and we can all take a deep breath and appreciate the coquis and driving to your destination without becoming a car in a carnival parade once again.
Here are some random weird pictures that don’t really have a place, but I just have to share. Though we are adapting well to our environment sometimes there are still moments here where we both just look at each other and say “WTF?!”
A Quad on a pool table!?
Some sort of wild cucumber…looks like a plant from another planet!
Apparently this bar bathroom was made for visiting mermaids too…check out the conch shell showerhead and coral rocks
They really like lechon here…even when it is made from old rubber tires!
Even our chickens are a little wacky!
And you never know who or what may photo bomb you whilst hanging out in a wheelchair!
And I don’t think I will ever get used to living in Jurrasic Park with these huge lizards!
And the colors here feel like we live in a cartoon
And check out our drummer, Rob! lol
Walking around half naked is still sort of weird, but I love it!
I still just don’t understand why they put an old ceiling fan and a clock on a bamboo stick outside? So many questions!
Like, What? A mushroom house?? This is such a cartoon!
When the guys at the loza store give you guavasthat look like avocados and laugh because your confusion is a sure way to tell a gringo from a Boricua
And we continue to find new fruits we have never eaten before in our lives like this pitomba we have growing on the finca… it’s a little like an apricot
And also finding a huge tarantula in your work boots!!
So…that nicely tiled trough is the urinal….why???
Apparently a lot of weirdness happens in bathrooms. When you live in a beach town…people like to wash their sandy feet in the sink
This place is so fun…and weird. But so fun. I love it. It’s like a dream: weird and wonderful.
We recently had quite an experience and learned a lot from it. I couldn’t write about it until it aired, but it truly was amazing and a lot of fun.
Our first scene in our tiny house
We were cast for a reality house hunting show! It is basically the same premise and format as House Hunters International except on a different channel. I’ve always thought being on TV would be a fun thing to do and it really was! This show is called Waterfront House Hunting and airs on FYI network which is part of A&E.
Before we were cast we had to make a submission video that sort of spelled out some of the things that are unique about us and our search for a house. We knew we had to pretend that we were still looking for a house, but they would try to show us things that were sort of in the same line of thought as we had when we were looking in Puerto Rico. Boy were we ever wrong about that! For instance:
Some of the factors we mentioned that we were interested in a property in Puerto Rico were: Most important feature: LAND! This was the biggest factor for us. The house really didn’t matter as long as we could grow food and raise animals, had some privacy and seclusion and had room to expand or build if we wanted later. In Fantasy-land none of the properties had much usable land at all. And the ones by the ocean would be little use to grow fruit trees. Style of house: Not important, but Spanish Villa architecture would be kind of cool. In Fantasy-land we did look at a few cool styles, though in reality this doesn’t matter to us. Size of house: Not important but 3-4 bedrooms or extra buildings would be nice for rental income potential down the road. In Fantasy-land this varied. Price: Around $150,000. This was our budget when we came here and we found plenty of properties in this range. I said I would be willing to pay a little more to have what we really want like land. In Fantasy-land we would be looking at houses in the $650,000 to 800,000 range! That would be craziness for us! View: A nice ocean view would be great, but not necessary as long as there was usable, flattish land. In Fantasy-land all of them had nice views, but very little usable/arable/flat land. Location: Rincón, if possible (balancing out that things are more expensive in Rincón, but also with more rental potential due to tourists the closer to the ocean you are). In Fantasy-land all the properties were in Rincón.
We also mentioned that we know real estate, both here in Puerto Rico as well as in Colorado. And we see property as shelter, potential income as well as a food source and not simply a status symbol. Though it can be that as well.
Lots of people and equipment in only 300 sq feet!
The first day we just did our backstory. Basically introducing ourselves to the audience. Most of this was true with just one major lie: that we were currently renting (where we actually live) and looking for our first house in Puerto Rico! It was a tight fit getting everyone in our tiny cabana for this one! We met the whole crew. Two camera-people, a sound guy, the field producer, and two assistants. I am not sure what their official titles were. We all had to go turkey herding because they were going to mess with the sound, so that was pretty funny.
At House #1
The next day was the first house we were to see. They wanted each house to be a surprise to us to see our true reaction. There was a learning curve to this because we weren’t sure what was allowed and what wasn’t. They said they wanted us to move around a lot and interact with the house/environment not just stand around and talk. Make it interesting to watch! Well, I am always up for having fun…
Like Goldilocks I tried out each of the beds
I think we have lost all ability to be really WOWED by a house because we have seen sooo many houses in our real life. We have seen pepto pink walls, brothels, meth houses, wine cellars as big as houses, houses literally hanging off a cliff, fun houses with crooked floors and tiny hidden rooms and houses frozen in time like a museum. So anything that is not wildly amazing just doesn’t get much of a reaction from us anymore like it might if we were first time home buyers. So a lot of our reactions to these properties were fabrications. Don’t get me wrong! These were awesome places -right by the water or with amazing views! It’s just that I know I have a much different take on properties than most people, or probably at least most TV-watching Americans.
One thing that was super cool about House #1 was that we were able to get our band in it! Go Rincón Continentals! Since we “buy” this house in TVland, and our “characters” are also in a band we pretended that we got the whole band together for a party to celebrate our new home. We even played a few of our original songs! What awesome exposure!
Getting the band set up for the scene
What a cool backdrop to play music! Rob on drums
A fun experience for all of us in the band!
We learned that they do try to actually show properties that are for sale, but sometimes, they are not. Such as this one that our characters ended up buying.
I say our characters because it became immediately apparent that we were not actually supposed to be ourselves. We were playing a role. We were basically actors playing a part that has some similarities with our normal day-to-day life but not many. We even asked them to spell our names incorrectly for the show (Kassey and Briton instead of Cassie and Britton) because we wanted it to be clear to anyone who knew us that we were acting. Obviously in order to be these characters we had jobs again, we were very wealthy to be able to afford an $800,000 ocean front place, we were not concerned with income potential of these properties, and were sort of aloof to pretty much anyone else around. We were fed lines and points of contention in order to build a conflict in the story line to make the viewers wonder which one we would ultimately choose! We joked that they would all be wrong because we chose none of the above (in real life we have our little farm and cabins)!! Haha. So much for “reality” TV.
I think most people know that shows like this are something of an escape, a sort of fantasy, but I don’t know if people really quite grasp how much so! Especially when it is presented as real. Sometimes the houses had more bedrooms but we said they had less or the kitchen is downstairs but we acted as if it were upstairs, and the choice out of the three places was not even made by us!
Playing the part
And all of this is just fun entertainment, I get that, but I think sometimes these shows may be sending the wrong message. People may not wake up to the fact that you CAN indeed just up and move to the Caribbean and you don’t have to be a millionaire to do it! That you can have a great life without all the materialist garbage of whether or not a granite counter is the make or break point in a house-buying decision. That you already ARE good enough! That you can leave the rat race. You don’t have to work all the time just to get the next great toy or bigger house. You don’t need to compete or struggle or battle against something or someone (your weight, your career, your house, your car). All of that struggle is just to sell you more of the same lie (and more stuff). But it’s all fake.
It also was a fantasy because it barely skimmed the surface of what it is truly like to live in Puerto Rico. Most people do not live in or buy these types of properties. It also sort of paints a strange picture of the North Americans who move to Puerto Rico as an escape from their “realities” of life in the states just to have a playground here. This dichotomy is especially apparent in the current economic crisis of the island and the heavy hand of the US government and corporations.
Face the cameras but don’t look directly at them! Jeff, Hillary with the cameras and the great host of the show: Seth
But it was not our job to portray “real life” in Puerto Rico. It was to act in this Fantasy land. And it was a lot of fun being an actor. We had to learn not to look directly at the camera because this breaks the “fourth wall” as they explained to us. The fourth wall in theatre is where the audience watches. Or in TV it is where the screen is. So if you break the fourth wall, it feels to the viewer that you are looking right at them through the set. It breaks the spell of the fantasy. The illusion is that there are not cameras, that all of this is not a show. And I suppose this is a type of parallel to life. When you realize all of this is an illusion that you are simply experiencing through your senses for a short time, it may become slightly uncomfortable. But you may also feel more awake and in tune with it all! Here’s a great video about purposeful 4th Wall breaks. Very interesting!
Throughout the scenes we focused on surface stuff. Tiles, sinks, ceilings. We didn’t get into construction, foundations and settling, what it would actually mean to take down a concrete wall (sort of like a 4th wall?) or build something. It was basically “house porn” -just the titillating sexy side of house buying. Whenever we would touch something in a scene we would have to go back and film a close up of our hands opening the oven door, turning on the water in the sink etc. And whenever we would have a discussion about a house we would have a “reaction” period where they filmed us just looking and smiling and nodding at each other without talking. It took some getting used to but this crew knew what they were doing.
Also tried out all the couches in the various houses with the host Seth
This was another part of this process that I don’t think many people talk about or appreciate: All the people you work with to make this happen. You learn about their lives and interests outside of this job. You learn the toll this takes on them to travel so much and the long hours they put in. They are seasoned pros for sure! In some ways in their world we were just another couple to be filmed because they have done so many of these shows. But they made it so easy. Pretty cool to see such dedicated people in motion.
Like Dave the sound guy. So knowledgeable and all around fun person
Or Fran the local Puerto Rican film student and production assistant
Some of the crew at a house in Palatine Hills
Jackie the field producer has the hardest and most demanding job of them all! She had to coordinate EVERYTHING from the ground like coffee and wardrobe to story line to continuity to back in Los Angeles to the next episode or show down the line. This woman worked non-stop from 5am to midnight! Just thinking about what she had to deal with wore me out!
The whole crew after the “Decision Scene” at the Horned Dorset
Britton, Seth- the host of the show, and I definitely had the most glamorous of the jobs. And it is no doubt why so many people want to be rich and famous and be on that side of the camera. In fact touring all these places and hanging out at the ritzy spots you start to get a feel for what it could be like to live that lifestyle. When we were filming at the beach people looked at us like we were stars and asked us what movie we were making! A pretty cool and ego-boosting feeling. It is truly the hook of any of these shows and probably show business in general.
Do I look the part yet? At the ritzy Horned Dorset
Most people have watched television or movies but not nearly as many have seen what goes on behind the scenes, beyond the walls! The production of the whole enterprise. To me, more so even than all the fabrications we had to put together for the story this was the most impressive part of fantasy-building. The whole illusion is a sum of its parts. We saw a little of it with our friends Jon and Rachel when we filmed the short movie and the commercial, but this took it to a whole new level.
Yah we’re just a couple of Hollywood stars haha
In this scene you will only see what the camera sees, but look at all that you don’t see behind the curtain!
A cool feature of this particular show is that the couples also have a water activity. In our case, we went out on a small sail craft with our friends Jeanne and Jeff from Rincón Sailing.
While the camera crew circled around us -just be sure not to look at them when filming!
Britton, me, Jeff and Jeanne
Overall, this experience is one I will cherish and never forget! Because I like to look at the bigger picture in things this helped me to sort of understand more in depth how the media in general forms a sort of reality that is anything but. With just a touch of truth it magically turns everything else into fantasy. And my reality for these five days was a sort of fantasy away from the norm.
Setting up the beach and B-roll scenes at the Marina
It also took me some time pondering exactly what my role was in this fantasy-creation. Once I understood that it wasn’t Cassie as I know myself, but the character “Kassey”-as-seen-on-TV, I was able to sort of detach from my personal outlook on conspicuous consumption and see that I was just playing a role that was really not like me though we may look the same on the outside. It’s also sort of funny, I think, to note that we don’t even have a television or cable/dish to watch this show on. We filmed in February and it aired in August! We were very excited to see it and how they edited down 5 days of filming!
Sort of surreal. We watched ourselves on TV at Jackie’s Gyro shop in downtown Rincon
Seeing yourself on TV is a trip!
Our life has truly come around to being kids again. This was just a bit of make-believe on the other side of the wall.
I haven’t been able to get a good easily playable link to the full episode (if you have cable or dish you can login and watch it here), but here’s a little I caught off the TV of the ending “band scene.”
I found this link to the full length video but I was unable to play it here in Puerto Rico. Let me know if it works for anyone else.
On my birthday I like to do things out of the ordinary. They don’t have to be big, but just something different. So we took a short day trip and I called it my “La Vida es un Carnaval Day” AKA Life is a Carnival. I would just play games, eat junky food, take rides and have fun all day long.
I don’t eat junk food much, but on my birthday Britton surprised me by sharing an ice cream cone with me for breakfast!
To start the carnival trip, we stopped at the Mayaguez Resort and Casino. I had heard about the amazing swimming pool and wanted to see it for myself. It was definitely impressive. It had a lazy river as well as waterfalls and multiple slides. It was more like a waterpark than a pool! I want to go and spend a day there sometime.
Pool with cascades and lazy river area
At the Mayaguez Resort and Casino pool area
Next we checked out the casino area and I played a little roulette. I am not much for gambling, but once in a blue moon like on my carnival birthday it can be fun.
I actually won a little money even!
Next up, we went down to La Parguera in Lajas. We walked around the touristy area and had a couple of drinks that I rarely have like a heavy-calorie yummy piña colada! The famous drink of Puerto Rico!
Fun at La Parguera
A gorgeous day after a super heavy rain!
Playtime with rides and games in La Parguera. Who says you have to grow up?
Later that night we decided to take the bioluminescent boat tour. It was $10 per ticket. We knew it probably wouldn’t be the best because of the nearly full moon, but thought what the heck, let’s try it! It was a nice boatload of people. On the lower deck there was music and a little viewing window into the water, but we decided to go to the upper deck. It was so refreshing to feel the wind blowing on us as the moon lit the way through the little mangrove islands as it reached the bio-bay. When we stopped they had a couple of divers jump in and agitate the waters. Sure enough there was a light glow surrounding them as they kicked and swirled. I couldn’t get a great picture, but it really was magical. I have heard that other bio-bay tours are a little more intense, but it was pretty cool for a spur of the moment thing.
A little blurry, but you can see the boat that we took and the moon
Here’s a short video of our time in La Parguera
Overall it was a fantastic carnival day! La vida es una hermosura; hay que vivirla.