Monday, July 27, 2015

More Puerto Rico Updates

Ismael, another friend I made on the island. We rode through a trail in the town of Cabo Rojo 

Looking out towards the inland bay at Cabo Rojo

I'm back in town now, after two weeks in Puerto Rico. I hope I can plan my next trip over there soon because I really enjoyed my visit and the time I spent with my cousins and other family members. I'm from Puerto Rico, but I have no skin in the game as to what life is like for people who live on the island day in and day out.  I left the island at the age of 5 through no fault of my own; I was a kid and my parents wanted/needed to move. This trip gave me a glimpse at what it would have been like if I had stayed.

 Everyone here says that it's not easy to make a living on the island. There is a shortage of jobs and a lot of laws have been passed to keep manufacturing down and to keep individuals from empowering themselves. However, that doesn't mean it's impossible to live here. For as much strife and financial hardship as there seems to be this is a place where every morning you can wake up to good cup of coffee and million dollar views. Everywhere you look there is a mountain on the horizon to climb. The mountainsides are spattered with the reds of the Flamboyan trees and other hues from other fruit trees as well as little wooden houses scattered throughout. Fruit here is sold at fruit stands and for a few bucks one can walk home with about ten pounds of locally grown bananas, mangoes, papayas, soursop and other fruits. This place wouldn't be an expensive to live in for someone who owns their own business abroad or collects a retirement check there. It is expensive for most locals, even those who have college degrees but who do not have contacts in the business sector that can get them jobs. 80% of Puerto Rican households make less than $40,000 a year, and Puerto Ricans pay an 11.5% sales tax on all goods, the highest of any U.S owned territory. Puerto Ricans also pay income taxes to the government of Puerto Rico, sometimes at a higher rate than the Federal income taxes paid in the rest of the U.S. The good majority of Puerto Ricans have to settle with $7.25/ hour, or the Federal minimum wage. Unless someone is a fruit vendor or a farmer, they are subject to paying annual income taxes which is pretty much the majority of Puerto Ricans. Due to the high tax demands on individuals who own businesses, there are many cash in hand transactions and many places will not accept credit or debit cards. Many have to do this to make a profit otherwise all of their profits will go to paying taxes to the government and to merchant fees. While this may not paint a complete picture as to what it must be like living over there, it does give us a small window to peek in.

Riding a bike in Puerto Rico is awesome. During my stay there I rode on the southwest side of the island, to and from my relatives houses and into the city centers of San German and Sabana Grande. The distances aren't very far between towns, but the elevation and gradients make up for the short distances. Some of the roads up the mountains average at 8% incline grades, which sections as steep as 25% or more. Even the roads leading to and from the city centers are steep. Here are a couple of rides that I did while I was there. Check out the elevation profiles versus the distance ridden.

My goal is to one day be able to live in Puerto Rico with my family with complete financial independence. It's an ambitious goal to say the least and a lot of Puerto Ricans don't or can't make it a reality. I can't let it go without at least trying, since ever since my trip I haven't stopped looking back. The palm trees and mountains of Puerto Rico go in harsh contrast to the hot, 100 degree ocean-less landscape that I am currently living in. Maybe it's time for this prodigal son to finally come home.


  1. Oh wow! That elevation is killer!!!! Good to hear you had a great time! Puerto Rico is on our list in the near future!! We just got back from Isla Mujeres and loved being on the island! We will have to catch up at some time in the near future! Cheers!

    1. Awesome! I hope you had a good time in Mexico. You would love Puerto Rico, there are a ton of vintage bike and car enthusiasts there, and a lot of 70's Toyota Corrollas still driving around the roads! Let's catch up sometime, we have a lot to talk about!