Good morning, friends. Have you ever looked again, with appreciation, at the place you live? Recently, we met with some visitors from California and while we talked, I started to remember the early impressions I had of Puerto Rico, la isla enchanto-the island of enchantment. Won't you be a tourists with me as we take a look around this beautiful island? To start, we are taking a little tour of the beautiful Old City, El Viejo San Juan.
Please sit down and join me with a cafe con leche at El Convento Hotel before we get started on our little walk. Sipping locally grown strong coffee accompanied by hot steamed milk is a must for the beginning of an active day.
El Convento Hotel is one of the oldest hotels in the city and used to be a convent. It is graced with lovely arches, thick cool walls, and remarkable works of art informally placed around. If you ask at the front desk, the bar, or the waiter about the pieces, it is likely you will get this response from the young attractive bilingual employees, "No, I don't know. I should because we get a lot of questions about it from our guests. But I don't really know much about it." After living here for fourteen years, I have a theory about these answers. Puerto Rico is an accessible unpretentious place where art and artistic talent are considered ordinary. Why make a big deal about these mystery musical monks? (Who is the painter???)
Creative expression is more of a lifestyle here rather than a career path. Of course, I love Puerto Rican people and like bloggers, they all are excessively talented.
Let's go up one level to the Cana restaurant and bar to look at this impressive sculpture created by Botero, a work that is just casually observed as you sip your pina colada on the outdoor patio. The name Cana, has a special significance to me because when moved to Puerto Rico fourteen years ago, we lived in Cana, a community outside of Bayamon. Also, if you have read Jan Karon's Mitford series of books, you probably have come across the the title, Out to Canaan? And have you heard "Camidano haica Cana" (accent on the letter a or else it means white hair)? It's a lively church song here, "Walking Towards Cana", which suggests a pilgrimage to the promised land-maybe a Puerto Rican paradise? This piece was sculpted by the Columbian artist, Fernando Botero Angulo (born April 19, 1932 in Medellín, Antioquia) He is a well known Colombian figurative artist whose work is often on exhibit in the Museo del Arte in Ponce as well as other places around San Juan.
This early piece reflects a gracefully slim young woman but his more popular work focuses on the large curves of voluptuous women-here is Botero's drawing/
The Love Letter (2003).
I cannot resist posting another one, Rosalba (1969):
Actually, the people at El Convento Hotel know who Botero is ...
This antique filled hotel also has some beautiful botanical prints and here is one of the Ceiba tree flower by Agustine Stahl ...
Interestingly, he had a leading role in the Independence movement in Puerto Rico. He was remarkably talented in the natural sciences and made important contributions in the fields of archaeology, botany, ethnology, medicine and zoology. Dr. Agustín Stahl (1842-1917) is one of the first celebrated and acknowledge Puerto Rican scientists.
I'm glad I did this bit of research. The next time I go to the El Convento Hotel, I will pay my respects to the series of three accurately rendered botanical watercolors on the external wall leading up to the Cana Resturant and bar...
Let us step out into the antique cobalt blue cobble stone street.
Oh, what a lovely park just out the door! I just want to sit there and do some light summer reading... maybe one from the Mitford series?Or maybe I could draw this tree? I love the iron work detail, too.
When we walk out the front door and look down beautiful purple flowers grace the entrance.
Such a sunny day for a walk in El Viejo San Juan.