posts tagged culture

April 22, 2017

Manufacturing Paradise

By Ana Portnoy Brimmer

“That water---have you ever seen anything like it? Far out, to the horizon, the colour of the water is navy-blue; nearer, the water is the colour of the North American sky. From there to the shore, the water is pale, silvery, clear, so clear that you can see its pinkish-white sand bottom. Oh, what beauty! Oh, what beauty!” - Jamaica Kincaid, A Small Place

April 04, 2017

Behind Closed Gates: Debunking Myths from the Other Side

By Ana Portnoy Brimmer

Passersby walk around with strained necks trying to catch a glimpse of the inside. Hands conceal mouths as they spew the day’s rumors into neighboring ears. Both AM and FM radio stations spin fantastical tales, which they insist on calling news; and without ever having set foot near the site during the duration of el paro (1), individuals, Island-wide, weave astounding works of fiction.

March 02, 2017

My University of Puerto Rico, My Home

By Ana Portnoy Brimmer

I remember.

I remember feeding stale pieces of pan sobao’ (1) to the ducks and fish in the ponds by the rector’s house at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez. I was about six years old, and my sister and I loved going to the University with my father, a Mathematics professor, whenever he had to work on the weekends or during the summer. The ducks would follow us around, eager to be the chosen ones to receive the colmado (2) delicacy, the fish swimming in circles like underwater hawks waiting for their prey.

December 26, 2016

That Time of Year

By Ana Portnoy Brimmer

A fictional look at the holidays in Puerto Rico from many perspectives.

La Familia Puelto Jiqueña

“Jorge, caramba, deja eso ya! Stop eating el cuerito!” Laura yelled at her husband as she mixed the arroz con gandules inside a caldero big enough to bathe in, tired of reminding him about his cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.

November 26, 2016

Life in Between: Puerto Rico and the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean

By Ana Portnoy

In the Caribbean, living life in between, in a constant liminal state, whether culturally, identity-wise, or in any other dimension of life, is commonplace. The diversity of the region, of the particular historical experiences of each individual nation, makes for a polysemous way of life.

It’s no surprise then that, not only does Puerto Rico find itself living in the middle conceptually and culturally, but it also finds itself physically in between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

October 08, 2016

From Mayagüez to San Juan: Somos Puerto Rico

By Ana Portnoy Brimmer

Every muscle in my body was tense. My jaw, elbows, and back were locked without the remotest possibility of release. My fingers were tight around the steering wheel, eyes wide, darting from windshield, to mirror, to blindspot, and back, heart racing like I was running a marathon. I was driving in San Juan.

Shifting between defensive and offensive driving and constantly making sure I was still alive, I realized how much I missed the narrow, single-laned, crowded-in-by-mango-trees streets of my hometown: Mayagüez.

August 27, 2016

Poesía: Healing, Resisting, and Building Bridges

By Ana Portnoy Brimmer

“I am the memory of…” the room filled with the barely audible sound of pen on paper, the poets sitting around the table reacting, manifesting, to the writing prompt. Smiles, lip biting, furrowed brows, and deep sighs went around the table.

Mariposa read the next writing prompt. “I feel most alive when...”

July 23, 2016

Seeing Puerto Rico in Spain: fragments from the other side of the Atlantic

By Ana Portnoy Brimmer

In 1898, Spain’s 400 year-old colonial grip on Puerto Rico was severed. After three months of warfare with the United States, the archipelago was handed over by the waning Iberian super-power to the US, alongside Guam, the Philippines, and, for a while, Cuba. Nonetheless, 400 years are not easily erased or forgotten.


The streets of Gracia, Barcelona, tiled, charmingly narrow, intricately painted, and draped with independence flags, were bustling with life. It was a cool and crisp Monday afternoon in May as I drank my cortado1 in La Plaza de la Revolución2, everyday life unfolding around me. This square was named after the Glorious Revolution in 1868, in which Queen Isabella II was deposed. Interestingly, that same year, the Grito de Lares, a revolt for independence and against Spanish rule, took place in Puerto Rico. I took another sip of my coffee, intrigued by the revolutionary coincidence.

June 17, 2016

Tangled up in Calle San Juan

By Ana Portnoy Brimmer

“Vroom, vrooooooom!” the little boy pushes his toy car across the bar.

The miniature blue vehicle twists and turns around beer cans, a plate of arroz con habichuelas, and the bartender's hands.

Ven pa’cá, nene, take a bite,” says the bartender from behind the counter, pointing a spoonful of rice and beans in the toddler’s direction.

Hola, mi amol! Fix me a drink, will you? I’m thirsty!” a woman with a cake-batter face, thick lipstick, and clumped mascara walks behind the counter and kisses the bartender on the cheek. They exchange some remarks and laughs, and take their alcoholic beverages outside, on the street. The bar is casually left unattended.