By David Ramos
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
I grew up in Sunset Park, Brooklyn and have many fond and painful memories of my childhood running around the streets of Brooklyn playing stickball, “Skelzies,” and “Cocolevio.” On 37th Street between 4th and 5th Avenue I recall that this block had a unique feature—it was still a cobblestone street. Moreover, the same cobblestones that were found in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, paved this street. During my vacation in Puerto Rico I couldn’t help to experience a linkage between an ancient past, my childhood and my present meanderings through the picturesque narrow streets of Old San Juan.
The Spanish brought these beautiful blue cobblestones known as “Aquinos” in their galleons to serve as ballast. My imagination ran away as I visualized the Spanish making their journey and landing on this wonderful warm island of palm trees. I also imagined these cobblestones lying in the hull of the ship as they made their perilous voyage. These weighty stones cast from fiery furnace slag provided stability and balance for their ships ensuring that they would arrive at their destiny.
Within our lives many of us have undergone experiences that harden and weigh down our souls. Often we become unconscious of them as we drag them along our lives much like the boxes of discarded books we have failed to let go of. While many of these experiences may have been painful they nevertheless made us wise, discerning and mature. These experiences have served as ballast in our lives keeping us from flighty notions, embarking on foolish and potentially disastrous adventures, and have served to build our character and identity. However, just like in life when things have outlived their usefulness, there are memories, things, and/or paradigms that we must let go of or seek another purpose for.
The Spanish used these cobblestones to pave the streets of San Juan. These cobblestones not only played a functional purpose but it served to beautify the vicinity of where they lived. While never easy (paving takes a lot of labor) let us attempt to use the stones in our lives to pave our path, and even beautify our lives. With the help of God we can pave our way past pain and walk upon what once hurt us creating new paths for our lives. Our memories need not burden our soul but can serve to help us get to where we are going and to glisten blue as the streets of Old San Juan on a rainy day.
Good to have you back David. I look forward one day to purchase a devotional that speaks to my context as I journey through the cobblestones that are layed out in my path. Are you already working on this project my brother? C.S. Lewis move aside David is coming thru…Bendiciones
Gracias mi hermana por tu palabras de animo.
Viejo San Juan is beautiful…and as we wait on God to pave the way, a little soul food on the way also helps: acapurias, bacalaitos, pastelillos, papa rellenas, lechon, pasteles, arroz con gandules, chicharones, and my favorite viandas and bacalao…all help to take way the pain.
The beauty of Old San Juan always bring mix feeling to me. So much colonial beauty done by the crushed backs of africans and poor white slaves. If not so much of the “modern” Old San Juan which still reflect strong sense of classims that we still up to this day suffer in Puerto Rico. But no matter what, a good cold Medalla (local beer) never tasted better than in a hot day in one of the small cafes in Old San Juan.
The cobblestones are call adoquines.
You make a good point. You reminded me of Eduardo Galeano’s classic, “Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent.”
Thanks for the correction.