◊ daily life ◊

Rana Coqui in the rain forest

If you happen to visit Puerto Rico, you will quickly learn about “La rana coquí”. During sunset, the air fills with a beautiful song, but don’t think that what you are hearing is a bird, because is not! It is a frog! A frog from Puerto Rico that is really small, approximately the size of a fingernail. It’s called a “coquí” because of the sound it makes, co-qui (ko-kee). Only the males sing, not the females. I can imagine the first settlers having trouble figuring out where that beautiful sound was coming from, and never could have guessed that it could come out of such a small creature.

Coquíes eat insects that are close enough catch. They don’t have webbed feet, so they don’t swim very well, but they can climb trees. Yes, they climb trees! Since they hide in the trees and bushes, the sound comes from all around you, but you can’t see the frog most of the time. Also, they aren’t born as tadpoles, like many other frogs are. They hatch from their eggs as fully formed frogs!

Another cool thing about the coquí is that people can use them as an alarm clock. The sugar cane workers use the frog’s croaks to know that they finished a hard day of work, since the coquí always start singing at dusk. They stop singing at dawn, and return to their nests during the day, so it’s like one loud all-night lullaby.

I was taking a nap the first time I heard one. It scared me at first because I wasn’t expecting such a loud sound. It sounded like it was right on top of me, but I couldn’t find where the sound was coming from. It’s like a cricket at my grandmother’s house in the country. We would always hear them, but could never see them. Well imagine my surprise when I saw this itty-bitty frog with a great big voice. I called my mom and told her all about it. She laughed at me because she remembered the coquí when she stopped at Puerto Rico on her cruise last year. Why didn’t she warn me?

It has been said that if you take a coquí out of Puerto Rico, it will die. There go my hopes of having a pet coquí. I hope on your next visit to Puerto Rico, you can see (or at least HEAR) a coquí!

If you have never walked around inside the fortress El Morro in San Juan, Puerto Rico, definitely put this on your list of places to visit. It is absolutely beautiful here. It’s situated next to the ocean on the corner of the island. Every view, both inside and out, is breathtaking. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my visit today and I can’t wait to come back here again.

El Morro fortress in old San Juan

Being inside El Morro and walking around in San Juan has got me thinking about the rich history of Puerto Rico. I remember learning something about the island in school, but I didn’t learn nearly as much from my history books as I have by being here. I learned that Puerto Rico used to be called The Boriken, literally translated “the great land of the valiant and noble Lord” by the Taíno people. The Taíno were a tribe of natives that moved from South America to the island many years before the Spanish conquistadors arrived.

In 1492 King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain financed Christopher Columbus’ two major voyages to the New World. On this second voyage, he landed on the island and named it  “San Juan Bautista” (Saint John the Baptist). The Island had lots of potential and natural resources, which is why it was later named “Puerto Rico” (rich port). Who would have known that within a matter of a few years Puerto Rico would have three different names? Can you think of any place that’s been renamed three times?

When I was at El Morro, I kept hearing the name Ponce de León. I was curious who he was so I went to the library and looked him up. As it turns out, Ponce de León was a lieutenant to Christopher Columbus. He was very ambitious, and thanks to his efforts, the island soon became an important military outpost in the Caribbean, which is why they constructed the fortress, the beautiful El Morro.

Ponce de León Statue in old San Juan

When Christopher Columbus died in Valladolid, Spain, his son Diego wanted to be the Governor of Puerto Rico, but the Spanish monarchs named Ponce de León as Governor. Two years later, Diego was put in Ponce de León’s place as Governor. Ponce de León did not like that and asked for permission to continue his explorations, so he left the island soon after that. Guess where he landed . . . in Florida! He’s the same guy they say searched for the fountain of youth. History is soooo cool! I hope you can visit “La Isla del encanto” (The Island of Enchantment … yes, another name for Puerto Rico) soon!