Monday, February 24, 2014

Port Royal State Park

Travel should educate and can have a cathartic effect.   It shows how far we have come and how far we still have to go.   Everywhere people live there is little known history close by.  What has happened close to where you live?

I visit this park a couple times of week to walk our dogs, to clear my mind, and think about different things.   This park is located less than 6 miles from my house and I still find it hard to believe that this even happened.   But it did happen and we must remember.  

Port Royal is a State Heritage Park dedicated to the remembrance of the Trail of Tears.   The relocation of Southeastern Indian tribes is a little known American tragedy.   This ethnic cleansing named the Indian Removal act of 1830 relocated 46,000 Native Americans from the Southeastern United States to the Territory of Oklahoma.    Although the estimates differ it is likely that one third or 18,000 died while making the journey.
The Trail of Tears is the land route that was primarily used for the forced removal of Cherokee Indian Nation in 1838.  This trail ran from Northern Georgia to Fort Gibson Oklahoma approximately 2200 miles.   17 forced traveling detachments were formed, several station's were used to rest and resupply the detachments.   Port Royal is one of these stations. 

Of the 16,550 Cherokees that were forced to march to Oklahoma as many as 6500 died during the move.  Someone once said those who fail to remember history are doomed to repeat it.   In our American history, we have done some pretty atrocious things that seemed perfectly normal at the time. The 1836 Indian Removal Act was one of them. It’s good that we should learn from this history, but often we don’t.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Old San Juan

I’m sitting in a six-story building in a large open concept apartment, it is full of windows; the sunlight pierces the room.  The cool morning breeze is ushering in another warm day.   We had rain last night some was blown in through an open window it puddles in a low spot on the floor.   As I gaze out the window, I see today there are no cruise ships docked in the old city.   It will be a quiet day on the streets of old or in Spanish Viejo San Juan this morning.  Although much smaller like Manhattan, Viejo San Juan sits on an Island in San Juan Bay, much like Manhattans relationship with the rest of New York.  Old San Juan is in the western part of the Island.  In the middle is the Capital of Puerto Rico.  The eastern part of the island is dominated by parks and beaches.  Old San Juan is a historic city with many buildings dating back to the 17th Century.

By night cruise ships dock; by day the old city serves as their next tourist destination.  When in Port the city is awash in people shopping and sightseeing in the old city.    The biggest draw is the architecture and Spanish fort complex of that consist of the main forts of San Cristobal and El Morro.  These forts dominate all parts of the old San Juan.   El Morro wraps around the city cradling it, on the leeward side of the island, buildings are constructed along its walls.  The buildings in Viejo San Juan look a lot like the buildings in New Orleans French Quarter, Renaissance construction with large balconies overlooking the streets.  The streets are uneven cobblestone and narrow.  They still allow traffic in the old city, and the streets are all one way.   Traffic can be frustrating, to say the least.

It is my 4th trip to the Old City and 6th trip to Puerto Rico.   I am in love with the island of Puerto Rico and its people.   When in the Army I worked with a lot of Puerto Ricans and became friends with many of them.  When I was an Airborne Soldier at Ft. Bragg, a good friend Lou Rivera watched over my family on both long and short deployments.  Lou, a retired Special Forces Soldier, fought in WWII in Patton's 3rd Army.  He is also a veteran of Korea and Vietnam he like many of the people of Puerto Rico are the most patriotic people I have ever met.

On this trip, I’m using my son’s apartment as a base for exploration.   He is in the Coast Guard and actually lives here in the Old City a short walk from his coast guard base.  We plan to snorkel various parts of Puerto Rico and its lesser-known outer island of Culebra.   His assignment here and more importantly tolerating me for 2 plus weeks is well appreciated.  It is as we say above and beyond the call of duty.   That being said we both look forward to snorkeling this beautiful island of Puerto Rico together.   I think that it will be an unforgettable trip.