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Why Puerto Rico Continues To Top The List Of World Travel Destinations


When Puerto Rico started showing up on many acclaimed publications’ top lists of world travel destinations for 2019 we weren’t too surprised. The Island of Enchantment is a slice of paradise that’s easily accessible to visit for a weekend getaway and is bustling with Latino culture. The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Robb Report, and Fodor’s are directing their travel lusting readers to the Carribean Island in order to support the local economy–something we can totally get behind. 

The Latino community can’t help but feel a bit burned as the media played such a major role in betraying the American people of Puerto Rico during the disastrous aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the deadliest natural disaster in modern U.S. history.

It’s astonishing how few U.S. citizens know about the colonization of Puerto Rico–amigas, you can’t say American without the ‘Rican.

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If foreigners want to support the recovery of the destruction from the natural disaster in Puerto Rico through tourism they must be mindful of being conscious of the way they travel while exploring the Island. It’s crucial more now than ever to support local businesses by staying in locally-owned guesthouses, eating at roadside chinchorreo food stalls, and hiring local drivers and guides in order to put your tourism dollars directly into local hands which will reinvest into their community. There are countless reasons why Puerto Rico continues to top the list of world travel destinations. 

Puerto Rico is one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean. The Island suffered from a major drop in tourism after the 2017 hurricane season which left major devastation. While parts of the island are still fragile and rebuilding, Puerto Rico is perfectly safe to visit. The Island boasts great weather year-round with winter and spring being the peak-seasons. The Atlantic hurricane season usually runs from June to November, but devastating natural phenomenons like Hurricane Maria are quite rare.

Discover Puerto Rico reports that the island has made a major comeback in terms of welcoming visitors.

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Over 110 flights land on the island daily from 28 airlines. Locals are getting involved in tourism by offering unique cultural homestays and experiences on Airbnb to give visitors an authentic chance to experience the charms of the Island. 

Listings on Airbnb initially dropped by 11% after Hurricane Maria but have grown exponentially since–there are now over 8,300 accommodation listings and 120 tourism experiences on the Island which has significantly surpassed pre-hurricane levels. According to Airbnb, Puerto Rico is trending as one of the top 5 destinations in the Caribbean.

The tourism industry accounts for 6.5% of Puerto Rico’s GDP and employs 77,000 people on the Island. Exploradoras can do their part by prioritizing responsible and impactful travel experiences that will support recovery efforts and local communities. Souvenir shopping can also make a positive impact if you purchase artisan handmade crafts from social enterprises such as Concalma which supports local craftswomen. 

Locally owned tour company Local Guest curates unique tours that help visitors explore off-the-beaten-path areas of the Island including the spectacular cave system of Cabachuelas in Morovis.

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Carmen N. Portela Martínez is the co-founder of Local Guest and prides herself on creating authentic tourism experiences by “working hand in hand with local communities and

entrepreneurs in order to build a more sustainable tourism ecosystem.” Martínez tells FIERCE that “Puerto Rico has been through a lot in the last two years but through the strength and hard work of our people we can be proud to celebrate our Island again and what we have to offer which has always been the beauty of our people and culture.”

“After a natural disaster, it’s important to make sure that we implement systems and practices that support the local economy for the benefit of host communities and for the conservation of our country and resources. Responsible travelers leave a lighter footprint in destinations and tend to support local business and explore beyond the traditional tourist attractions. Community-based tourism is a way of immersing yourself in a destination while interacting with host communities. The human and cultural exchange on both ends can be very meaningful and long-lasting,” says Martínez.

Traveling throughout the lush landscape of Puerto Rico may give a false pretense that the Island is fully recovered but there are still numerous people who are displaced and recovering from the extreme loss of homes and loved ones. Support those who are still facing the impacts of Hurricane Maria by donating to local nonprofits that are providing aid to those in need such as Proyecto de Apoyo Mutuo which is bringing solar energy to the Island to combat ongoing power outages and Ayuda Legal Huracán María which is a collective of law professionals that aid local communities with disaster legal aid and assistance.

There are several reputable eco-tourism organizations that have crafted tourism experiences to allow guests to participate in reforestation of areas that were devastated by the storm. Travelers can join environmental conservation nonprofit Para La Naturaleza to aid in a variety of community projects such as planting native trees as a part of their Tree Nursing Maintenance program which aims to reforest Puerto Rico with 750,000 indigenous trees over the next seven years.

Nature is a major draw for visitors in Puerto Rico.

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Tierra Madre seriously blessed the Island with stunning natural feats. Many of these fragile ecosystems suffered during the storm but through the dedication of the gente of Puerto Rico who care for their land–they’re once again thriving. Endless eco-tourism experiences await around the Island. Visit the mangrove forest in Cataño with local nonprofit CARAS de las Americas to support reforestation and learn about the unique ecosystem. If you seek an adrenaline rush, strap into a harness and go for a zip-lining adventure at Toro Verde.

Waterfall lovers will be in paradise in Puerto Rico. Some of the best cascades to witness include La Soplaera Waterfall in Peñuelas, Charco Piazza waterfall in Yauco, and El Roble Waterfall in San Sebastian. Puerto Rico even has its own Salt Flats located in Cabo Rojo which are a sight to behold. The natural treasure appears to have pink sand and is very delicate so swimming is not allowed. Nearby is the stunning Los Morillos Lighthouse which looms over the ocean near the Natural Arch Beach.

For an unforgettable evening, swim in one of the Islands bioluminescent-bays in Mosquito Bay and La Parguera. Hire a local fisherman to take you out to explore the coastline between Luquillo and Fajardo and you might get blessed with a sighting of the vulnerable leatherback sea turtles. If you seek sand and sun you’ll find picture-perfect beaches all around the Island such as Playa Caña Gorda, Cayo Aurora (Gilligan’s Island), and Punta Ballena Beach in Guánica. The western coastline in Cabo Rojo has many gorgeous stretches of sea including Playa Combate, Playa Buyé, and Playa Sucia.

Cultural buffs will love to visit the 16th-century citadel of Castillo San Felipe del Morro in San Juan. But, to really explore the rich history of Puerto Rico rent a car and head outside of the capital city to visit lesser-known areas such as the southwest region of the Island which is only a 2-hour drive from San Juan. As Martínez says, if you only visited San Juan you don’t know Puerto Rico. If you love architecture stop in Ponce to visit the historic eye-catching firehouse of Parque de Bombas which established in 1882 then take a stroll along the picturesque La Guancha Boardwalk.

Head to San Germán to take in the beauty of Porta Coeli which dates back to 1609 making it one of the oldest churches in the western hemisphere. The surrounding town reflects a similar old-timey ambiance. If you’re drawn to the colonial style of Spanish buildings pay a visit to San Germán, La Ciudad de las Lomas, which was the original capital city of Puerto Rico and the second oldest city on the Island.

Foodies won’t want to miss the chance to taste all the Puertorriqueño delicacies.

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And by that, we mean rum, of course! Bacardí was founded in Cuba and be headquartered in Bermuda, but the rum distillery in Cataño is a highlight for many travelers who’ve tried their hand at mixology. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting during the winter holidays don’t miss out on a special seasonal treat that’s unique to the Island–coquito! The sweet coconutty drink is best enjoyed with a splash of rum, of course.

Puerto Rican native Jessica van Dop DeJesús of Dining Traveler encourages those who seek genuine Boricua comida to head to the center of the Island and consume local foods in order to make a positive impact. “There are so many great restaurants in the mountains of Puerto Rico. Roasted pork, music, and a gorgeous island view… What else can you ask for?” she told FIERCE. Her favorite spots include Casa Vieja in Ciales, Casa Bavaria in Morovis, and Lechonera El Cuñao in Cayey. If you’re not too full after your feast, go explore the surrounding mountainous scenery which boasts many gorgeous waterfalls. 

In order to have the best experience in Puerto Rico van Dop DeJesús has a simple suggestion-talk to locals wherever you go. As she says, Boricuas love to talk! “What makes Puerto Rico truly special are its people. Let’s be honest, you can find gorgeous beaches and mountains across the Caribbean. However, Puerto Rico has a very unique and diverse culture. We have a unique sense of openness that makes visitors feel right at home,” she says. Have you booked your flight yet? Nos vemos en la Isla del Encantamiento!

17 Latin American Dishes That Are (Almost) Too Pretty To eat

Culture

17 Latin American Dishes That Are (Almost) Too Pretty To eat

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Latin American food is one of the richest in the world. It is the product of processes of colonization and cultural mishmash: indigenous ingredients and techniques, European complexity, African spice. Latin American food has it all and people the world over visit the region to taste both top restaurants and street staples that have survived for generations.

Here are a few of our many favorites, 17 dishes that preserve the colorful soul of the continent and the deceptive simplicity of highly complex creations. Buen provecho.

1. Not all tacos are created equal

Credit: Instagram. @trent_lindo

Oh, the wonderful taco, the epitome of Mexican food. The taco is a miracle of history: the corn from Meso American cultures, the fillings from animals brought by the Spanish and all tied together by the influence of Middle Eastern cuisine, which uses grilled meets and pita breads as staples. Tacos are miraculous and surprisingly healthy. Sometimes chefs get their fancy on and create authentic rainbows of gorgeous smells and flavors like this lobster and black bean variation. Very Baja! Yummo!

2. Some ceviches are prettier than others

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Ceviche is to Peruvian food what tacos are for Mexican cuisine. The Peruvian restaurant Astrid and Gaston, which often appears in the lists of top restaurants of the world, has achieved visual and culinary perfection with these little bowls of joy and beauty. Just look at the colors basically piercing our eyes and our souls.

3. Enrique Olvera, the superstar Mexican chef, is a Michaelangelo of the kitchen

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Enrique Olvera has taken Mexican food to the next level in his restaurants, particularly Pujol, which is often ranked among the best 15 in the world. Just look at these works of art. The darker mole in the middle of the last row has been simmering for years. Yes, literally for years! It is such a treat.

4. Ice cream macarons from a legendary Peruvian restaurant? Foodgasm alert!

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Astrid and Gaston again! But how could we not include these ice cream macarons, a very unique take on a classic from French patisserie? They have very Peruvian flavors, with local fruits being the core of the palette. Oh my, just by looking at them we start salivating.

5. Fried piranha skins are always pretty in a baroque kind of way

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Virgilio Martinez is the new superstar of Peruvian food. He travels his country in search of new and exciting ingredients, and his degustation menu is a trip through the geography of the South American country. He loves to surprise and confront, and what better way to do this than presenting the patron with a deconstructed piranha. It is beautiful just like bloody baroque art is: art is sometimes violent and decadent in its depth.

6. Quinoa never looked so chingonamente hermosa 

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Among the ingredients that Virgilio has made his own is quinoa, the ancient grain that has fed indigenous Peruvians for centuries and that is now a staple of hipster food, even though its mass consumption means that many poor Peruvians can’t afford it now. Here it is presented in a dignified, natural, deliciously primal state.

7. When the plate is a canvas and ingredients a work of art

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And really, we can’t think of a more exciting foodie destination in Latin America than Central. Just look at this plate, the colors, the perfect harmony and exciting combination of textures. If it is as pleasing to the taste as it is to the sight, we are all in.

8. No mordida on our cakes, please

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We couldn’t help but to include this cute and deceptively simple llama cake. It is a work of art that respects tradition, evades cultural appropriation and is just testament of a baking virtuoso. No mordida here, please…. you might be poked by that cactus!

9. A classic sculpture of culinary genius: mango with chilito 

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Not all gorgeous food needs to be fancy or high end. A staple of Mexican street food that has migrated to the Southern United States is luscious and it basically makes our culinary desire salivate. A simple fruit like mango is cut in intricate flower-like shapes and crowned by that proof of the existence of beauty: Tajin.

10. What? Mexican sushi? You bet, compa!

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Mexicans have made sushi their own for the past two decades. Mexican sushi is unlike any other: it combines Japanese tradition with very local ingredients such as chili and chipotle mayo. Mango and chamoy are also often combined with meats, rice, and seafood. And Mexican sushi chefs sure make sure that it all looks pleasing to the eye and feels soothing to the hungry stomachs and souls of comensales.

11. Brazilians have elevated BBQing to a fine art

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If you are a carnivore and you have not tasted a traditional Brazilian churrasco, then you are in for a treat. Brazilians sure know how to enjoy life, and getting together over a BBQ is a way of enjoying each other’s company. Brazilian grilled meats are crispy, salty and sooooo pleasing to the eye. Just look at these beauties, perfectly sliced and cooked to absolute perfection.

12. Alfajores are a bite del cielo 

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This Argentinian crumbly pastry filled with dulce de leche are gorgeous in a homey, cozy kind of way. Just by looking at them our hearts melt, become gooey like the dulce de leche that stretches as we sigh in pleasure. Try them for yourself if you don’t believe us.

13. Look at this dulce tradicional mexicano, though

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One of the most overlooked treasures of Mexican cuisine are dulces tradicionales. Take these gummy fruit treats, for example, perfectly laid out in a spiral of sweet delight.

14. Seriously! We are nuts over these palanquetas! 

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Nuts are a staple of Mexican candies. Peanuts, pepitas, and grains like amaranth are all stuck together with honey or piloncillo (cane sugar). These are so popular that you can even buy them from vendors in Mexico City traffic! Put them together, however, and they form an uncanny tapestry of symmetry that you could hang in a museum!

15. We don’t know if we should eat these or hang them on a wall and just admire them

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OMG! Look at these paletas! No kid can resist to them: they just hypnotize you with their twisty patterns and shiny colors. They speak of the joys of childhood and the talent of dulceros artesanales that are a true treasure of humanity. Everyday creativity on full display.

16. Nopales: the gorgeous green that takes us back to the beginning of time

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Sometimes the prettiest foods are pure ingredients. Take nopales, for example, a type of cactus that has been consumed for centuries. The vibrant greens and their infinite hues seem like an oil paint from Tamayo or Orozco, master painters who translated the palettes of nature onto their canvases.

17. And of course, nothing surpasses the brutal beauty of a trompo de pastor being caressed by fire

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But let’s be honest. Few foods despiertan tantas pasiones like tacos al pastor. They are a full-fledged attack on the senses: visually it is an incandescent carnal treat, its smell elicits dreams and memories, its taste has the perfect balance of sweet, salty and spicy. Doesn’t get any better than this.

Dominicans Are Taking To Social Media To Make Sure That People Stop Trying To Cancel The Dominican Republic

Things That Matter

Dominicans Are Taking To Social Media To Make Sure That People Stop Trying To Cancel The Dominican Republic

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The Dominican Republic has been dealing with some really horrible press lately. Hundreds of people are falling ill while visiting the island and 11 tourists from the U.S. have died since last May. A bulk of the deaths occurred in the last couple of months and people are getting concerned. However, some people are trying to make sure the entire country isn’t thrown away because of this news.

The Dominican Republic is facing some really hard press lately and it has people concerned.

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There are at least 11 Americans who have died while in the Dominican Republic or shortly after coming home from their vacations. Hundreds more have reported falling extremely ill while on vacation. The most notable examples of people falling ill are at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana. According to reports, the culprit is the liquor in the minibars in the guest rooms.

The stories have people on edge about possible trips and outings to and in the Dominican Republic.

While everyone is showing legitimate concern or cracking jokes, Dominicans are getting pretty upset about the collective call to cancel the DR. Not only are they bothered that their home country is being treated with such disrespect.

Jokes aside, here are some reasons people want you to stop trying to cancel the Dominican Republic.

Sasha Merci is not here for you and your willingness to just write the whole country off. Her biggest concern about the movement to cancel trips to the DR is the lack of people looking to find solutions for what is happening in the country.

And she’s not alone.

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For so many people, the deaths in the Dominican Republic, while horrible, should not keep people scared from traveling to the Caribbean island. According to officials on the island, the deaths in the DR are not abnormal when compared to years before, however, the reaction to the deaths is at a peak.

There are also DR defenders who claim those canceling the island have never even been.

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There are plenty of people telling people to cancel their trips to the island. However, there are other people pushing for people to educate themselves so they can still go to the Dominican Republic, have a good time, and stay healthy.

Those who are already planning a trip to the Caribbean island are staying firm and telling everyone else to calm down.

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It does seem like a severe reaction to a level of deaths that Dominican officials claim to be normal for this point in the year. People are joking that they just won’t touch the mini bar to guarantee their safety. However, the consumption of alcohol is one of the main factors linking the deaths together.

A couple of social media users are hoping the fear of traveling to the Dominican Republic will lower the cost of plane tickets.

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Low key, who wouldn’t be down for a trip to the DR if the tickets are just $108? It seems like too good of a trip to miss out on. Cheap, international, and a quick trip since it is pretty close to the U.S. According to reports. 6.5 million tourists visited the Dominican Republic in 2016 and 2.2 million of them are from the United States.

Despite the number of people calling for understanding, some people are just ready to write-off the whole nation.

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People were quick to defend the island in the face of this comment. A lot of commenters pointed to all of the things happening in the U.S. and asked why there hasn’t been a call to cancel the U.S.

If you are canceling your trip to the Dominican Republic, there are people willing and ready to take your tickets.

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The deaths in the Dominican Republic are tragic. No one should be losing their lives while on vacation in a resort. However, while calling for a boycott of a country might feel good and necessary, it does not to address the problem. Fortunately, authorities are starting to investigate the deaths to try and prevent them moving forward.

READ: 11 U.S. Tourists Have Died In The Dominican Republic Of Illnesses Since Last May, What’s Going On In The Dominican Republic?

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