Puerto Rico

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Godfather and Papo

By Marisa Mohi, world traveler and consigliere to the Don.

My dad has raised me on two ideas. The first, is The Godfather. Ever since I was little he would quote the movie, reminding me to never “take sides against the family” or to “take the gun and leave the cannolis” and various other bits of wisdom that only the Corleone family could relate in parts I and II. The other thing, is the notion of travel.

You see, my dad is what he refers to as “an international.” That is, he is not from the U.S. I’ve always heard stories of him coming to the U.S. from Iran when he was a teenager, and how this has shaped him into the person he is today. (This is probably one of the many reasons that he likes The Godfather, because he relates with young Vito coming to the U.S. to make his way in the world.) He didn’t speak the language, but came here anyway to make his fortune. Before considering this trip, I knew that I could never live up to the person that my dad is if I never traveled.

Enter Puerto Rico.

Since I’ve been here, I’ve gone on many an organized tour and done the touristy sort of things. And while I don’t feel like the badass that my dad was, I feel like I’m definitely growing up. I feel like I’m getting the vibe of the place, and getting to know Puerto Rico.

Since I’ve been here, we’ve had a few tour guides, but none so great as Papo. If you ever go to Puerto Rico and decide to go on a tour, ask for Papo. He’s the most fun you can have in a tour bus.

Papo has 8 daughters and claims that he needs to work as a tour guide in order to get out everything he wants say but can’t say at home when surrounded by women. He’s also the head trainer for the tour guide service we’ve used. And, even though he recently had a stroke, he’s still going strong, showing the flora and fauna and architecture and relating anecdotes.

A stop on our grand tour that really sticks out in my mind is Loiza, a city founded by freed slaves. We all hopped on the bus with Papo and headed from San Juan to Loiza. We stopped at the home and studio of Samuel Lind, where I bought a print.

Then we were off to the Loiza Cultural Center to learn how to dance the “Bomba.” The Bomba is a type of dance that uses different drum rhythms created by the freed slaves from that area. We sang the chorus and learned a simple dance, though the majority of us weren’t quite up to par. The pros, however, were a sight to behold.

And then, we made a stop at the proverbial mecca that is the Bacardi Rum factory.

And throughout it all, we had Papo to give us the quick and dirty, and also the long form of information regarding these destinations. And, though our time with Papo has ended, I’m glad he was here to properly introduce me to the greatness that is Puerto Rico.

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