My colleague, Jim Rice, invited me to join him in speaking to the Puerto Rico Hospital Association in April, 1985. We flew to San Juan, and attended the two-day meeting. Jim returned home after the meeting, but I stayed on a week and drove around the island after spending some days in San Juan.
I checked into an historic hotel, the Gran Hotel El Convento, which, of course, was a former convent. It was so enjoyable and fit in so well with the surroundings of Old San Juan, with it’s pastel-colored buildings from past centuries.
El Morro Fort was one of the main tourist sights and because of the windy April weather, there were many people building and flying kites. These kites were not the kind I was used to seeing—they were gigantic! They were made with long bamboo polls covered with light cloth, and yes, they managed to get them airborne!
El Morro dates back to 1539 and is said to be the oldest fort in the New World. Some of the walls are 140 feet high, and 15 feet thick. The lighthouse has operated since 1846, making it the oldest operating light house on the island. Just below the fort is the Cemetery of San Juan.
I set out to drive to the west side of the island, to Mayaguez, a town where one of the hospital administration participants at the hospital association meeting worked as the administrator. It was a beautiful drive, offering a surprising variety of landscapes.
There is a startling retired fire station, now a tourist information center there, with red and black stripes called Parque de Bombas. Near there was the Museo de Arte de Ponce, whch I wanted to see as there was a famous painting displayed there called “Flaming Jane,” by Frederic Lord Leighton. I looked and looked for it, finally giving up on finding it. I set out from there to visit El Yunque, the Carribbean National Forest, but got so twisted up on the back roads, that by nightfall, a big surprise to me—there was the Parque de Bombas again. I had inadvertently returned to my starting point! So the next morning, I did find and visit the Museo de Arte de Ponce, and “Flaming Jane.” It was well worth it—a very dramatic painting, that I’m very glad that I saw.