Puerto Rico: Island of Enchantment
Thursday, October 20
Enjoy an afternoon stroll through botanical and cultural gardens. Then, see a demonstration by blind artisan, Arturo Ortíz, and enjoy a Puerto Rican meal with him and his spouse, María.
Day 1, Thursday, October 20
- 8:30 am – Fly from Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) to Luis Muñoz Marín (LMM) International Airport, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
- 12:35 pm – Arrive at LMM International Airport in Carolina, Puerto Rico
Visit the William Miranda Marín Botanical and Cultural Gardens, Caguas, PR. Enjoy a walk through a grove of local trees, an archeological site of a nineteenth-century sugar cane mill, a traditional home of mid-twentieth century, flowering plants, and more.
Visit and enjoy a meal at the home of local artisan, Arturo Ortíz, and his spouse, María Cruz. Watch Arturo Ortíz, a blind artisan, demonstrate how he uses a lathe to makes folk art such as a mortar and pestle, pens, and cups using local woods. Enjoy a delicious Puerto Rican meal. Then, participate in an orientation to the tour with Rolando Santiago and LMHS staff.
Friday, October 21
Visit a school, farm, hospital, church and more, to learn about the 70-plus years of Mennonite presence in Puerto Rico.
Day 2 Friday, October 21
- 7:30 am – Leave for Pulguillas and have breakfast along the way
- Tour Academia Menonita Betania in Pulguillas, Coamo http://www.academiamenonitabetania.com/
Hear about the 70-year history of this Mennonite school and its impact on people from towns in the central mountains of Puerto Rico. Hear faculty and student give testimonials.
- Tour a local Mennonite farm in Pulguillas, Coamo
Mary Miranda, a local storyteller, will give a history of Mennonite origins of the Puerto Rico poultry industry as a local Mennonite farmer gives a tour of his farm.
- Pick up a fast food lunch (on your own) and enjoy it at Casa Ulrich https://bibliotecavirtualpr.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/casa-ulrich-en-aibonito/
Take your lunch to Casa Ulrich, a historic house built in 1915 that the Ulrich Foundation purchased in 1953 to support its agricultural and economic development projects in coordination with the Mennonite Board of Missions.
Hear the story of the Sistema de Salud Menonita (Mennonite Health System) that began in 1944 as a 24-bed hospital under the auspices of Mennonite Central Committee and its Civilian Public Service workers.
Tour the facilities of the Hospital General Menonita de Aibonito, one of four hospitals that are part of the current System.
- Walking tour in La Plata, a historic Mennonite area
The walk will be from the recreational plaza, to the “Centro Comunal,” to the baseball park, to the basketball court, to the marker of the former Mennonite General Hospital, to the Mennonite church building, to the farm of don Juan Carlos Colón, grandson of one of the first Puerto Rican Mennonite farmers.
Hear Puerto Rican perspectives on life with North American Mennonites in the 1940s to the 1970s in La Plata.
Enjoy Fellowship and a delicious Puerto Rican meal with leaders of the Convención de Iglesias Evangélicas Menonitas de Puerto Rico (Convention of Mennonite Evangelical Churches of Puerto Rico)
Interact with a panel of leaders of the Convention of Mennonite Evangelical Churches of Puerto Rico, and learn about the history and life of Mennonite churches in Puerto Rico.
Saturday, October 22
Visit sixteenth-century fort of El Morro, stroll through the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan, and tour through El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Park system.
Day 3, Saturday, October 22
- Breakfast along the way to Old San Juan
- Walking tour of Old San Juan: El Morro fortress and other historic buildings
For 400 years, Old San Juan was an important colonial port city of the Spanish Empire. El Morro was a military fortress used to defend Old San Juan. Today, El Morro is part of the U.S. National Park Service and a World Heritage Site of the United Nations.
- Lunch on your own
- Tour and hike in El Yunque
El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest of the U.S. National Park forest system. It is one of the most biologically diverse national forests, hosting hundreds of animal and plant species. A tour guide will help the tour group explore trails, historic features, scenic views and waterways, and learn about the Forest’s ecological importance.
- Dinner on your own at kiosks near Luquillo Beach
Enjoy dinner in one of over 50 kiosks along Route 3. Some of these small restaurants open toward the beach with a nice view. According to one reviewer, “you can get humble local fried goodies like bacalaítos, alcapurrias, pastelillos/empanadillas or even rice and beans… You can also get much more unusual things like gourmet hamburgers, local/Caribbean fusion, Thai, Italian, Mexican and even Peruvian food.”
Sunday, October 23
Ponce, tour a seventeenth century chapel, enjoy the stunning Caribbean views of the Caribbean, and an evening boat ride to a bioluminescent bay.
Day 4, Sunday, October 23
- 7:30 am – Leave for Ponce, and have breakfast along the way
- Visit and enjoy a meal with a local Mennonite congregation in Villa del Carmen residential area
Worship, fellowship and have lunch with the Ponce Mennonite congregation. Hear about the history of this congregation, established in the 1970s in part as an outreach to university students.
- Tour the Museum of Art of Ponce
The Museum’s has, “820 works of art on view span 3,000 years and come from Europe, the Americas, and Africa—three cultures that have shaped Puerto Rico’s heritage.”
- Tour the 1609 Porta Coeli church in San Germán
The Porta Coeli church structure is one of the oldest in the Western Hemisphere, built as part of a convent by the Dominican Order. It now houses the Museum of Religious Art. It has been on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places since 1976.
- Walk to El Faro Los Morrillos in Cabo Rojo
From Wikipedia: “Located at the southwestern tip of the island of Puerto Rico, this lighthouse was constructed in 1882 in order to guide passing ships through the southeast entrance from the Caribbean Sea through the treacherous Mona Passage into the Atlantic Ocean. The lighthouse is located over a white lime cliff, which is surrounded by salt water lagoons and marshes. The cliffs surrounding the lighthouse drop over 200 feet into the ocean.”
Settle at Parador Villa Parguera, one of the most complete and attractive Paradores (country inns) in Puerto Rico. Its beautiful and comfortable rooms, of which many have a balcony that is bordered by the imposing Caribbean Sea, that blend into the patio between tropical palm trees and gardens that give a natural enchantment to the Parador.
- Grab a quick bite in town
- Take boat tour of bioluminescent bay. The luminescence in the bay is caused by a micro-organism, the dinoflagellate Pyrodinium bahamense, which glows whenever the water is disturbed.
Monday, October 24
Visit historic district landmarks in Ponce, second largest city, and scenic views on return to the airport.
Day 5, Monday, October 24
- Visit Ponce Plaza
- Tour various locations on your own such as Parque de Bombas, market, cathedral, city hall, museums
- From Wikipedia: “The city has been christened as Museum City for its many quality museums. All museums in Ponce are under municipal government administration. On September 15, 2004, the last four museums not under local control were transferred from the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture to the Ponce Municipal Government by act of the Puerto Rico Legislature. However, these four museums (Casa Armstrong Poventud, Casa Wiechers-Villaronga, Museo de la Música Puertorriqueña, and Casa de la Masacre) continue to be controlled by the ICP. Downtown Ponce in particular features several museums and landmarks.Plaza Las Delicias, the town’s main square, features a prominent fountain (namely, the “Lions Fountain”), the Ponce Cathedral, and Parque de Bombas, an old fire house, now a museum, that stands as an iconic symbol of the city and a tribute to the bravery of its firefighters. This plaza is also a usual gathering place for “ponceños” (name for local Ponce residents). Other buildings around Ponce’s main plaza include the Casa Alcaldía (Ponce City Hall), the oldest colonial building in the city, dating to the 1840s, and the Armstrong-Poventud Residence, an example of the neoclassical architectural heritage of the island.
- Have lunch on your own
- 12:00 pm – Leave for LMM International airport
- 4:55 pm – Flight leaves for BWI
Visit the Island of Enchantment
Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society will sponsor a five-day tour to Puerto Rico from Thursday, October 20, to Monday, October 24. Cost per person is $1,975. Price of the tour includes airfare, motor coach, lodging, seven meals, and site tours. For those flying with the group, the tour is limited to thirty persons.
Early bird registration deposit of $500.00 needed by June 15 with total $1975.00 due August 15. Regular registration deposit of $500.00 needed by July 15 with total of $2175.00 due August 15. Interested persons can register at www.lmhs.org or by calling 717-393-9745. An itinerary is available at www.lmhs.org. Those who register by June 1 will receive a free copy of a recently published book of stories, Mennonite Memories of Puerto Rico.
One full day will focus on visiting Mennonite-related educational, health, agricultural, and church institutions in the Aibonito area, where Mennonites first arrived in 1943. The tour will also feature visits to a botanical and cultural garden, a sixteenth-century fort in Old San Juan, El Yunque rainforest, a bioluminescent bay, the Museum of Art of Ponce, a seventeenth-century chapel in San Germán, a picturesque lighthouse in the southeast corner of the island, and more.
Rolando Santiago, executive director of Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, will serve as lead tour guide; he was born in Puerto Rico and spent twenty years of his early life on the island.
He notes that “participants will enjoy popular attractions on the island and will also learn about the rich history of Puerto Rico, with an emphasis on more than seventy years of Puerto Rican Mennonite influence on the economic, social, and religious life of the island.”
Local guides and storytellers will illustrate specific aspects of Mennonite work such as the history of the large Mennonite health system founded by Civilian Public Service workers in 1944. They will also tell about the impact of Mennonites on Puerto Rican agriculture, especially the poultry business. They will also feature the story of Academia Menonita Betania, a school started by missionaries in 1947. Participants will also hear stories about Puerto Rican Mennonite church life.
Puerto Rico was under Spanish rule from the early 1500s until 1898, when Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the United States during the Spanish-American War. Tourists are increasingly traveling to the island because of its tropical beauty. At the same time many local residents are migrating to the United States as a result of a decade-long contraction of its economy.