This is the introduction of my book Speaking Phrases Boricua: A Collection of Wisdom and Sayings from Puerto Rico that was recently revised and updated.
Why I Wrote Speaking Phrases Boricua, a book about sayings and “refranes de Puerto Rico”
Let me start with these quotes…
“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.”
– Gilbert Keith Chesterton
“I, who travel most often for my pleasure, do not direct myself so badly. If it looks ugly on the right, I take the left; if I find myself unfit to ride my horse, I stop… Have I left something unseen behind me? I go back; it is still on my road. I trace no fixed line, either straight or crooked.”
– Michel de Montaigne
“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this featherbed of civilization, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints.”
– Robert Louis Stevenson
“For the profit of travel: in the first place, you get rid of a few prejudices… The prejudiced against color finds several hundred millions of people of all shades of color, and all degrees of intellect, rank, and social worth, generals, judges, priests, and kings, and learns to give up his foolish prejudice.”
– Herman Melville
While you may see this book as one on language, to me it is also about travel…not travel in the traditional travel-guide sense of who, what, when, where, or how. This book touches on the WHY.
You may wonder how a book about common sayings can be related to the WHY of travel. In preparing this guide, I’ve learned about the history of Puerto Rico, the problems facing Puerto Ricans, Puerto Rican culture, the language and I’ve also learned to see my own culture differently.
In my experience, language opens the mind to new points of view, teaches a person about culture (both their own and the “foreign” culture) and just, generally, creates new experiences for the traveler. These sayings have the same effect.
To further explain the WHY, I have turned to the help of several people. You will see their words at the begining of this introduction. Given that I am a somewhat inexpressive person (I’ve even occasionally been accused of being cold!), I found that they explained in amazing clarity what I could not.
One of my favorites is from Johan Huizinga, a Dutch historian who lived from 1872 to 1945.
“The things which can make life enjoyable remain the same. They are, now as before, reading, music, fine arts, travel, the enjoyment of nature, sports, fashion, social vanity (knightly orders, honorary office, gatherings) and the intoxication of the senses.”
This was written in 1921 and almost a century later is still a wonderfully applicable phrase. I can almost even forgive him for leaving out wine.
One of the things that most surprised me about Puerto Rico is the presence of regional differences in the language. For a country that is 100 by 35, miles I find it entertaining that with a 30-minute car ride you can find words with different meanings or sayings that “city folk” just don’t get. As I write this, I realize that the same is probably true for most other places, but it just seems to be more noticeable here.
One day, I had a friend come up to me and say “I think your definition of X word is wrong. It should say…”, referring to an entry in my first book, Speaking Boricua! Fortunately, two other people were standing nearby and came over. What followed was a humorous debate among the three of them (all Puerto Ricans).
Three people that grew up less than 60 miles from each other had differing opinions on the meaning of a word. For me, this was an entertaining experience, highlighting the amorphous nature of language.
As an author, perhaps my greatest pleasure is to hear people comment that my book made them laugh. In fact, the comments readers made referring to my first book pushed me to publish this one. I thank those people and look forward to hearing from them again.
I hope this helps you understand WHY.
Check out these articles about Puerto Rican Spanish Expressions.