Another epic St Valentine’s weekend.
There is a unique place in Puerto Rico and probably in the entire world named Guavate, a small mountain village where every Sunday a great crowd gathers. As early as 11 a.m. people from all corners of the island start to arrive blocking the road. Traffic, cars, people, musing booming, even in rainy weather. If you by any chance find yourself there, you might wonder what is this madness about? The answer is: it’s about the pigs.
But we didn’t get there by chance. Our cruising friends whom we met for the first time in Ponce 6 months ago brought us here. “Would you like to experience some local culture: authentic music and food?”, wrote to us Greg and Michele, who have spent lots of time in Puerto Rico and know very well where, when, and what is happening. Of course we would like it! Sunday around noon they picked us up with a rental car at the ferry pier in Fajardo and after an hour and half long drive we got to Guavate, not far from Carite Forest Reserve.
Since forever the locals come to Guavate to feast on traditional pig roast. On both sides of the street there are dozens of small restaurants Lechoneras, where piglets are being roasted slowly on Sundays. In the two biggest restaurants El Rancho Nuevo (The New Ranch) and El Rancho Original (The Original Ranch) there is a large dancing space where people dance under the sounds of merengue, salsa and bachata. The live music is deafening, there is no breaks. This is the spot where Anthony Bourdain, of No Reservations and Andrew Zimmern from Bizzare Foods on the TravelChannel came to sample the best of Puerto Rico.
The Puertorican people like to organize family activities in the weekends. Everywhere on the island on beaches, parks and in restaurants they celebrate the end of the week without any other special occasion. The parties always include lots of food, drinks, loud music and dancing all day and all night. But in Guavate the situation is out of control.
We arrived around 2 p.m. It was raining, but no one seemed to notice. The roadside restaurants were already packed with people, 99% locals. We took our spots on a long line for food. While we were waiting, we watched a pig slowly getting roasted. Maya was appalled. “I saw a pig, half pig (the butt half) and I felt vegetarian. So I pretty much just ate a little portion of rice.”
Besides pork, we had choice of many traditional Puertorican side dishes: juicy boiled yucca with a hint of garlic, yellow sweep potatoes, creamy and not too sweet, two types of fried plantains, yellow rice with black beans, blood sausages, and more. Everything was delicious and the price per portion was 8-9 US$, which included 3-4 side dishes and a beer. For 27 US$ we stuffed ourselves and we had one portion left for dinner (Maya’s portion).
After we lifted our satisfied faces from the dishes we gave up trying to have a conversation with our friends in the pauses between songs, and the only thing left to do was dancing.
Only Maya didn’t enjoy it. In her composition the next day she wrote:
I myself personally hate crowds and loud music. I felt lost and confused. Everything became a blur. The music was blasting as if I was standing under a rocket launching to space. As Greg said, my teeth started vibrating. A lot of people were dancing and so would I if the music was my type. I felt like shooting myself. But I liked the fact that normal people could have fun once in a while. I also liked the nice long car ride with a purple Gatorade in the middle, and the conversations we had with Greg and Michele. Amazing people.
But if you ask me, I would stay in Guavate and dance until the last song… For me this was the most authentic, the most fun, awesome experience in Puerto Rico. If you prefer to mix with the locals and not to see any other tourists, if the Latin American rhythms make your blood boil, if you like pork roast and are curious to try traditional local delicacies at very low prices, and if you have only one day to visit the island, you must choose Sunday (even if it’s raining) and go to Guavate.Share