On our last full day in Puerto Rico we had an afternoon to explore, and chose a group tour of the Bacardi factory followed by what turned out to be a very brief walk through the old town neighborhood in San Juan.
Our tour was led by 2 delightful women, one of whom was an immigrant from Germany and the other a native who had returned to the island after working for 38 years on the mainland US as a geologist. As our tour bus careened along narrow roadways our guides filled us in on the rich and spicy history of the little island, interspersing facts and figures with animation and humor.
What I found most interesting was that social class is measured in terms of education rather than financial wealth. This small island hosts no less than 8 universities, and well over 60% of the students graduate with a degree in a branch of science. When I heard this I recalled that during my college days I learned that while African American men earned far less on average than Caucasian men in the US, West Indians of African origin living in the US earned well more than any single ethnic group.
The tour bus bumped along, and we were directed to look thus way at an old Catholic cloister, and that way for Ponce de Leon’s house, and the like. It was an enticement to return and spend a good deal of leisure time – well shod to traverse cobblestone streets and climb a few steep hills – to get a closer look at these monuments to history.
We reached the Bacardi factory in good time but had to wait a long while for a tour. Naturally we sampled some factory product as we waited; mojitos were largely favored on this hot day.
The tour itself was exactly what one expects: a bit of company history, a good deal of advertisement, and a walk through a store where one was offered an opportunity to purchase items emblazoned with the company’s iconic fruit bat. All the same I found the experience quite enjoyable and snapped far more photos than necessary of the icon.
We dropped by old San Juan for minutes only as we had an evening engagement, and the little town square was busy with tourists and locals preparing for a festival. The cobblestone streets are charming, and buildings typically colorful.