She stood calm, in stark contrast to the rumbling, agitated heavens that served as her backdrop. She seemed to beckon:
“Come! Find shelter here with me.”
As we rode the bumpy coach from San Juan that would soon drop us off at our intended destination, the Creole city of Caguas, our tour guide explained the significance of this Taino tribute to the “… brave and working cagüeño woman.” Despite the less-than-smooth ride and soiled transport windows, I was compelled to snap this photo, as I was given a portal into Puerto Rico’s true beauty, which was to be found in understanding its people and their history.
Certainly, Puerto Rico’s beaches and hotels are lovely and the restaurants provide an authentic taste of Puerto Rican cuisine. But this bronze woman with extended arms in welcome, spoke to me. Perhaps it was the presence of massive and fast-encroaching storm clouds behind her; or maybe it was that she stood in the heart of a frenetic, congested intersection. She stood with outstretched arms, inviting us to enter her city; to learn of her ancestors and to find shelter from the storm in the narrow, cobblestoned streets and deceptively-vibrant structures of Caguas.
The seven pineapples amid the base fountains that surrounded her, symbolize the seven entrances and exits from Caguas; as if Caguas was seen the center of a star from which all worldly exposure emanated. In retrospect, I feel that this Taino woman is positioned well; to weather not only the tropical storms of climate, but also those potentially harsher storms, spawned from the political and economic realities facing Puerto Rico today.
Monument to the Indigenous Woman, by the artist and sculptress María Elena Perales. was inaugurated in 2001.