Bienvenidos and welcome!
The summer 2014 launch of my historical novel, A Decent Woman, is right around the corner! With the book launch in mind, I am excited to share blog posts on topics that relate to my characters, the midwife Ana Belén, and young socialite Serafina Martinez, and of course, the setting of the story, the beautiful city of Ponce and historic Barrio Playa de Ponce, on the island of Puerto Rico.
I am excited to introduce you to the Puerto Rico I know and love, and to share some of the reasons Puerto Rico is called la isla del encanto, meaning the island of enchantment.
This series of blog posts on Puerto Rico began with the post, ‘Ponce – La Perla del Sur, The Pearl of the South’. If you would like to read back (two posts), please do!
Barrio Playa de Ponce, Puerto Rico
My connection to Playa de Ponce reaches back to when my maternal great-grandparents sailed from a seaside village called Puerto Rico in the southwest of Gran Canaria, the largest island in the Canary Island archipelago, into the harbor of Ponce and onto the shores of Playa de Ponce. My grandmother, Meme, was born in la Playa and used to say that her parents went ‘from Puerto Rico to Puerto Rico!’ I remember my grandmother telling this story and how I winked at her because I thought she was fibbing to tie it all together for her adoring fans- my mom, me, my sister and cousins. But lo and behold, I found a map of Gran Canaria and the village of Puerto Rico was right where she said it was.
Two of grandmother’s four brothers were sailors and merchant marines. I loved their tales of the high sea and about their experiences on Cardona Island and Caja de Muertos Island, which both belong to Playa de Ponce. My great-uncle lived alone on Caja de Muertos as a keeper of the lighthouse for decades, leaving a wife and children in Playa de Ponce. He visited them a couple of times a year, that’s how much he loved the sea!
My grandfather’s parents were from Florence, Italy and sailed to Puerto Rico from Ancona, Italy before my grandfather was born. My grandfather, Papa, was another wonderful storyteller, born in Ponce, el pueblo, and as a young man lived in Playa de Ponce for a few years where he and my grandmother met. After they married, they moved to Ponce and lived in the same beautiful house for over 50 years.
I adored my grandparents and their stories. The backgrounds were of differing social echelons of the era and helped put together a diverse and rich history for my family. Their memories continue to live on through stories my cousins and I still tell and through, A DECENT WOMAN, set in Ponce and Playa de Ponce.
For me, Playa de Ponce will always be la Playa and Ponce, my hometown.
A brief history of Playa de Ponce-
Playa de Ponce has a history as old as the history of Ponce itself, dating back to the 16th century. It was a port settlement with a deep, safe bay for the interchange of commerce, contraband, the local fishing industry, and for living.
In 1804, the pier of la Playa was built and the settlement that was to become the city of Ponce, Barrio Playa was recognized as a distinct area in Spanish maps from the 1880’s.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Ponce was a cosmopolitan city with a trolley system from Ponce to la Playa, home to the Spanish Customs House and other government buildings. Humble wood houses mingled Spanish-style mansions built by the rich immigrant merchants who lived close to their warehouses. In 1845, a significant fire occurred in the Playa, destroying Playa and most of the Ponce vicinity. The Spanish Customs House was damaged and most of the major buildings were destroyed by the fire.
In 1887, the Spanish government built the lighthouse at Caja de Muertos Island, just off the coast of Playa de Ponce, followed by the 1889 building of Cayo Cardona lighthouse, on the small island at the entrance of the Ponce harbor. In 1898, Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the United States after the Spanish-American War, and the United States invaded and took possession of the island in 1899.
The story of A DECENT WOMAN begins in 1900.
The next blog post will be on midwifery practices of the era. Please join me!
You can find me writing at my blog, The Writing Life –
On Twitter – @eleanorparkerwv
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Thanks for your visit!