Discovering PR

I didn’t have too many expectations going into Puerto Rico. Although it is technically part of America, I imagined it to be more so like Mexico, a place I’ve traveled to many times. From our discussions in class, I expected Puerto Rico to have common American food chains, however, it is still much more developed than I had imagined. In most places, there are a few fast food chains on every corner, similar to what I’m used to back at home. Their malls remind me of Woodfield and Hawthorne, two big malls around my home. I wouldn’t expect all of the department stores and fast food chains I’m familiar with to be so prevalent. Despite this, there are also many fast food chains common to Puerto Rico that are nowhere to be found back at home. One chain I’ve seen in almost every mall and on busy streets is El Meson. I look forward to trying this as it seems to be a Puerto Rican favorite.


Although Puerto Rico is much more developed than expected, there are also some very underdeveloped areas. For example, the Kioskos, while great, are something unique to Puerto Rico. It’s quite uncommon in America to see small food vendors like that in my hometown anymore. Most things have developed into big chains by now. The Kioskos contributes to the different cultural feel that can’t be found from large malls and common American chains.

The traditionally Puerto Rican food found at the Kioskos made it difficult to eat there as a vegetarian. I knew being a vegetarian in Puerto Rico was not common, but I didn’t realize how odd it would be for most workers when I ordered things without meat. Although it’s uncommon, I didn’t realize it was almost unheard of. At most restaurants I went to, I would have to specially request something without meat. I used to get these weird looks when I told people I was vegetarian as a kid, however, this has decreased as it has become increasingly common in America. Now as I walk the streets of Puerto Rico, I am once again greeted with these confused looks. The cultural food in Puerto Rico hasn’t allowed for many vegetarian options, therefore people have never been exposed to the idea.

While it has been difficult to find vegetarian food, I have been exposed to a variety of freshly grown fruits. Because of Illinois’s climate, we are unable to produce most of these crops, however, having them in Puerto Rico was a great privilege. Because of Puerto Rico’s year round warm climate, they are able to constantly produce tropical fruits. My favorite fruit, guava, seems to be quite common here. I have also been able to eat plantains and some varieties of bananas. Due to the freshness, these fruits have all been spectacular.

While Puerto Rico is able to produce fruit, their agriculture in general has decreased a lot and therefore they are forced to import many crops that could normally be locally grown. One of the coffee production plants has to use coffee they grow along with imported coffee, as they do not have the ability to grow as much as demanded. Being able to try the high quality freshly grown coffee, I can see why it’s so important to grow crop locally and how much Puerto Rico would benefit from being able to once again grow most produce locally. In Illinois, we don’t have this privilege either, as the only staple crops are corn and soybeans.


This trip to Puerto Rico has led to many surprises and discoveries. I learned just how prevalent American food chains are to Puerto Rico. Despite this, their traditional food is still quite common, especially in Kioskos. I also realized how uncommon vegetarianism is in Puerto Rican culture. Regardless, I have been able to try many delicious locally grown fruits. What’s most surprising and concerning is the lack of agriculture found in Puerto Rico, a country that used to be thriving off agriculture alone.