“Island Time”


As a new adult, I may not always have my life together, but if I ever desperately need something from the store, I know that there is a conveniently placed Walmart, CVS, or gas station around the corner that is open twenty-four seven with all the necessities I could ever need. It has always been this way for me. Whether I was in Illinois, Maine, Washington, or New Mexico, there was always at least one store open late to provide me with what I needed. In Puerto Rico however, the stores open late and close early, and when they say they are closing at six, they mean it! Here on the island, everyone follows their own clock, or as I have heard it called “Island Time.”

I personally did not notice it as much in Old San Juan as I do in Boquerón. I suppose this is because there is an enormous flow of tourists from the cruise ships at the docks in Old San Juan compared to the few outsiders that travel all the way to Boquerón on the other side of the island. The pictures above are to show the streets of Old San Juan at different times during the day. The first, illustrates how dead the city seemed in the mornings. I mean, it was not ungodly early, but it was about 9:30 in the morning, and the only cars on the street were those of the people who worked the local shops. The second picture, shows the streets the day we arrived. We were in that horrendous mess of traffic at two in the afternoon. It was ridiculous! Both days while we were in Old San Juan, the streets were flooded in the late afternoon with a rush of people on the one way cobblestone roads. Bumper-to-bumper traffic with honking and blaring music, and the streets were not just flooded with cars. There were people all over the roads and sidewalks weaving in and out of the traffic taking their merry sweet time in the warm evening air. This traffic however, always cleared out by dinner, when rush hour usually starts in the states. All in all, even though the hours when the city was busy seemed a bit off to me, it ended up in our favor, because when we wanted to do things as a group, the city had usually calmed down, but the shops and restaurants were still open.

In Boquerón on the other hand, the shops close extremely early by American standards. The convenience store down the street from our apartment, for example, closes at six every day, except Sunday when it closes at one in the afternoon. The owner even closed and locked the door in our face at 6:05. They refused paying customers! I just cannot comprehend that. How can someone justify turning away the opportunity to make easy money? We all would have gone in, got what we needed, and left. We would have even rushed if they told us that they were staying open past closing for us. Apparently they just do not care. A few lost customers is nothing for them, because they know that no other store in their town is going to be open either. They know that we would have to wait and come back when they opened the next day.

Altogether, if I am being honest, being in Puerto Rico for this little while will, if anything, make me more aware of how lucky I am to have stores that cater to my schedule to best fit my needs. I now realize that not everyone has the time, money, or effort to always please me. This world does not revolve around me, and I should not expect it to. It will not kill me to go without my groceries for a few hours, and adapting to this “island time” may end up helping me relax a little in my semesters to come.

3 thoughts on ““Island Time”

  1. I definitely relate to this post because I also experienced some frustration with the “Island Time” mentality. It was definitely a little aggravating when you had to run to the store to grab something, only to find that it was already closed for the evening. It is certainly much different to what we experience back home in Illinois, where many stores are open twenty four hours and everything that you could possibly need it nearly always available to you. I think that this was one of the main cultural differences that I noticed between Illinois and Puerto Rico. It seems like much of the continental United States seems to place a priority on money. Store owners are willing to keep their doors open and workers at the cash register for much longer in order to make some extra cash. Puerto Ricans seem to take a different approach though. By closing their doors much earlier, and even potentially turning away paying customers, they seem to focus more on spending time with their family and in their community instead of obsessing over money. The entire town came together to celebrate the Three Kings Festival, even closing off parts of the road, which is something that would rarely happen back in Illinois. Even though this doesn’t relate to agriculture, I think that this cultural difference would be a very interesting thing to work into the booth somehow to show one of the unique differences between Illinois and Puerto Rico.

  2. I completely agree with you in terms of the island time standards. Hours spent in a restaurant waiting for food, random bursts of traffic and a relaxed lifestyle with hanging out at the bars by the beach all characterize “island time”. While it may be annoying to us, you bring up a good point that the world does not revolve around us and that we are privileged to have 24/7 access to amenities. A possible good way to incorporate this into the display would be to use the pictures from the two different time periods and use the story of the door being shut in our faces to demonstrate the differences between the US and Puerto Rico.

  3. I think that this is a great topic! I really enjoyed this because I share the exact same opinion. This is something that I have noticed in all of the islands that I have been to. It all seems to be the “open late, closed early” mentality and sometimes the owner can just decide they do not even want to open that day. Being in the continental states, we are completely taken aback from this practice because of the hustle and bustle of daily life in Illinois. As a college student especially we are used to everything being open almost all the time, and we get frustrated when it is not. I think that being exposed to an environment that is more loose than that of what we are used to is good. It truly makes you appreciate the way stores are open back home. I think that in the booth this would be a great place to compare and contrast the differences of the two places. While it does not necessarily tie into agricultural differences, I think that showing this difference that truly likes at the base of the culture will give our booth the depth that it needs.

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