The pilot gave all of the instructions twice, 

once in English and once in Spanish.

I had never heard “amarre el cinturón de seguridad”

from that crackling airplane speaker.


It was so much like just flying to a different state,

but it was something new

once I looked down at the bright blue ocean.


Once we arrived,

the first question each of our speakers asked was

“¿Español? Or I can speak in English.”

We were so proud to say we could understand Spanish,

but we understood everything else much less.


Like how Viejo San Juan is the oldest city in the US,

the tour guide told us.

Or cómo la bandera se convierte en negro y blanco,

instead of the red, white, and blue

cuando los Estados Unidos, el presidente, el poder

makes a promise sin prometer.


With that in mind,

we walked slowly through the street, 

our heads tilted up

hacia las cimas de las iglesias españolas,

steeped in sunlight and gratitude,

wondering how many people had lived,


died under that same sun.


Then, after sweating in the heat,

trying to count against that everchanging beat,

(what our teacher called

“la ‘conversación’ con el primo y el subidor,”

trying to trick them with a shake of our faldas),

our day of la bomba ended.

A little girl passed out water

to each and every one of us,

content with only a “gracias” in return.


We moved through los espacios de creación,

of a people’s way of making beauty,

ritmo y color,

joy in movement.


We were tourists and students,

welcomed by una sonrisa,

learning but always leaving.


Still, I got the message,

claro como el mar en la luz del sol,

graffitied in black on the wall:

Yankee, go home.

Do you enjoy reading the Nass?

Please consider donating a small amount to help support independent journalism at Princeton and whitelist our site.