I went to every public school there, before the rampant occupation of Savarona, in the late 70's. The urban spread killed the town and everything within, just like it has happened before and continues in every part of the world following the USA: automobile dependance, housing/highway construction, malls, social, political, economic model.
The original valley is now asphalt/concrete in every cardinal point having reached the mountains around it with the Saharan dust making the scene more atrocious.
I did not know yesterday, when my peregrination of over 3 miles, with some heat and glare started at a nursery, El Patio, in the Gurabo City, exit. The same silly, abused, worn out trees, bushes, plants and orchids with a picturesque/standard touch, an employee hose spraying the plants with a finger controlling the water flow.
Not too far, one of the town cemeteries, a couple of dear ones buried there, plus absurd grass cut with trimmer and mutilated trees, even when there are no electrical wires in sight. Ugly as hell.
I passed by Rovira Funeral Home, visited at least 3 times in my life time...Turned by Fernando Pla street, ugly, desolated but quiet. I remember walking in my childhood by those streets.
Went to visit Winston Copies. The owner used to play ball in El Condado with his long time pal, Gallego. Never considered him a friend, but he was ok. After thirty years, I found out he is still alive and certainly has no idea of whom I am.
Later after a right turn, I reached the Court Building. Ugly, ill kept, smallish with cars parked on the 'green' areas, overgrown Duranta repens, Acaliphas and Cordyline. The structure may remind good observers of a chickencoop.
Not far, across the parking lot, the Government Center, another ugly old, ill kept building, followed by the bus terminal...Third world that is.
Finally passed all that, I reaching our previously impressive city plaza. The decay, vegetation wise started in 1969, when my first published letter denounced the mutilation of the surrounding Ficus. Of the total then, less say 50, perhaps ten survive, sick, waiting for a shot of grace to take them out of their misery.
All this emotion, I did not know then, required a visit to calle Padial, a dear street. 'Las Delicias' , the chosen oasis, a few steps from the legendary Farmacia Betances in the exit to Aguas Buenas City.
Refreshed and rested after the 1 1/2 mile stroll, went to a thirty second visit to my former dentist for over 30 years and basketball adolescent mentor, Dr. Hector Davila.
Later, five blocks down, it was the turn of William Montanhez, my hairstylist since I was 17 when he opened his first barber, one chair shop (circa 1969) on Georgetti street in the exit to San Lorenzo City. It was flanked by Santiago and Equis pharmacies.
Montanhez move down here from from Chicago in those years, with no relatives and/or friends, to live for a while in Villa del Rey one of the first ten housing projects in Caguas, responsible for the destruction of the inner city.
With time, he moved the barber shop operatios to a wooden structure with glass windows, painted orange, two blocks to the left of the original, in the same street, but now with ten chairs. In the left corner of the shop there was also one of those joints for beers and fritters with imported ladies.
After that, the shop landed in Ruis Belvis street, some ten years ago. In that corner of Acosta and Georgetti street, where the second barber shop used to be there is now a rather classical ugly four story housing structure.
Montanhez is 74 of age. Has kept his good spirit, quick, alert, wise mind on top of a great sense of humor and kindness. His barber shop is an institution where more than one generation of ladies and gentlemen of el Pais Criollo do their hair.
I finished my last trip to Caguas City in some bar in the photos in Acosta street, not before visiting two former classmates. Morenos's Furniture Store and Francisco Cabanhas Flea Market Store in Georgetti, where Farmacia San Rafael once stood.
Later in Ponce de Leon street aka El Millon, my elementary school Jose de Diego, a shot and chaser in the last of the boricuas joint one corner to the left. Farewell, Savarona, occupied by the foreigners from the west isle.
I did not know it then, but I do now. I have no plans to visit again. It looks and has the same defeated demeanor of Rio Piedras, Santurce and Miramar. Out of every five commercial buildings 3 or 4 are empty, abandoned or desecrated in any direction you look or walk.
Even though my words often demonstrate a steady misanthropy for the collective, during the time I have been writing, there are a few good individuals, men and women, I met through my existence. This is a token of appreciation for their deeds.
Caguas, the town I used to love, now a country, is dead. Walking by those streets feels like the Rip Van Winkle story. As far as I am concerned, this is the burial.
that is that
From the editor
If you noticed the many drugstores mentioned
in this post, you are right. Now that I think of it.
Santa Ana another one in Gautier Benitez street
if part of the picture. There are/were some
in every direction.