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  • (First, dear readers, go to or and call up "La Perla" by Calle 13 and Ruben Blades and listen while you read.

    In the afternoon I walked around Viejo San Juan because that's what you do when you travel, you walk around among the oldest stuff and take some pictures. I had a hard time knowing where I was even with the map so I was happy when I found my way to the street at the edge, with view of the sea and the fort. A horde of candy-colored houses packed behind, the wind let loose, the azure blue sea, the giant blockhouse with turrets to keep our enemies out, the road running downhill. Over the sheer edge on the seaside were more battlements, more high stone slots for the cannon, a sward of blinding green, and a road running down and through the wall. Into? There was a girl in a white shirt and plastic bag coming down this road, toward me. I could see through the tunnel, heading down to the water, where the beach would be, was a slum. If this were Europe, I said, this is where the gypsies would live. And that girl would be a gypsy. But she was just an ordinary poor Puerto Rican girl who lived in La Perla, where tourists are advised not go. And for chrissakes, don't even think about taking a picture ...

    I asked Rolando what the story was about La Perla and why someone hadn't built another Hilton with water slides and he said it was funny about property and Puerto Rico but I didn't really understand. A long time ago there was a slaughter house there, and all the non-whites, and cemeteries (the dead are still there, as far as I know) but now -- they say -- it's all drugs and automatic weapons. And Reggaeton. Next time down I'm getting my a native guide and we're going to follow that little girl through the wall into La Perla, no camera, no wallet, no passport, and record the life on the inside of my head.
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