We live in a so-called condo (bostadsrätt) in Condado and this week we were invited to a Christmas cocktail in the lobby of the building. It was a great opportunity to meet the 17 sets of neighbours who live here, especially as I had not crossed many of them before in the hall / elevator. They are all Spanish-speaking Puertoricans, and quite wealthy to be able to afford to live in this area (there are 4 Jaguars parked in the parking lot). However, they were very friendly and very interested in hearing who we are and where we come from – at least two of the couples had actually been to Sweden! I was a bit confused at first to why everybody kept saying Felicidades to us, until I realised that it is said as a holiday greeting (I kept thinking that they were congratulating us for some reason!).
The downstairs neighbour (just below us), S gave me her phone numbers and offered to help me practise my Spanish (she doesn’t speak English), as well as to teach me how to cook comida criolla (Puertorican food). We had a nice chat even if my Spanish is very basic, and I will definitely take her up on her offer – both for the language and the cooking! It is great to know somebody with whom you are forced to speak in that new language … By the way, my Spanish lessons start the 8th January at Berlitz in Isla Verde – I will have a private teacher!
Tonight O and I are leaving my family at home, while we are going to one of O’s colleagues for a Christmas party. It starts already at 18.00, which seems very early to me (especially as I am used to Belgium where our parties / dinner would usually start at around 21.00) but as it is Puertorican time, we are probably not expected to show up until around 19.30.
I am sure that we will be offered some Coquito, Puertorican eggnog – O got some from a colleague which we keep in the fridge. It is a green, creamy liquid, (pistacho flavour) – I am not too fond of it, but as it is local, we will put it on the table on Monday for Christmas!
We might also be served lechón asado (roast suckling pig), which is the local traditional Christmas dish, and a Puertorican dinner is never complete without the ever-present arroz con habichuelas (rice and beans).
Another Puertorican Christmas tradition that I hope to experience this year is las parrandas navideñas (click here to hear some examples) – groups of people gather to sing Christmas songs (aguinaldos) and play traditional instruments (maracas, tamburines, drums and Cuatros – a 4-string guitar). The parranda tradition is very strong in Puerto Rico and at O’s factory they already had the paranda navideña at the beginning of December, complete with the lechón asado – a group of employees had been practising for weeks to perform for everyone (in smaller work places parrandas are usually hired to create the special holiday atmosphere).
PS I read this week in the local newspaper (en español, si!) that a new crime has emerged the last few years around Christmas time – stealing Santa, i.e people steal the inflatable (and non-inflatable) Christmas decorations that are put up in gardens and on houses. Apparently it is becoming a problem in Puerto Rico – or at least that’s what I understood from the article…