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Snapshot of Puerto Rico – Even though Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, it is very different from the rest of the country. The two official languages of Puerto Rico are Spanish and English, but less than 10% of the population actually speaks English. Puerto Rico’s population is mostly Christian, with the Roman Catholic, Baptist, and various Pentecostal churches being among the more popular denominations. A variety of music and dance styles are popular in Puerto Rico, though reggaeton is probably the most popular genre. Salsa and other types of pop music are also popular. Baseball is the territory’s most popular sport, though basketball, volleyball, and boxing are also popular. As a territory of the United States, many American influences are present in the country, but this relationship can be rather complicated (at times, derivative of US culture, and at other times antagonistic towards it) due to Puerto Rico’s political relationship with the United States. Rice and beans are commonly used in Puerto Rican meals, as well as a variety of spices, herbs, and vegetables. Several types of meats are used in Puerto Rican dishes. Pork, chicken, Botifarra (grilled sausages), seafood, and even bacon are all popular meats. Fresh tropical fruit is also a regular part of the diet.
Snapshot of Dominica (part of the Puerto Rico Mission!)
English is the official language of the island nation Dominica, though Antillean creole (a French creole language) is also spoken. Most of Dominica’s population is Christian, with the majority of these belonging to the Roman Catholic church. People drive on the left-hand side of the road in Dominica. Music and dancing are considered very important in Dominican culture, and the Catholic Carnival is a major celebration on the island. Cadence-lypso and Bouyon are two musical styles that originated on the island, though zouk, reggae, soca, and other styles are also quite popular. Cricket is the most popular sport in Dominica. Dominican food is similar to other Caribbean nations. Fried chicken, fish and chips, “bakes” – a fried dough snack, and “mountain chicken” – a dish using frog legs – are all popular dishes in Dominica. Many tropical fruits such as bananas, guavas, pineapples, and mangoes are regularly eaten as a dessert or as smoothies.
Montserrat (part of Puerto Rico Mission)
English is the official language of this British territory. Most Montserratians are Christian, with the Anglican, Methodist, and Roman Catholic churches being some of the larger denominations. Both Irish and traditional Caribbean influences are present on the island. Steel band and calypso music are both popular. Cricket and soccer are the most popular sports in Montserrat. One unique aspect of Montserrat is that is celebrates St. Patrick’s Day as a public holiday. Montserratian cuisine is similar to other islands in the West Indies.
Antigua and Barbuda (part of Puerto Rico Mission)
English is the official language of this island nation, though many people also speak Antiguan Creole (an English creole). There are also many Spanish-language speakers in the country. Close to 75% of the population is Christian, with the Anglican, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches being the more popular denominations. British culture had a strong influence on Antigua and Barbuda, with cricket being the island nation’s most popular sport, though soccer, sailing, and surfing are also popular Calypso and soca music are both popular. Antigua Carnival is an important yearly tradition featuring parades and steel-drum music, celebrates the end of slavery in the West Indies. Fungi, a dish made from cornmeal, is a staple part of the Antiguan diet and is usually served with fried fish. Rice, meats, and other seafood dishes are also popular. In recent years dishes from other Caribbean countries (such as jerk meat from Jamaica) have become more popular as well. Ice cream, pies, and Jello are popular dessert items.
Saint Kitts and Nevis (part of Puerto Rico mission)
English is the official language of Saint Kitts and Nevis. The country is primarily Christian, with the Anglican church being the largest and most popular denomination. Carnivals and other festivals are very important to the culture of Saint Kitts and Nevis. One example is Culturama, a celebration of traditional culture that takes place on Nevis. Music and dancing are very important at these celebrations, with popular styles including salsa, jazz, and soca. Traditional art such as pottery and rug weaving are also part of the country’s culture. Cricket is the most popular sport in the country, though soccer and rugby also enjoy some popularity. Goat, seafood, and a variety of fruits and vegetables make up a significant part of the cuisine of St. Kitts and Nevis. Goat water stew, a tomato stew that also contains goat meat, dumplings, and fruit is a typical dish. Weekend cookouts are also popular on Nevis.
Virgin Islands (part of Puerto Rico mission)
The U.S. Virgin Islands are a United States territory. The official language of the islands is English, though Virgin Islands creole (an English-based creole) is commonly spoken as well. Spanish and French are also spoken among the immigrant population. The Virgin Islands are primarily Christian, with the Baptist, Roman Catholic, and Episcopalian churches being the most popular. Traditional scratch bands that use improvised instruments make Quelbe music, which is very popular in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Soca, reggae, and hip-hop are also popular. Influence from the United States has made baseball, basketball, and American football become the more popular sports on the U.S. Virgin Islands. Fungi is a staple dish; made from boiled and cooked cornmeal and okra, it is usually eaten with fish. Callaloo, a soup made with callaloo leaves, meats, and okra, is also popular. A variety of local fruits are also eaten, and many foreign foods are also readily available.
British Virgin Islands (part of Puerto Rico mission)
English is the official language of the British Virgin Islands, which are a territory of England. Over 80% of the population is Christian, with the Methodist, Anglican, and Church of God denominations being among the more popular ones. As a British territory, cars in the islands drive on the left-hand side of the road. Fungi scratch bands are popular in the British Virgin Islands, with instruments like the ukulele, washboard, and other improvised instruments being used alongside traditional western instruments. Cricket and sailing are both popular sports in the British Virgin Islands. Other aspects of the culture, especially cuisine, are very similar to the U.S. Virgin Islands. Fungi is a staple dish; made from boiled and cooked cornmeal and okra, it is usually eaten with fish. Callaloo, a soup made with callaloo leaves, meats, and okra, is also popular. A variety of local fruits are also eaten, and many foreign foods are also readily available.
*The Dutch islands Sint Eustatius and Saba also belong to the Puerto Rico San Juan Mission, but there does not appear to be a church presence there at this time*
The Church first entered Puerto Rico in 1947, when Latter-day Saint military servicemen began holding church meetings. In January 1964, missionaries were sent to the area, and eventually baptized the first Puerto Rican convert in March. The first Spanish-speaking congregation was organized in 1970. That same year, the first meetinghouse was built. In 1979, there were 1,900 members of the Church in the country. In just eight short years, membership grew to 12,000 and in 1993, it reached 19,700. There are currently over 21,000 Latter-day Saints in the country, as well as 41 different congregations.
The food in Puerto Rico closely reflects the cooking traditions of Spain and Africa. They are usually well seasoned and have a vast array of flavorful spices. Most Puerto Rican dishes start with a base called sofrito, which is a sauté of freshly ground garlic, tomatoes, onions, cilantro and peppers. It is usually cooked with olive oil, bacon, salted pork, cured ham, olives and spices.
Most Puerto Rican dishes include beans and rice or potatoes. Puerto Ricans eat a lot of peppers , but their vegetables also include cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, onions and asparagus.
The Puerto Rico San Juan mission is a walking mission. There are busses around the island to help with transport, but most tracting will be on foot. If you have large baggage, taxis are available by larger metropolitan areas.
The biggest safety concern is petty theft. The bags provided by the mission are chosen because they are easy to remove and are least likely to cause trouble if you are robbed. To avoid theft, carry your bag in front of you on public transportation. Also carry your wallet in your front pocket rather than your back pocket. To avoid having a whole bag take, keep a bit of spare money in an easily accessible pocket to offer to thieves if they threaten you.
Use good judgment when walking at night in poorly lit areas. Try to change up the route you take often, so people do not know where you live. Do not leave valuables in plain sight in your apartment.
Puerto Ricans are extremely sociable, family-oriented and friendly people. The vast majority of Puerto Ricans can understand basic English, but only those in tourist zones speak it every day. Puerto Ricans tend to communicate in a loud and direct manner. They tend to take quickly and loudly and use their hands to gesture while they are speaking. Direct eye contact when speaking is normal, because it shows respect and interest in the person who is speaking. Indirect eye contact could be taken as evasiveness.
Generally, Puerto Ricans tend to place more emphasis on people and relationships than to the strict adherence to set schedules and business situations. They tend to run late when going to appointments. Puerto Ricans point by puckering their lips and turning in the direction they are trying to point out. When they wrinkle their noses, they usually mean, “What?” or “Huh?”
The official languages of Puerto Rico are Spanish and English, however only 10 percent of the population speaks English. Some of the most common Spanish phrases are below:
Cómo estás? How are you?
Cómo te llamas? What’s your name?
De dónde eres? Where are you from?
Buenos días Good morning
No comprendo I don’t understand
Bring lightweight clothing. Elders will need a suit, but they will mostly wear short-sleeved white shirts. Sisters should bring lightweight skirts and blouses that are easy to mix and match. They should be easy to clean and wrinkle free.
You will want to bring several layers for the winter months, when the climate is humid and wet. There will be a lot of rain, so you will want to make sure that each layer dries quickly. A waterproof raincoat and umbrella are a good idea for this weather.
Since there is a lot of walking in the mission, sturdy and comfortable walking shoes are a necessity. Keens, Eccos and Danskos are good brands. Rain boots are useful during the winter months when rainstorms are common. It is also a good idea to bring moleskin to protect your feet from blisters.
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Straight from the Puerto Rico San Juan Mission:
*What items were hard to get or not available?
*What did you eat the most of?
“Rice and beans”
*What is the craziest thing you ate?
*What was most surprising about the culture?
“They people spoke Spanglish, It is a little piece of Americanized.”
*What advice would you give to someone going to the Puerto Rico San Juan Mission?
“Study/practice the language.”
*What do you wish you had known before you served?
“Be faithful, even if other missionaries are not. Set an example, love & do something for them everyday. They will remember it after your mission.”
**Did you serve in the Puerto Rico San Juan Mission? If so we could love to hear your advice and your stories! Please contact us at email@example.com**