You would think I heard this question from someone I know and loved, but no— this came from the wonderful lady at the cash register at a quick-food restaurant in the mall in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. But I heard beautiful phrases and commentary like this time and time again. “Aquí te va corazón” from the guy at Starbucks passing us our drinks, “Que tengas bonita noche” from the guy at the grocery store register.
We don’t talk like this in the U.S., with our hearts on our sleeves expressing love to mere strangers— who in many Latin American cultures are viewed as our brothers, sisters, and siblings in our communities. Imagine living in a place so enchanting as this, not only because of the beautiful beaches and jungles, but more so because of the beautiful community that enchants you with words of love. Maybe this language of love has banded a community even closer together after the tragedies of Hurricane Maria, the Pandemic, and the island-wide power outages and the protests that followed— all of these events that continued to bring an island closer and stronger together, all for the people.
But I have been visiting for years, way before all of these tragic events, and on my first visit to Puerto Rico, that was one of the first things I noticed— the love in their language. After being starved of it for so long in America, it was an awaking of appreciation for the Spanish language and how beautifully people on this island used it and an even deeper appreciation for the puertoriqueños who reignited this in me.
This love language is expressed within the community and even with its visitors who might not understand Spanish. But I’m sure even those who don’t speak the language feel it, because you don’t need to speak any particular language to feel and understand love. We felt it time and time again as we spent a day in La Parguera out in the Caribbean, as gallant men paused a romantic moment with their partners to jump into the ocean and swim after our our floaties to try and retrieve them after they were thrust away from our hands with the gusty wind— three different men, three different times, jumping out of their boats for a hard and fast swim, and each time we thought the wind had taken them, we got all the floaties back in our hands.
There’s a kindness, and a love that floats through the spirits of the people of Puerto Rico— they call it La Isla del Encanto for a reason, and I think it’s more so because of the people you encounter here, who make the experience of being in the beautiful island even more enchanting.