Bienvenidos Puerto Rico Part 4: A Rendezvous With Policia in Ponce

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I am always apprehensive of photographing people, those you don’t know and in open streets. Because it was a lesson learnt the hard way.

Ponce is a relatively young vibrant city in the south. We would have loved to spend a night there but the hotels were a bit pricey (same/little more than San Juan); so we stayed in Rincon instead and drove through Ponce to get to Guanica. For a little bit on a hot sultry afternoon, we played tourists in Ponce downtown; it got un-interesting pretty quickly. We enquired in broken Spanish about the other things to do and a family who were feeding French fries to the pigeons in the courtyard of church of Lady Guadalope (duh!) suggested a trip to the boardwalk.

The Ponce Boardwalk is kind of a community hangout place for the entire city and we bought some very Caribbean rum and pineapple squash before loafing around. Before I knew, I was playing with a bunch of kids running and catching each other and started capturing some cute playful expressions on my camera. Unwittingly, we started walking away and would have barely crossed 200 ft, when we were stopped by a hoarse ‘permissio’ (excuse me) from behind us. A cop, accompanied by a man who was furtively glancing at the DSLR around my neck, proceeded to question us in the purest of Spanish. I was beginning to get a bit worried. Police are never good news; and it is never better if you are in a foreign country. After a few attempts to communicate failed, he made us wait and went to catch hold of an English-speaking official. They returned with a young policewoman who asked if I had taken any pictures of this guy’s daughter. It became easy to understand what the point of contention was. I accepted quietly; he demanded that I delete everything to which I complied. We didn’t get let off until the angry parent made a thorough check at my entire memory card to ensure that there were no heads apart from ‘P’ and me. The matter was then settled, and I rushed to refill my pina-colada with relief!

The concern from the shoes of a parent is understandable- I could potentially morph his daughter’s image into ludicrous content and make money off the Internet! But, as a citizen of free country in a public place, it is mildly preposterous that I was asked to do what I did. Leave your loved ones at home if you are that picky. Even after a fair share of Googling on photography laws in public places, I cant seem to decide which is better, ethically and professionally. Is it a good idea to voluntarily show your subjects, the pictures you have taken, to see if you are appreciated or frowned upon? Or simply inform everyone in your frame before you raise the camera to your eyes and get bland posed shots?

But I digress…

Two more places – Rincon, Adjuntas – deserve to be talked before I wrap up the Caribbean side. The surf-town of Rincon is just that and some on-the-beach yoga at 6 AM in the morning for which you have to be prepared for. Rincon Inn offers good hostelling facilities and a friendly set of long-timers whose days are rarely different – surf before it gets too hot in the morning and watch the sun go down with a few chilled beers in the evening.

Right in the middle of mountains of Cordillera Central is Adjuntas. I had no valid reason to pick it for a night-halt; a few tense hours of driving on slim one-lane serpentine roads to reach here. We checked in to our stuffy hotel room and decided to get dinner and stay outside as much as possible. Much to our dismay, the word ‘bohemian’ couldn’t have described any other place better; we were truly foreigners in this alien land! After putting up with some ogling by the locals on the road and the central park, we retreated to our satin-sheeted beds in our hotel. A local cafĂ© where we breakfasted the next day, Panaderia Sancho, made up for some of our tribulations. Heartiest of Puerto Rican baked goods and a chocolate caliente for the last morning on this ever-sunny island!

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