Rincon, Puerto Rico

Most Frightening Trip Ever — Hatillo, Puerto Rico

The most frightening trip I have ever experienced was driving through Hatillo, Puerto Rico on December 28, 2008.

Our family flew to San Juan and rented an SUV  for the 2  1/2 hour drive to Rincon. The trip took us 4  1/2 hours, and one of those hours was the most frightening in my life.

We began our trip cruising west along the north shore, as we caught glimpses of the lapis Atlantic Ocean through the windows of our green Ford Explorer, our excitement increased.

When we approached the seaside town Hatillo, we hit traffic congestion and a confusion of color, and cacophony pierced our eyes and ears. Sirens screamed, horns blared, and men garbed in garish, fluorescent clothing and bizarre, grotesque masks guzzled liquor and beer while riding in the back of colorfully painted trucks and parade floats.

As we entered Hatillo we were in gridlock and the town was bedlam, with groups of men staggering in the streets swilling alcohol. We closed our windows, locked our doors, and peered at the insanity. Unfortunately, we became their target.

We feared for our safety

Men swarmed our SUV, shook it, and shot it with Silly String. I hoped that they wouldn’t overturn it. Metal boomed, as they pounded their fists on the hood, roof and windows, and I wondered if the glass would shatter. Police, who were outnumbered probably 100 to 1, ignored the pandemonium, and we knew if the crowd became violent, we were in trouble. I was mostly worried about the children in the back seat, who ranged from 9 to 15 years old.

Our jeep creeped at about 2 mph for about an hour, and we cringed and gaped as some of the men became falling-down drunk.

Eventually, we spotted a cross street about four blocks ahead. Without coaxing, my husband drove over the curb, and on the sidewalk, and we passed the gridlocked cars. When we turned on the open street and accelerated, we high-fived and laughed from relief.

Mascaras de Hatillo or Hatillo Mask Festival

We learned that the locals were celebrating the Hatillo Mask Festival or Mascaras de Hatillo. It appeared to me, that for some, it was an excuse to get drunk and terrorize anyone caught in the gridlock, though the festival is legitimate.

Mascaras de Hatillo, Puerto Rico

Mascaras de Hatillo, Puerto Rico (Photo credit: enlacepr) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

It commemorates when King Herod ordered soldiers to kill little children after Jesus was born to prevent Jesus from becoming king. The gaudily clad men represented these soldiers.

I suspect if we visited the lovely seaside town Hatillo on another day, we would have found it charming not alarming. Not happening…

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Bonding With My Son

Billiard Balls Racked for Eight Ball

Billiard Balls Racked for Eight Ball (photo by dorothyadele)

If you enter my home on a dreary day, you may hear the crack of a billiard break or see the brightly colored red, yellow, orange, purple, blue, green and black billiard balls scatter on the purple pool table. You may also hear a Ping-Pong-table-tennis ball smack the table, the wall or me. You may also hear loud ha has, woo hoos, oh nos and very long uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhs– like fans chant at football games preventing the players from hearing their signals.

I have always been “one of the guys.” Consequently, I have a unique and special relationship with my son. We play chess, Ping Pong and billiards during inclement weather. We play to win and we laugh often.

Chess is one of my favorite games and I was unbeaten for years. When I was in fourth grade, I played on the high school chess team. When I play chess with my son we split the wins. Of course it is not about winning but about fun and bonding. Okay, we like  winning  too!

To play billiards, a player uses a cue stick and hits a white cue ball into at least one of 15 balls directing them into one of the six pockets on a pool table. Eight of the balls are solid and seven are striped.

When we play Eight Ball billiards, one player shoots the solid balls–not the eight ball– and one player has the striped balls. The players take turns and the object of the game is to shoot all of their seven balls into the pockets and then pocket the eight ball last. If the eight ball rolls into a pocket before the player pockets all of his balls, that player loses the game. The player also loses if he hits the cue ball into a pocket while shooting the eight ball.

When it is my turn to shoot, if I am winning–which isn’t often– my son plays the pool table like bongo drums, yells the uhhhhhh chant, and jumps up and down trying to make me miss my shot. Of course I laugh, miss the shot and he wins. I also attempt to distract him to make him miss too.  When I occasionally win, I tease him that I will tell his friends that his pool-

Ping Pong Table Tennis Table

Ping Pong Table Tennis Table (photo by dorothyadele)

shark mother beat him in billiards. I also threaten that I will have his school announce that he lost to his mother over the public address system.

When we play Ping Pong, my son slices the ball with his paddle and the ball bounces on my side of the net and then bounces back into the net out of my reach. My only hope to return the ball  is to belly flop on the table and hope that it doesn’t collapse from my weight. I barely flick it over the net and he slams it back sometimes hitting me!

Our games are humorous, lively and loud, and you can hear us throughout our home. Playing these competitive  games has strengthened our relationship, and I cherish every moment.