National Geographic : 1939 Dec
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE than 1,800 schools and illiteracy has been reduced to about 30 per cent. A short bus ride, along a wide new boulevard, brought me to Rio Piedras and the beautiful campus of the University of Puerto Rico. Modelled after our State universities, this growing institution has 4,500 students, of which 750 are enrolled in the College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts at Mayagiiez. Dominating the cam pus is the new Franklin D. Roosevelt Tower with a carillon of 25 bells (page 709). "The University of Puerto Rico is 'a door and a bridge between the Americas'," one of the faculty told me. "We have a steadily increasing enrollment from Latin American countries, and many summer ses sion students from the States." On the campus, too, is forestry head quarters for the island. Here the work of the Insular Forest Service, the Federal Forest Service, and the Forestry Division of the PRRA, is co-ordinated. More than 90,000 acres have already been set aside as forest and recreational areas, chiefly in the mountains. The Caribbean National Forest, both the Luquillo and Toro Negro units, and the Maricao Insular Forest, are outstanding. Puerto Rico is soon to have a Tropical Forestry Research Station. In addition to the introduction of new species of trees-such as Venezuelan ma hogany and teak from Trinidad-forestry headquarters has established many home steads on government forest areas. Free permits for from 5 to 10 acres of land are given to those who will reforest two acres of non-agricultural forest land for each acre used solely for farming. The system is expected to make each forest unit self supporting and provide a living for many now on the relief rolls. Down a palm-shaded lane, outside of Rio Piedras, the well-equipped insular Agricultural Experiment Station tests soils and new crops for Puerto Rico. ALONG A ROAD OF FLOWERING FLAME Perhaps in the West Indies there are roads as beautiful as those of Puerto Rico in July and August, when the flam boyant or royal poinciana is in bloom. But I have seen nothing to compare with the highway that leads to El Yunque (the Anvil) in the Luquillo unit of Caribbean National Forest. For miles one travels under a canopy of living flame, bordered by even more vivid hibiscus bushes. At Mameyes the road turns upward. You twist and climb along a highway so crooked that you can see your own car's tail light! But the road is good, and con stantly there unfold sweeping views of sea, plain, and foothills. Finally comes the rain forest, with ferns as big as trees (Plate XV), delicate orchids like butterflies hung on the palms, graceful lianas, and all the tangled underbrush of the tropical jungle. In this southern wonderland, our only National Forest in the tropics, parking lots, swimming pools, marked trails, over night cabins, and uniformed rangers of the Department of Agriculture recall similar reservations in the States. Puerto Ricans love the refreshing cool ness of these former Crown lands of the King of Spain, and flock here for holidays. Horse and foot paths wind still higher through dense dwarf-type forests, with cen tury-old trees no higher than a man, to the summit of El Yunque, 3,496 feet above the sea. "DEVIL WITH HAT OF STRAW" On my first long trip out of San Juan I was accompanied by Sefior Robert, my friend and interpreter, and a chauffeur whose name neither of us learned, but whom we promptly christened "the devil with hat of straw." El Diablo was a skilled, if somewhat reckless driver, who delighted in whirling around the curves with horn blaring and tires screaming. To visitors, the Puerto Rican habit of sounding the horn loudly and continually seems an unnecessary bit of exuberance, but it is required on all curves or when the way is not clear. A man who rented a car found the brakes, lights, and horn all defective. He went back to the agency and complained. "What!" exclaimed the owner of the car. "No horn, sefior! I shall get you another car pronto." With more than 1,200 miles of paved and wonderfully scenic roads, Puerto Rico might be a motorist's paradise. Until re cently the island had no road signs, and the present ones give the distances (in kilometers) only to the next town. Later, when I obtained a driver's license and did my own driving, I was often lost. To my questions passers-by invariably said, "Si, senor," in the pleasantest manner possible, but sometimes I had to retrace many miles.