National Geographic : 1983 Apr
proximity to the Latin world is strengthened by bonds reaching back to 1493 when Co lumbus claimed the island for Spain. "Emotionally, our ties are Latin," a coffee grower in the mountain town of Lares told me. "But economically, we are bound to the United States." Politics With a Latin Twist Though newspapers regularly carry broadsides in both Spanish and English from those favoring statehood, indepen dence, or a continuation of the island's cur rent U. S. commonwealth status, the spirit of Puerto Rican politics is strictly Latin. I found signs posted in downtown San Juan bars and back-roads colmados, general stores, advising patrons not to talk politics. ("Otherwise they sometimes end up shoot ing each other," a wary owner explained.) Politics even shoulders its way into Puerto Rico's traditional winter pastime-base ball. At a night game in Ponce, the island's third largest city, the contest between the Santurce Crabbers and the Ponce Lions was all but overshadowed by the arm-waving political debate that broke out in the stands around me. The man in the next seat broke away from the verbal melee long enough to explain: "Politics, you know, is really the na tional sport here these days." Then, remembering the always crucial nationhood-statehood-commonwealth de bate, he quickly corrected himself. "No, I can't say national sport. That in itself is a political statement, no?"