In only 100mi by 35mi, Puerto Rico holds many legends and many cultural stories that used to be a custom to pass down generation to generation. In the now, we just pass along instagram stories and facebook likes. Non the less, our culture and legends stay alive through books and people like us, at West Side Destination, that like to keep traditions going and love to see our culture survive through the new technological age. In the next weeks I will be taking you though many incredible, entertaining and mythical legends of Puerto Rico.
Our goal is to interpret as best as possible, while translating for you, all the legends that Cayetano Coll y Toste has kept alive, even after his passing, by writing them all down in his book: “Leyendas Puertorriqueñas”. You can say that Coll y Toste is one of the forefathers of Puerto Rico in regards to history, culture and stories. Therefore, before we get into the story telling, I would personally like to tell you about this wonderful Puerto Rican.
Cayetano Coll y Toste was born in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, in the year 1850 and lived all they way to 1930 when he died in Madrid, Spain. He was born into a well accommodated family, but early in his childhood he lost his father and all the money went into another’s hands. Like Roberto and I, he got to study under Jesuits, finishing a Bachelor in Arts at the Jesuit Fathers’ College in San Juan. He participated in extracurricular activities like being a bell ringer, part of the mail post, among other activities which were considered prizes due to being a great student.
Coll y Toste wanted to become a Doctor like his uncle and one of his grandfathers, but he lacked the money to do so. Thus, he went back to Arecibo and worked at a pharmacy. To this day, it is a big reality in Puerto Rico that many of our people want to study and they are not able to do so because that same lack of money, but still we are perseverant and we work at it until we find a way. In less than a year, Coll y Toste, was already heading to Barcelona, Spain, to study medicine. Over there, all while studying, he founded and directed a literary seminar by the name of “El Ramillete” and collaborated with many cultural activities organized by the Puerto Ricans who were there studying also. Just like now a days, right? Well, maybe not the same, ok ok, but really, today here in Puerto Rico, you will find many of us that study, work, study some more, work some more, and, only when it is possible, a bit of sleep. This goes to show how truly magnificent Puerto Ricans are. We may say bad things about each other when we are mad, but at the end of the day, those of us who want to become something, we are a force to be reckoned with.
After he finished his studies in medicine, Coll y Toste went back to his home town where he settled down with a nice private practice. At those times, though difficult to do so, it was possible to set up shop and be successful. The difficulty came from getting the education and more so the money for that education. Once you had your studies in order, it was very rewarding and people acknowledge you and becoming a professional was made possible. Remember, back then, competition was just starting as capitalism came to start around the 1900’s , therefore I can surmise that difficulties then came before setting up your business rather than how it is now that starting a business is easy, almost anyone can start a business. Difficulties now, come afterwards, keeping that business alive and producing.
In 1891 he decided to transfer to San Juan to give better education to his six kids. In San Juan, he gave up medicine for politics. A decision that now a days can make or break you. Here in Puerto Rico ever since Spanish colonial times, politics is something that burns in every Puerto Ricans’ heart. Going back to Coll y Toste, he also decided to compliment his political career with his ability to write. All of this happened at the age of 47. At that age, at that moment, remember, 47!, is when he became an important part of Puerto Rico’s history and culture. I make emphasis on this detail to show that if you are like me, at your early 30’s or late 20’s, do not worry, it is your clock and your time is different than my time; so, remember, you can still become what you want at age 47 or even older, it is never too late. Again, going back , Coll y Toste gave conferences, wrote biographies, and collected and compiled fundamental documents to Puerto Rico’s colonial history. He decided to focus his career in enhancing and to give homage to the value of our cultural heritage in Puerto Rico. From 1914 to 1925 he put all of his collections in writing in his two most important literary works: “Boletín Histórico de Puerto Rico” and “Leyendas y tradiciones puertorriqueñas”.
In our future interpretations of the legends of Puerto Rico we use a small version taken from the latter, titled “Leyendas Puertorriqueñas”, Puerto Rican Legends in English. If you want a copy I am sure you can find one at Libros 787. By doing so you help our economy grow and also assist this wonderful local book store grow. If you wish for a copy of the book in English I am sure a simple google search can assist you in finding it or stick around our blog for a weekly interpretation of the Legends and go to our Youtube Channel and subscribe to assist us at making it possible to give you guys a weekly reading of the Legends for you and your family to enjoy!