Lourdes was in the middle of restoring a mural of the beloved Puerto Rican flag outside Leñas Cafe, a seaside eatery in the town of Luquillo, when we met. She was born and raised in this quant surfer town was named after the native Taino cacique Lokillo, a fierce warrior who gave the Spanish colonizing forces hell.  There is a statute in his honor in the center of town reminding everyone who enters who the land belongs to. It’s the local way of resisting.

Lourdes’ nom de plume is Goldroses. She loves painting the island’s flowers, especially roses, because they come in all colors. The petals she explains are extremely delicate and the stem is very tough and can be extremely dangerous, but only if you don’t know how to handle them correctly. Lourdes says she is very much like a rose.

Restoring a public mural with the flag is an honor for the 27-year old because she believes the way out of this “disaster” is to elevate the beauty around the island. She says doing so will inspire Puerto Ricans who left or have not been back in decades, to return to their holy land, especially to Luquillo, the most beautiful of all the municipalities according to the prideful daughter of the town that has spectacular views of the sacred rainforest, El Yunque.

Lourdes says Hurricane Maria may destroyed the physical structures of the island but not its resilient spirit. She says that people are strong and hard working and have a lot of faith and because of the strong spirit she sees a bright future.

“The hurricane may have bruised us but it did not beat us. Puerto Ricans never fell, we stood firm, and withstood powerful winds.”

Puerto Ricans are very proud of their towns. Lourdes wants tourists to visit and see for themselves the splendor and beauty  of the island known for its enchanting flora, fauna, cultures, and people. She especially wants people to visit her beloved Luquillo. She points to the glorious turquoise ocean in front of her and swoons, “just look at that beauty.” Having been born and raised she never tires of it she says.

“Today we are more united, like a family, and community, like citizens of a nation. Anywhere where there is a Puerto Rican we know that underneath it all–we are united. Which is why I paint my flag and carry my flag everywhere I go. These are the small things, restoring a flag beautifying your town, that keeps a people united and inspired.”

 

Words: Sandra Guzmán

Photos: Sandra Guzmán & Rebecca Torres