A few years back, a big chunk of my novella “The Dogs of Arroyo” was published in an annual anthology titled “The Caribbean Writer.” It was inspired by many things, including several visits to Puerto Rico (especially the rolling mountains and small towns off the beaten track), some reading about the blend of voodoo and Christianity known as santeria, the sight of feral dogs roaming the narrow dirt roads of the countryside, and a memorable conversation in Ponce with a passionate advocate for shucking the shackles of colonialism and declaring independence.
I thought about this as I watched the response — or lack of response — by Donald Trump, who probably had to be told that Puerto Rico is part of the United States and that its residents, so desperate for help, are U.S. citizens.
Here’s a snippet of what was published in that anthology.
There are thousands of coqui, maybe millions. Some of them are hidden in the shadows. Some are tucked under thick green leaves and some cling to the trunks of mango trees. All of them hum the same sweet note. When these tiny coqui sing, their song is so sweet that the touristos aren’t sure if what they’re hearing is the singing of Spanish – speaking angels, or the whispering waves, or the whistling wind, or the hum of the heat, or the secret hymn of the humid night, for all of things can be heard in the harmony of the invisible and magical coqui choir.
The light is so bright that now we can see the shy coqui hidden in the leaves, and we can see the parrots on the treetops with their bright green feathers, and we can even see the boa snakes, which are wrapped on the trunks like thick vines. And sometimes the light lasts long enough that there is even time to count each one of the fifty types of orchids that bloom on El Yunque but only bloom at night when no one is there to see them.
Up the trail now comes the jibaro band. The old men are stooped from their loads. But as they climb up El Yunque’s hills they slowly grow tall and strong and hopeful once more. Their deep wrinkles fade and their slumped shoulders straighten and their dull eyes shine as they set up their timbales and begin to knock the wooden blocks and slap the drums and crash the cymbals with joy.
Some believe the dogs harbor the souls of jibaro who died at work in the sugar cane fields. Some leave them plates of hot food and bowls of cool water. Some even give them shelter in their very own homes. They live in the streets and sleep down in the weeds. They growl at passing strangers. They eat whatever there is to eat. They arrive at El Yunque, thousands of them, forming a tight circle on the damp hills.
These are the wild feral dogs of Arroyo.
And now they look up and watch the landing lights of a jet, which carries an American businessman and is descending at this moment to the runway at the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport on the outskirts of San Juan.