I grew up in Río Piedras, Puerto Rico. It was an independent municipality before it was incorporated into San Juan, the capital city. Río Piedras holds a special place in my heart because it is where I first entered a movie theater as a young pre-teenager boy. It was called the Teatro New Victoria. Just a few blocks from it was the second movie theater I walked into, known as Cine Paradise. It was also in Río Piedras where as an older teenager I would rendezvous with my friends for a beer, a pinball game, a cuba libre or a shot of straight rum, and listen to music from a vellonera (a juke box). Río Piedras is also the home of the high school I attended, Colegio San José and the main campus of the University of Puerto Rico. It was the epicenter of many student protests during the late 60’s and 70’s that were accompanied by violent and sometimes deadly repression from the Police. Río Piedras is also the home of Librería La Tertulia, the oldest bookstore in business in the Island. The oldest Burger King franchise in Puerto Rico is also located here.
Today, the center of Río Piedras is a mixture of abandoned buildings and seemingly abandoned ones covered by political murals that underscore the still fervent student protest movement in the area. I recently visited Río Piedras and captured some images before buying two books at La Tertulia. I skipped the Burger King.