Before beginning to write Luisa, Randy and I took a trip to Juan Gonzalez, Adjuntas, the barrio in which Luisa Torres and her family lived. The goal was to get as close to where my great-grandmother had lived as a young girl so as to get a feel for the environment in which she grew up.
The Airbnb lodging that we chose, Casa Jardín, was hosted by Gerri, who graciously permitted the use of the photos below. It is nestled in a mountainside surrounded by lush vegetation and majestic views. The property has hiking trails, hammocks, outdoor seating, and other features that make it the perfect place for a relaxing stay. The morning mist over the mountains is magical, and the coolness of the evenings and early mornings was exactly as I would later describe it within the pages of Luisa.
We came to realize, as we pinpointed the area where Luisa actually had lived, that we were not exactly in the same part of Juan González in which my Torres ancestors had lived. But no matter; I am sure that Luisa walked on similar slippery hillside paths, gazed at the same mountains on the other side of the ravine, and enjoyed some of the same flora and fauna that we did on that trip. The profusion of colorful flowers was glorious. I could imagine how much Luisa enjoyed them, too.
The night sounds of the coquís and the doves and the morning sounds of the roosters were inspirational. Seeing banana plants, guamá fruit and coffee beans growing transported me to a time when my ancestors depended solely on what the land produced for their sustenance. In my story, Luisa’s father cultivated coffee plants on his small farm. Today, there are more than 1,400 coffee farms in Adjuntas, and the municipality has the highest coffee production in Puerto Rico.
Adjuntas bears the nickname of la Ciudad del Gigante Dormido, or the City of the Sleeping Giant after the mountain that overlooks the town which has a silhouette that resembles a giant face. Another nickname for Adjuntas is “the Switzerland of Puerto Rico” because of its chilly weather. The average yearly weather is 70 degrees F, and Puerto Rico’s lowest temperature recorded was 38 degrees F in Adjuntas in 2018. The climate is established early on in Chapter One of Luisa: “With a low, complaining moan, she threw back the blanket and reached for her sandals. The winter mornings were chilly up in the mountains of Adjuntas, Puerto Rico, despite it being a tropical Caribbean island. Luisa hurried to dress in her everyday ankle length brown cotton skirt and white blouse.”
With a mountainous terrain that invites hikers, fishermen, and outdoor adventurers in general, plus a plethora of rivers and ponds and the magnificent Lago Garzas Reservoir near Monte Guilarte, Adjuntas is a nature wonderland! If you have the opportunity to travel to visit Luisa’s hometown, stay at Casa Jardín or another vacation rental so that you can have the time to explore all that Adjuntas has to offer, or just to relax and enjoy the amazing views.