Jorge Ramos went to the forbidden Puerto Rico

Fusion’s Jorge Ramos travels to Puerto Rico to explore the island’s culture, food, music and politics. Ramos ventures out and does everything a tourist is warned not to do — he visits the infamous La Perla community, dares to zip line on “the Beast,” and learns all about cooking pork. And when it comes to island politics, he quickly learns that being a territory of the United States is a touchy subject.

The Streets of La Perla

Directly below the famous touristy Old San Juan streets in Puerto Rico is La Perla — a community with a tainted reputation of drug trafficking and crime — rarely visited by outsiders. Although he was warned not to go there, Jorge Ramos decided to explore what La Perla has to offer, guided by local artist Chemi Rosado Seijo and community residents.

Hogging the Plate

From the famous “arroz con gandules” to “mofongo” (mashed green plantains with garlic and pork cracklings), the delicious parcha (passion fruit) ice cream sold in street corners– it’s hard to keep a diet. Jorge Ramos takes us through “La Ruta del Lechón,” or the pork highway in the mountains of Guavate, in the town of Cayey, to try traditional Puerto Rican delicacies– including pork intestines “gandinga,” and blood sausage, or “morcilla,” and even the precious “pitorro,” homemade moonshine rum that is a holiday treat.But Jorge then headed to Santurce to El Departamento de la Comida, where owner Tara Rodriguez talked about the nascent locally-sourced, organic food movement shaking up the island. After years in New York City, Tara moved back to Puerto Rico to start her restaurant and work with farmers to offer her customers healthy, affordable produce that honor culinary traditions.More: How innovation is bridging the gap between Puerto Ricans in the island and the diaspora

The Heated State

Defining Puerto Rico is not an easy task. It’s a Caribbean island that has somewhat of a “friends with benefits” type of relationship with the United States. Being a U.S. territory can have some perks — but not everyone on the island finds the status to be beneficial. And when Jorge Ramos started asking about it, he learned that talking politics can get heated very quickly there.In front of the Capitol building in San Juan, he spoke to young people who have different points of view when it comes to status: Valerie Rodriguez, from the New Progressive Party; Manuel Natal Albelo from the Popular Democratic Party; and Adrián Gonzalez, part of the Puerto Rican Independence Party.More: Young Puerto Ricans don’t care about status, we care about opportunityMore: To restore prosperity, Puerto Rico should look to Ireland

Fly With “The Beast”

You can soar through the rainforest like Superman in Puerto Rico — that’s just what Jorge Ramos did! The island has one of the highest and longest zip-lines in the world– it’s called “The Beast” and it’s 900 feet high and about a mile long. It’s a very popular attraction at Toro Verde Nature Adventure Park where hundreds of visitors come to brave it out each day.Jorge spoke with his guide Guillermo Pagán about the exodus of people who are moving to the mainland United States looking for better job and educational opportunities. But like Guillermo, many young Puerto Ricans remain hopeful and are moving back to the island to start new projects. Such is the case with Sofia Gallisá from non-profit arts organization Beta Local and entrepreneur Eric Garcia who is on the board of Hecho en Puerto Rico.More: How Puerto Rican migrants could swing the largest swing state

Boricua Beats

It’s almost impossible to find a Puerto Rican who can’t dance. Music is a big part of Puerto Ricans’ lives, but it’s not always all about the reggaeton. Jorge Ramos met Orquesta el Macabeo, punk rockers who are now taking it back to their roots — with salsa music. They have a unique look and and old-school tropical sound with lyrics that resonate with the island’s struggles. They tell it like it is.More: This band will restore your faith in salsa musicMore: Salsa legend Willie Colon reflects on the golden age of salsa

JR on PR

Fusion’s Jorge Ramos started his trip to Puerto Rico with a lot of advice, but decided to ignore all of it. Overall, Puerto Rico feels very different from the United States– it feels like an independent nation, with its own language, culture, food and geography. Although people on the island share a passport and a past with the U.S., it’s still very complicated to understand why one nation would want to be part of another. To define Puerto Rico continues to be a difficult task. It’s really up to its people to decide what they really want. But we’ll be back to the enchanted island… because it’s simply too tempting to ignore.

More stories about Puerto Rico on FusionMore “AMERICA with Jorge Ramos”

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