A hopeful story to get kids interested in Puerto Rico and inspire them to visit one day
Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish
Marcus Vega travels more than 2 400 kilometres from his Pennsylvania home to find his father on an island where people speak Spanish, English and sometimes a mix of both.
The story is told in Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish, an inspiring novel about a 14-year-old boy and his travels across Puerto Rico, la Isla del Encanto. The fictional story centres on Marcus’ desire to track down his dad, who left the family years earlier.
What a lot of kids – and adults – don’t know is that Puerto Rico is part of the United States, said author Pablo Cartaya, who is Cuban-American but has been visiting Puerto Rico since he was young.
Puerto Ricans have been part of the American fabric since the United States took the island from Spain in 1898, just after the Spanish-American War. They are US citizens by birth.
They serve in the US military. And they use the same money.
“And yet they can’t vote for the president of the United States. How does that make sense?” Cartaya said, raising a question that is also in Marcus’ mind.
Because Puerto Rico is a territory, residents of the island can’t vote for US president or members of Congress. They have a commissioner who represents them in Washington, DC
About 5 million people born in
Puerto Rico live across the 50 states, according to the
Pew Hispanic Centre. After Hurricane
Maria slammed Puerto Rico a year ago, downing trees and destroying homes and the island’s electric grid, thousands more Puerto Ricans left for the mainland.
Cartaya says he hopes his book and Marcus’ story can get kids interested in learning more about Puerto Rico and finding ways to help the island and its people recover. He also wants to inspire them to visit one day.
“Go visit and see for yourselves,” Cartaya said.
The book takes readers on a road trip starting in San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico. It’s a city that sounds like “honking, music and fast cars”.
In the story, Marcus travels on an old delivery truck from the narrow cobblestone streets of Viejo San Juan to an estate in the countryside, trekking through an area dense in trees.
The trip helps Marcus – who has had trouble fitting in at school – connect with his Puerto Rican culture and with family members he didn’t know he had.
“It’s like another country out here. Except it’s not,” the boy says.