Welcome to the Pearl, also known as La Perla Puerto Rico. I know what you’re thinking….La Perla isn’t somewhere you want to visit. Most people think of it as just a poor barrio that used to be known for drug dealing. Most tourist are afraid to walk around OSJ because of the proximity of La Perla. Some feel it is like being afraid to wander around New York’s Lower East Side because the area contains public housing projects. There are neighborhoods like this on many islands….and many tourists would be afraid to enter those, too, I imagine. You will not accidentally enter the area….it looks quite different than the rest of OSJ.
I’m so sick and tired of hearing people trash the name of La Perla Puerto Rico. To be very blunt if you’re scared go to church! Or, better yet if you’re that scared stay home on the comfort of your couch! Puerto Rico, isn’t for everyone. People, are so fearful of what they don’t know. Most people think that just because one person says it’s bad then it must be true or like most they believe everything they read on Google or hear by word of mouth.
I live by the old saying of,”don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see.” My opinion, is that if you’ve never been there you really have no right to say anything negative about this historic neighborhood. I have never felt unsafe in San Juan (including La Perla,OSJ, Condado and Isla Verde). I like places that are more than just a pretty beach so for that reason San Juan is probably my favorite place in the Caribbean. I love the diversity it offers in terms of history, restaurants, ability to meet locals and proximity to natural beauty (beaches, rain forest etc).
Allow me to show you The Pearl in a much different setting. The common perception of La Perla, is that it’s “dangerous”. Too dangerous to step foot in. Some have gone as far as saying if you enter, you won’t come out alive. Jajajajaja! Where do people come up with all these wild accusations?! They say it’s a lawless zone, where everyone has free reign. That so couldn’t be any further from the truth! Upon researching La Perla, and visiting this community first hand I grew fascinated with their story. I wanted answers. I felt like there has to be a positive side of this community I wanted to dig deep into the soul of La Perla, I can finally give it the positive voice it so justly deserves. A voice that shines as bright as the sun and sparkles like a diamond. I want to show the beauty and positivity of this community that most refer to as a “slum.” I want to show the other side.
I’d love to introduce you to this almost forgotten community. Puerto Rico asks tourists to please be respectful of La Perla residents. You wouldn’t want people taking photographs of your backyard, they don’t like it either. The residents of La Perla have a very strong code, they strongly respect tourists, and there has not been any history of visitors being harmed. Contrary to what other writers have to say about the community. Most residents of La Perla are regular people with families and children who are proud and loyal to their community. Residents of La Perla don’t bother anyone; they go about their everyday business in their community like everyone else.
La Perla is an old neighborhood just outside the northern historic city wall of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Stretching about 600 meters along the Caribbean Sea, the neighborhood is tucked between Calle Norzagaray and Fort San Cristobal. Only three access points exist, one through the “Santa Maria Magdalena Cemetery”, one on the east side and one through a walkway right in the center of the northern wall.
I bet most of you don’t know that La Perla has been an infamous neighborhood since its early days. Back in the 19th century, being outside the city walls was not desirable. There was a slaughterhouse on the site; slaves, the homeless, and non-white servants were required to live outside the city walls, so that was the beginning of homes being built right on the waterfront on that site. Back in those days, living right on the water was for the poor and landless, but today it has reversed.
Today, the spot of La Perla is considered prime real estate with developers and investors keeping a watchful eye on this land. Many have tried to buy these properties for top dollar, but proud residents refuse to give up their home. As rightly they should….nobody should be forced out of their home. La Perla remains, the families that have lived there for many years defend their right to keep their homes. The government has tried in many ways to get them to move from the area in order to beautify the area, but it has failed. La Perla is a unique community with a history that goes back for generations.
Many cultural events are held each week right along Calle Norzagaray where locals and visitors are safe and enjoy the festivities. Local Salsa and Hip Hop concerts are held each week with the intention of shedding the historically bad image of the community. Art shows and an oceanfront community arts-and-crafts fair occur yearly. Great musical talent has come out of residents in La Perla.
The community has an oriented music recording studio, El Estudio D’ Oro, which serves as a free of cost music production workshop for all ages. El Estudio D’ Oro is also home to the FM urban radio show, Hip Hop 787 La Verdadera Escuela, which is broadcast live from the studio on WVOZ Mix 107.7 FM.
In reality, La Perla, is an area with a thriving and welcoming local community; a neighborhood embellished with colorful murals and homes, constructive social programs and promising local development to augment its spectacular coast line. To me, La Perla is extraordinary. The place tells a story, one about the struggle and the survival of the forsaken, about their loyalty to their birth place, and about their efforts to revive it from the bad times. It’s a story about hope, painted on every wall in the city. The houses are colorful, some have been partially torn down, but all houses have that million dollar ocean view. The place may be dangerous, but it’s alive.
It is beautiful in its own way. It has an enviable view of the ocean and of the forts of Old San Juan, as well as direct access to the lovely Viejo San Juan Cemetery and a beach where residents go surfing. The houses, while rundown, are colorful and picturesque, stacked as they are in tiers along the side of the cliff on the outside of the city’s wall. This location–outside the city’s wall–is telling.
I, really hope this has been enlightening and maybe has shifted some of your negative perceptions of this historic community. Sure, La Perla may not be for the faint of heart but like I say the people are as normal as you and I. They’re no different than the other people on the island and shouldn’t be categorized as bad or dangerous.
Sure, there are a few bad eggs in the community but what community doesn’t have it’s share of crime and drug dealers? If, you’d be real with yourself I guarantee that there is a far share of crime and drug dealers in your own backyard. So, next time before you decide to form an opinion by what you think, what you heard, or read, please go to the main source and see for yourself. There is another saying that goes like this…..”if you assume something you’re going to make an ass out of yourself.”
As, you can see I love my country and I will do anything to represent it and keep it from being unjustly ridiculed. Puerto Rico, is a very beautiful place to visit but with that being said if you don’t know where you’re at then just stick to the tours and leave the rest to us.
Thank you for taking your time to read this post as you have my others and I really hope this has shed a better lighting on the beautiful community of La Perla, PR.