The Fishermen and Their Haul (mural on a wall of the public school, Culebra, Puerto Rico)

The island of Culebra, where I have been staying, is part of the Spanish Virgin Islands. It was colonized by Spain in the 1880s and called San Ildefonso.

In 1903, when Teddy Roosevelt ordered U.S. forces to invade Puerto Rico, the outlaying islands of Vieques and Culebra were seized as well, which is why the “Little Snake” (as Culebra’s coat of arms calls itself) is now part of the United States.

In 1939, the Navy began to use the whole of the Culebra Archipelago as a gunnery and bombing practice site, despite the fact there were residents still living on the island. For decades the Navy fired thousands and thousands of shells, bombs and torpedoes, not all of which exploded.

In 1971 the people of Culebra began protests, known as the Navy-Culebra protests, for the removal of the U.S. Navy from their island. Four years later, in 1975, the use of Culebra as a gunnery range ceased and all operations were moved to Vieques.

It must be noted, however, that the Navy did a terrible job of finding and removing all the live shells that now lay scattered in the sands of the local beaches, in the shallow waters and deeper off shore. Even as I write this, one of the northern beaches, Carlos Rosario, has been closed all week as crews from Puerto Rico search the waters after skin divers reported finding something bomb-shaped and metallic near one of the reefs


I made a zine documenting my trip to Puerto Rico and I’m really proud of it.

F I V E  D A Z E:

Five Daze is an ongoing travel zine, documenting the 5 days I spend anywhere each time I travel. 

I spent 5 days in Puerto Rico.
This is what I saw.

Don’t presume the innocence of white sand beaches. There are secrets churning
in those crystal clear waters.
Histories ignored until forgotten:
this is how people are made to disappear.
—   from With the Breath of the Ocean by Amy Noelle Sigle