There are changes afoot. Elia and I have been on Vieques, hiking a lot, talking to local people and starting to fall in love with the place. We began to wonder if there was a way to stay here longer, or find a way to come back.
It kind of started out as a whim. Let’s just wander around the island and see if anything catches our eye. We talked to some local people to get a sense of the place. We met with a real estate agent mostly to just get a free tour of the island. As we drove around she showed us houses and lots with million dollar views and everything was quite out of our reach.
We had given up on the idea of buying a place and stopped in at a little bar in Esperanza to get out of the sun and get something to drink. I mentioned to the bartender that we had been looking at properties, and he threw out, seemingly as a joke, “well I have an island you can buy”. Yeah, right!. We got to talking and he actually did. His name was Ramon and he said that it had been owned by his grandfather, but that he had recently passed The island had been left to him, but he didn’t know what to do with it. He said that it was “kind of rustic” and hadn’t had loved in a while, but had lots of potential for the right person”.
He could take us out there the next morning and give us the tour. We met him at 9 on the rickety little dock and got into his old fishing skiff. He gunned the engine and we were off, out of the bay, through some mangroves and north for about 8 miles. As we came around a bend he pointed and there it was.
It had a little beach where we could pull the boat up. There was a small run down house with some palm trees. As we went around the back and up the hill we found some plantation ruins, and some boards hanging off the trees. What was this place we wondered. What had it been?
It seemed that his grandfather had worked as a slave on the plantation cutting sugar cane, and that he had grown up in one of the little shacks. Some rich Dane had come in the early 60’s and tried to make a commune with people living in treehouses. When hurricane Enrique came in 77 it blew down most of the treehouses and toppled a tree onto the main house where the Danish man and his island bride were living, killing both of them. After everyone else had left the grandfather stayed on, and since there were no other claims on the land it became his.
The man said that his grandfather had told him a story that the first plantation owner, Mr. Partridge had tied one of the slaves to a tree and left him there to be eaten by fire ants. Ever since then the land, and especially the trees had been cursed. Local people were frightened to go out there, and nobody seemed to be interested in buying it.
This was getting more and more interesting.
We went to a local bar to discuss and try to get onto the internet to see if we could find out any more information. It was very hard to come to any real conclusions, but it started to seem like maybe it could be worked out somehow. The Vieques government is a protectorate of the US so some of the legal issues are fairly strait forward. The owner seemed to like us, and want us to have the land so he said he could carry a note for 10 years which would stretch us, but seemed doable.
If we could put in some time and effort to rebuild the main house, then rebuild some of the tree houses perhaps we could make it into an eco tourist type of destination. Elia feels sure that she can lift the curse off of the land.
We are now in a legal quagmire of looking at zoning, talking to lawyers, administrators, government officials. But as of just yesterday it’s looking like it’s a go. Give us a year or so to pull it together, but hopefully on April 1 of 2018 we will have built our shangri la. Hopefully this is not a foolish move on our part.