When it comes to a bakery, there is no place like home. From the time I went to live in Trujillo Alto with my parents around 1969, one of our favorite stops on our way home down to Cupey Bajo, was La Facciola. When it first started they had it right smack on the corner of Sagrado Corazon building at the corner of San Claudio and the road to Cupey. If you were going up to El Senorial you could stop there to buy bread, pastries and coffee and if I was going down to Fair View or Venus Gardens, the same.
I will not get sidetracked with the silliness of English names for subdivisions in a primarily Spanish speaking country. Such inconcruency is a reflection of a nation's lack of self identity or the influx of foreign capital. Of course you must be thinking she's writing in English. Okay so I am sidetracked. I can't help it. It is not my fault I learned to speak, write, and read English well and that it comes so easily for me to express myself in English, but I do also in Spanish. Anyway, I am an exception, yet part of a growing exception, but none the less an exception. I would have been just as happy if most of the subdivisions or urbanizaciones as we call them had Spanish names.
I am glad to see so many urbanizations coming up with Spanish names, but I still can't explain Ciudad Universitaria with no university near by. No seriously, some are La Encantada, Terranova, Mansiones, Terrazas de Guaynabo, El Paraiso, Sagrado Corazon, Punta Las Marias, Altamira: I just love those names. They evoke tranquility, spaciousness, and adventure, whereas Ocean Park, Levittown, Fair View, Summit Hills,Caparra Terrace though well intentioned do not offer the same peacefulness or imagination for people who don't understand what the words mean.
Actually Caparra Terrace, sounds pretty jarring to me. And it was with it duplex houses neatly squeezed together and divided by a thin wall where you could easily hear the other family's activities and so close to the street you could hardly fit a tree edgewise. I had to walk through Caparra Terrace desert, twice a day under the unrelenting sun to avoid eating the rice and beans they called lunch at the Gabriel Mistral. Umm, I do not sound nice today. But it's true I didn't like those lunches nor could I stand the smell, but fortunately now the school lunches include fresh fruits, vegetables, and not the canned soy beans which made me so ill.
But back to the names..Actually back to bakeries in PR. Truly Spanish roots. Except for La Francaise. Dona Ana called it La Francesa and it was established in Old San Juan, in Puerta de Tierra by my ex husband's grandfather, Jean Pieve, and an associate. So every time we went by Puerta de Tierra, my mother in law would always tell me the story about how her father, came from Corsica, went to live in Lajas where she was born, but then moved to Puerta de Tierra and started La Francesa with a fellow Corsican. Today La Francaise is on the Caguas road near La Muda and has the best sweet bread in town.
But La Francesa was an exception. If you look at the majority of bakeries or panaderias in the San Juan area, you will find that most of them have Spanish roots. As well as connect Puerto Rico to it roots they also are a venue for a great deal of the cultural activities in town. There you can see people having tertulias or meaningful conversations about politics, gossip, or family or reading the newspaper over a cup of freshly brewed coffee, either un posillo or a cafe con leche. WiFi has not yet sneaked in, but I am sure it is a matter of time.
There is something very Spanish about panaderias. Let's start with the names...Listen to these names... La Viña, Madrid, La Catalana, La Nueva Sevilla, La Coruña, La Gallega Bakery, La Mallorquina and La Mallorca (both in Old San Juan, you just can't walk past these last two). All of these have names that point you directly back to España, to la Madre Patria, Old Spain, with it fancy European pastries, smoked ham hanging from the rafters, masapan candies, turron during Christmas, sardinera for Easter, colored breads for our spam sandwiches, and pan de agua o sobao.
So whenever I am in town, I stop at La Facciola, another exception, an Italian name, But the panaderia is modeled after the many Spanish ones, including hot food, and Caldo Gallego, a very typical Spanish soup, made with chick peas. I have my coffee, chat with Maria Luisa, the attendant, who is ever so nice and sweet to my mother. It's the silver hair again. And we have a media noche and coffee and buy too many pastries: un quesito, "un neopolitano", cream filled tornillos, chocolate covered strawberries, tocino del cielo, etc., etc., etc. and I am in trouble again. Es culpa del Español, ole! (It's the Spanaird's fault!)