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8. “Olas y Arenas” — The Beaches Belong to the People

La Brega

WNYC Studios and Futuro Studios

Podcast, Puerto, San, Historia, La, De, Vieques, Juan, Rico, Society & Culture, Levittown, Noticias, Brega

4.91K Ratings

🗓️ 23 March 2023

⏱️ 41 minutes

🧾️ Download transcript


Puerto Rico’s beautiful beaches are an integral part of Puerto Rican life. They form a ring of pleasure that encircles the whole island — an escape valve. And they’re one of the few places that are truly public. At least, that’s what the law says. Yet in practice, that stretch of land where the water meets the shore is the most contested space in all of Puerto Rico. And it’s rapidly disappearing, due to development and coastal erosion. In “Olas y Arenas,” Sylvia Rexach plays the role of the sand: she sings longingly for the ebb and flow of the sea, yearning for the waves that never quite reach her. The bolero is a classic unrequited love song, and our final episode of the season takes place in that same eternal tide. We explore the push and pull between lifelong residents and real estate developers, amidst the rapidly changing coastline, the rising tide, and the elusive letter of the law. Learn more about the voices in this episode: • Mariana Nogales Molinelli, representative-at-large in the Puerto Rican legislature • iLe, singer and composer • Verónica González Rodríguez, environmental lawyer and professor at the Interamerican University in San Juan • Paco Diaz-Fournier, co-founder of Luxury Collection • The band Los Rivera Destino provided original music and set the zona maritimo terrestre definition to song for us Our cover of “Olas y Arenas” is by Balún (out in April). Listen to our Spotify playlist, featuring music from this episode — and this season. Special thanks this week to David Rodriguez Andino, Deepak Lamba Nieves, Aurelio Mercado, Ismael Cancel, Yarimar Bonilla, Tracie Hunte, Samantha Fields and Paul Dryden. Fact checking this season is by Istra Pacheco and María Soledad Davila Calero. This season of La Brega is made possible by the Mellon Foundation.

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listener supported WNYC Studios. Food Tula. The sun has already set and all that's left is a strip of orange in the sky.


The people here are the last dragglers from a day at the beach,


and there are lots of them,


listening to music, flirting, posing, drinking, swimming.


This is dusk at Ocean Park on a Sunday.


It hugs Santurse in San Juan, but if you squint, you could be in Miami, tons of oiled, glistening bodies.


It's honestly kind of a cheesy beach. And this is where I confess that I like Ocean Park. It


feels like a public park and I just love watching everyone.


There are always different clusters of friends, the fitness buff, the coccolos, the surfers,


the hipsters, the troopi goths, the tourists,


the caccos, all enjoying the same space, all blasting different


competing music, topped off with Montecaldos and medayas for sale, and even some fenced-off


sea turtle nests.


Sylvia Resash, the singer, was born and raised here in Santurse a century ago.


So she might have had this speech in mind for one of her most famous Boleros, Olas and Arenas.


Maybe she also stood here, at dusk on a Sunday and contemplated this relationship between


sea and sand before putting pen to paper. She sings from the point of view of the sand, stretched over the beach, and she pleads with a wave that almost touches her, but then pulls back.


Heres to the immeens a whole, then pulls back. This wave sometimes crashes against wet sand and she gets her hopes up,


this wave sometimes crashes against wet sand and she gets her hopes up thinking that it'll reach her.


Her voice rolls like the surf and you can feel her loss.


Grasping at a lover who is as completely indifferent to her as a wave is to dry sand.


She has a way of getting into you, like it's so passionate and you feel very connected to the island to Puerto Rico.


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