Vieques: Roosters, and Horses, and Bombs

Vieques has quite an interesting history.  Once inhabited by the Taino Indians, it was eventually under the rule of Spain and ultimately the US.  After the start of World War II the US Navy assumed control of over 70% of the island, and  they began to use the island for training and bombing practices.  Though controversial with the locals, this continued until 1999 when a civilian was accidentally killed in a bombing target practice.  And so began the Navy-Vieques Protests.  These protests drew international support, and lasted until May 2003 when the US government finally announced the Navy would leave Vieques.  To this day there are still areas that are closed off because hazardous explosives may still be present.

Driving through the Naval Territory to get to the island's most beautiful beaches.

According to some, the fallout still seems to last to this day, though some of the studies are disputed.  The cancer rate is 27% higher than in mainland Puerto Rico.  Some believe that the island still suffers from contamination that has led to some serious health issues.  And  others tout the upside: that the majority of the island is still undeveloped due to the military occupation.  There always seems to be a price we pay, but I guess we’ve found the silver lining.

It’s hard to imagine that at one point this beach……looked like this or this.

The island also has a few wild animals that add to its small population.  There are roosters all over the island.  If you can’t see them, you can certainly hear their constant crowing.  If you’re a light sleeper, brings ear plugs– for the roosters and the many dogs.
Wild horses were brought to the island in the 16th century.  They roam the island, and are certainly one of the main attractions.  They clearly don’t care if they are in your car’s path, but they will eventually move.So when you go, I would follow a few simple rules.  Obey the no trespassing signs if you want to remain intact,  bring your earplugs if you want to sleep, and don’t speed– those horses are everywhere.


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