As we flew on the tiny plane, we couldn’t take our eyes off of the sea that lay beneath us. The sea of seven colors, they call it, and it was impossibly blue and turquoise. After a 25 minute flight we landed in Providencia.
I’ve grown up all my life hearing about this island. I had even come here when I was six, but the only memories I had of it are vague images of the sea.
My parents lived in Providencia when they were young. My mom, and her friends had gone on vacation, and she loved it so much she decided to stay. My parents lived on the island for about three years, but left soon after my sister’s birth.
They never forgot the island, though. They would always talk about it, say it was a special place, a place they wished they could live in again. In my family, it’s almost mythical: the promised land.
I stepped off the plane and felt it immediately. There’s an energy on the island that can’t really be described. Unlike San Andres, Providencia has been protected against foreign investment, and only islanders are allowed to build and live there.
We got onto the back of a pickup truck and rode along the one, circular road on the island. The day was sunny, the sea was sparkling under the sunlight, and the green mountains contrasted all the blue surrounding us.
We reached our hotel, Cabañas del Recreo, a series of cabins right next to the beach, owned by an islander named Bryan. We got lunch at a local restaurant, and then went to nap, and watch the sunset at the beach shore.
The rest of our time on the island was pure bliss. The air itself infects you with a relaxed happiness that’s impossible to describe. We walked to Santa Catalina Island, visited the places pirates inhabited, took a boat ride through the sea and saw its color change in a way I couldn’t believe, saw a giant rock called Morgan’s Head, after the famous pirate that frequented the island, went to Crab Key and snorkeled, drank by the beach, played the guitar, met people from different countries, walked around the center, ate more fish than we ever had in our life, drank so many cocktails, slept while listening to the waves crash on the shore, swam, had my camera fall into the water but manage to survive, talked about my parent’s life on the island, had my hat fall off as we were on a car and had a guy in a motorcycle pick it up, follow us for 15 minutes and give it to us without ever stopping, sunbathed, and we soaked up that energy and those landscapes that make Providencia the most amazing, beautiful place I have ever been to.
Two experiences, however, stand out from all the other ones in my mind: Meeting our island family, and getting back to San Andres.
We share no blood with our island family, but the love they had for us even though we had never met makes us family. On our second day on the island, we decided to visit Anis, the woman who had given my mom a place to stay, and a family to love and take care of her.
We showed up at her house without any warning. She was in a hammock, all her children, and grandchildren going about their daily lives, but always gravitating around her. She recognized us immediately, and received us with a laugh and open arms. We met the entire family, all of them so full of humor and spark, we couldn’t stop laughing as we talked to them. They invited us to come back in the evening. We went back with baileys, Anis’s favorite drink, and enjoyed the full moon, and the sound of the ocean as we spent the night talking, and talking, and listening to stories, and laughing, and feeling grateful that such beautiful people could exist. They invited us the day after for a rondon, a typical island meal.
Before we saw our island family again, however, there was another friend we needed to see. Amiel was one of my mom’s closest friends. He had also been really close to my grandmother, and the three of them had always kept in touch despite distances, and Providencia’s shaky internet. We went to Amiel’s job and asked around for him. Like Anis, he recognized us immediately (I look a lot like my mom, and my sister looks a lot like my dad). He welcomed us with open arms, introduced us to every single person that happened to pass by, and invited us to his home for an absurdly delicious meal, and some more wonderful conversation. He also saved us by helping us find a way out of the island (we couldn’t find transportation back to San Andres…but that adventure is for another day)
After the meal we headed back to the hotel and rested at the beach for a bit. Then we went to Anis’ house for the rondon. I promise you there’s nothing like an authentic islander meal shared with your island family. There was music, the children were dancing, the full moon was out again, there was baileys and whisky, stories about island life, nostalgia about the past, and incredibly delicious food.
The clock ticked way too fast, and soon it was time for my sister and I to go to the port. We hugged every single one of them goodbye tightly, as if the tighter we hugged, the more we could keep of each of them.
We promised to come back soon, and waved goodbye, with a heavy heart but with the certainty that this was just the beginning of our love affair with the most beautiful and amazing island in the world.