Happiness is walking out of the airport in San Juan on Saturday evening into temperatures of 82 degrees, a light breeze and taxi drivers in flipflops and short sleeves.
Good weather is, after all, what the Caribbean sells best, and tourism officials at Caribbean Marketplace are praying it will work, especially this winter.
So far it seems to be doing just that. On the plane from Atlanta to San Juan I sat next to a man who’d flown from Biloxi , Miss., that morning. "It was five degrees. My car wouldn’t start. I almost missed my flight. I just wanted to get out of there."
Across the aisle, a guy who had started out somewhere in Indiana that morning was still stunned that his flight from Indianapolis to Atlanta had taken off, given the icy conditions and single-digit temperatures.
My Delta flight to San Juan was full, not an empty seat. Winter coats were stashed in overhead bins or under seats. Everyone just wanted sun and sand and to forget, even briefly, what Mother Nature was dishing out across the country.
Sunday in Old San Juan was a walking kind of day, with tourists shopping, sunning, and sipping coffee in cafes and posing for photos in front of the plastic green reptile at Senor Frog's restaurant and bar.
A Carnival cruise ship was in port, and taxi drivers did a brisk business, getting cruise passengers to El Yunque Rainforest and to the beaches in the Isla Verde and Condado areas of San Juan. One driver told me he was very happy that it was very cold on the mainland. "Makes more people come here," he said.
Lunch at the Parrot Club on Calle Fortaleza was a platter of mofongo rellenos and mojitos shared with several reporters also in town for the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association’s Marketplace, which opened Sunday evening. Mofongo, a Puerto Rican staple, is fried plantains, mashed and combined with chicken, seafood or vegetables.
At the opening of Marketplace at the Puerto Rico Convention Center, CHTA officials talked both of the challenging year that had just ended and the challenges that lay ahead.
"We will reemerge as the leader in warm-weather destinations, but this will take new investments and cooperation between the public and private sectors," said Alec Sanguinetti, CEO and director general of CHTA.
Not mentioned was the hope that the cold weather blanketing the mainland continues its icy blast.
-- Gay Nagle Myers