One Thursday night, two of my dear friends introduced me to “The third place theory”ー a theory that marks the place one spends time when between the first place (home), and the second place (workplace). My third place happens to be a bar that’s located in the very heart of my beloved college town, Río Piedras, called El Boricua, or El Bori for short. I remember being around twelve years old when I first heard its name. My dad, a bassist for a small Latin rock band, was playing a gig there and decided it was an appropriate place to bring my sister and I.
We sat down and the band started playing and I couldn’t help but feel this overwhelming sense of belonging. The music was loud, the vibe was RIGHT and my little feet were stomping the ground. In that exact moment, I knew I would be back.
A few years later, a global pandemic took the world by storm, and I was fresh out of high school and starting my first year as a college student. I spent that whole first year stuck in my room, bored out of my mind, looking for something fun to do. It would take two more years for me to be back in El Bori, but it felt like no time had passed. I remember it like it was yesterday: I was wearing a white crop top, brown pants, and a smile that nobody could wipe off my face. My friends made me feel so included and safe. We danced and laughed so much that night that my cheeks and legs were sore the day after. El Boricua wasn’t even packed or anything, we just had each other. To this day, I think that Thursday night marks the beginning of our story with that enchanted place.
(Pictured here: Nahiomy, Sofía, Me, Melisa, Coraliz) (From left to right)
Time there stops, for just a few fleeting hours our bodies just float. The music is what ties us to the earth. It reminds us of who we are, and where we come from. This island has so much talent to offer, and I think the musicians that play at El Boricua grace us with that talent because of their collective love for those four green walls. One of our favorite musical performances was this reggae group that lit the bar on fire. Their cadence and vibe was enough to make us keep talking about them for days to come. That night made me grow closer to the wonderful people I call friends.
As weeks and months pass, I keep getting closer to them. I remember praying to God and asking him to put good people in my life and, two weeks later, I met them. Strong, ambitious, smart, beautiful women walked into my life and I couldn’t be more grateful. When they read this, I want them to know that I truly wish them all the best in the world. I want them to know that we will always have this place to remind us of how special we all are.
I couldn’t recomend El Boricua more to anyone who hasn’t been. This weird little bar, with all its wonder, is a gem. One that, thankfully, hasn’t been ripped out of the ground or taken away. For more than 20 years, this magical place has stood there, resilient and welcoming, giving students the opportunity to create memories and relationships. I actually have an uncle who met his future wife in El Bori. They have shared some of the best stories of their date nights with me, every Thursday night for years up until the day they got married.
In closing, El Boricua has given me the opportunity to trust my friends, to put on my favorite outfits and dance till my feet want to fall off and, finally, it’s given me the opportunity to create these friendships that I know will last for a long time.
(Picture taken by me)
To El Boricua: thank you for being the holding place for my best memories, thank you for lending your space to amazing local musicians, and finally, thank you for always being such a safe space for us. My friends and I will have you forever in our hearts and minds.
P.S. (I wrote this while at the bar) “I feel so at home here. My heart beats faster.”