La Brega

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

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.