7/17/87-7/31/87…Puerto Rico Trip #2

Corina, Mara, & Marcie a.k.a High Voltage at O'Hare Airport before boarding the plane for our 2nd trip to Puerto Rico. 7/17/87

Corina, Mara, & Marcie a.k.a High Voltage at O’Hare Airport before boarding the plane for our 2nd trip to Puerto Rico. 7/17/87

Our first experience in Puerto Rico the year before had gone so incredibly well, that somehow my girls & I convinced our parents to let us go by ourselves the next year for two weeks.  Our friend Susan from New York (who had stayed in the same hotel room as our friend, Linda, in 1986) joined us in Puerto Rico a few days after we had arrived.  We had also become very good friends with her and asked her to join us on this trip. Marcie, Susan, & I were 17 and Corina was 16.   We were all very trustworthy girls, but looking back I still can’t believe that our parents let us do this.  I’m not sure I would if I had kids.  But luckily they really had nothing to worry about with us, because we were good girls.  The reason we wanted to go back had nothing to do with Menudo, surprisingly.  This trip was about getting back to see friends we had made while we were there the first time.  Corina actually had started a romantic relationship with a guy named Gonzalo.  Originally he was part of a new boy band that was being put together called Tropico.  Another guy we had met that had a crush on me, Ariel, was also part of the group.  We had become pretty good friends with them while we were there and we kept in great contact with them in the year between going back.  So we were plenty excited to see them again.  There were other friends that we would see again too, but those two were our connection to Tropico and what this trip became about.  About our fourth day there, Gonzalo came to our hotel and took us to meet up with Ariel and the rest of the members of Tropico.  We surprised them.  It was GREAT!  We already knew Ariel, Richard, & Javier from our ’86 trip.  But we were meeting Rafy & Aurelio for the first time.  We all clicked right away. We hung out for a while and then ended up going for pizza and then bowling.  This was just the first day of many that we would be spending with this up & coming boy band.  At this time in Puerto Rico, because of the Menudo craze, boy bands were popping up like crazy.  Tropico got quite a bit of buzz in Puerto Rico & New York mostly.  We were happy to see how they came together behind the scenes before they really hit the rest of their fans.

Surprising the guys at a random location in PR...Rafy, Aurelio & Richard 7/87

Surprising the guys at a random location in PR…Rafy, Aurelio & Richard 7/87

Gonzalo & Ariel @ the Shirley's Pizza 7/87

Gonzalo & Ariel @ Shirley’s Pizza 7/87

After this first day of reconnecting with them, we ended up spending almost every day with them.  They had their practices (dancing) at Richard’s house.  So we would head up there and hang out with Richard’s parents & cousin while the guys practiced downstairs.  During breaks & when they finished practicing they would come hang out with us girls.

To us this was heaven.  Richard’s father & the band manager, Tito, was so awesome to us.  I think he looked at us as the bridge to their US fan base.  And he was right to think that way because we really pushed for their success back in Chicago.  We became very close to the guys in the two weeks we spent with them. In fact, it was nice to see them starting to promote themselves.  They already had recorded an album, which we got while we were there.

Tropico--Por Primera Vez.  They all signed this album for me and I still have it to this day. :)

Tropico–Por Primera Vez. They all signed this album for me and I still have it to this day. 🙂

And they were scheduled to be the entertainment for a little Miss Pre-Teen San Juan pageant of sorts.  We went and got to see them perform for an audience for the first time.  It was nerve-wracking to say the least.  We were sitting pretty far away and I didn’t want to move at first.  But finally, for the sake of getting good shots I went up closer to the stage to grab some photos.

It was obvious they were a little nervous, but they also enjoyed themselves on that stage.  They were fun to watch.  And as if we didn’t get enough of them already, we ended up taking a cab up to Richard’s house later that night (after having dinner at Gonzalo’s house) to hang out with Javier, Aurelio, Richard & his fam.  It was so much fun.  They ended up putting on a private show for us, as you can see in the following photos.

The other time we got to see them perform was when they went on the Rafael Jose TV show.  We weren’t exactly invited to the studio, but we sort of invited ourselves. lol  We went to the front desk and said we were there to see them and they let us right in.  I love Puerto Rico.  The guys were happy to see us, at least.  They were all pretty nervous for this show, especially Richard.  He was holding onto his stomach the whole time before they performed.  Poor guy.  We did snag some pictures, before , during, & after the performance.  They did two songs, and had a mini-interview with Rafael Jose.  After the first song, we forgot we were at a live taping and started clapping.  We were like “oh shit”, but then the studio people encouraged us to keep clapping.  I guess it was good for the group to sound like they had fans in the house.

This would be the last time we saw them perform during our trip, but we saw them socially up until the very last day of our stay.  This trip was definitely about friends and fun.  We saw our friends blossom in a new endeavor and we were right there beside them for the ride.  To this day I’m still in touch with most of these guys, which speaks volumes to how we all connected during this time in our lives.  They will ALWAYS hold a very special place in my heart.



  1. Susana Fresa says:

    OMG! Mara, I can’t believe after all these years I have finally found you again! I always think about our crazy days and your secret visit to New York. We must talk!

    • manzana88 says:

      SUSAN!!!!!!! I’m so happy you found me. How the heck did you find this page? This is why I love the internet!! 🙂

  2. manzana88 says:

    Rafy, I’m so happy that I did get to be a part of it. 🙂

  3. Loretta says:

    Nice story! I was going to forward it to Rafael but I see he already saw it! Very nice!

  4. Rafy Candelaria says:

    I will always love you Mara… Those were some of my happiest days in my live… And YOU were part that… XOXO!

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