The island of Puerto Rico has given birth to both traditional games still played by young children and games that require quite a bit of mental calculation and skill. Some remain indigenous to the island and others have been exported to the United States mainland, other parts of Latin America, and beyond.
The Circle Game
The circle game, called a “rueda” in Spanish, is a singing game. The children hold hands and walk in a circle while singing “A La Limon,” a traditional Puerto Rican song. This is a favorite of small children because they get to pretend and act out parts. The first part of the song is about finding a broken-down fountain. The kids pretend to be fountains, jumping and falling down. The rest of the song is about money, eggs and eggshells, which does require some imagination to interpret. The rueda is a good game for teaching the Spanish language and getting in some physical activity at the same time.
Dominoes or El Domino
In Puerto Rico, the game of dominoes, or “El Domino” is a popular family game. Children learn from their parents and grandparents and all age levels play together either in teams or individually. Dominoes are played with game pieces called bones. These pieces are rectangular in shape and have dots on them like a pair of dice. After the dominoes are shuffled, face down so you cannot see the dots, each player picks seven bones. The players take turns matching the dots. It starts with the person who has the domino with six dots on both ends. That domino is played and then someone matches one of his dominoes that has a six with one end of the lead domino. The game keeps going until one player has played all his dominoes or nothing else can be matched. In the latter case, the person with the least number of dominoes left is the winner. This is a good game for children because it teaches counting.
Puerto Rico Board Game
Puerto Rico is a role-playing game for older children and adults. Using a playing board, role cards, game money (called doubloons) and game pieces representing buildings and ships, the goal is to build the most buildings and produce the most goods. Each player starts out with a role card, either a settler, builder, the mayor, craftsman, ships captain or trader. The starting player becomes the governor. He picks a role card and performs one action from that card. As the game progresses, each player takes a role card and performs an action associated with that card. As an example, the person with the settler card may start a plantation on the board. A builder may build a building. Think of this as a sort of island version of Monopoly, but rather than streets, railroads and jails, you would have plantations, ships and quarries. The person with the most victory points from his sales, goods production and property is the winner. The board represents a mythical version of the island of Puerto Rico. This game teaches management of both money and property and is very competitive.
Monica Wachman is a former editor and writer for FishersTravelSOS, EasyRez.com and Bonsai Ireland. She has an AA degree in travel from Career Com Technical and is an avid RV buff and gardener. In 2014, she published "Mouschie and the Big White Box" about an RV trip across North America.