Saturday, November 7, 2020

Post Offices of the Caribbean

Three years ago I wrote a post about the post offices of Puerto Rico. It was fun to write; my one regret was that I didn't have any photos of my own to present to you. This has since changed!

The U.S. territories of Pureto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands were pummeled by the twin storms of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in late 2017. This led to destruction that was widely covered in the media. Postally speaking, the storms led to the suspension of all postal operations for multiple days, and the shutdown of many post offices for prolonged periods of time. A couple of post offices were undergoing continuing repairs and renovations a year and a half later.

Interior hallway of the Guaynabo, Puerto Rico post office, 2019
Hallway in the Guaynabo post office in February 2019, undergoing repairs and renovations.

In January 2019 I saw an article about the newly restored New Deal murals at the Emancipation Gardens post office in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. Turns out that was all the motivation I needed to plan a trip to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in order to visit and photograph every single postal operation. Over 2.5 weeks in February and March 2019 I visited each of the 132 postal operations (post offices, Contract Postal Units, and mail processing facilities) in Puerto Rico and each of the 12 post offices on St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. In addition to photographing every post office I obtained postmarks from every single one, both for my personal postmark collection and for the National Postmark Museum in Bellevue, Ohio.

First and foremost, the trip would not have been possible without the incredible patience and helpfulness of members of USPS's Corporate Communications team, as well as officials from USPS's Caribbean District. Thank you!

I have many stories to share from my wonderful experiences in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and I look forward to sharing them with you. For now, let me share with you a handful of interesting statistics:
  • Nights: 16
  • Lodgings: 7
  • Flights: 6
  • Ferry rides: 4
  • Rental cars: 2
  • Miles driven: 1,473
  • Miles driven on the left side of the road: 41
  • Puerto Rico municipios visited: 78 of 78
  • "Safari bus" trips: 2
  • "Politaxi" trips: 1
I am pleased to report that the Post Mark Collectors Club (PMCC)'s Online Post Office Photo Collection now has images of every U.S. postal operation in the Caribbean. The collection now boasts 216 photographs of Puerto Rico post offices, and 21 photographs of post offices in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The earliest photos date to the 1930s, when federally financed post offices in Mayagüez and Ponce were completed. The collection also features about 40 photos taken by Postlandia friend John Gallagher during trips in 1999 and 2000. There are nine photos of former sites (including three of the magnificent former main post office in San Juan), and two of discontinued Contract Postal Units.

Personally, I've enjoyed comparing many post offices as they appeared twenty years ago vs. in 2019. The palate is brighter in Puerto Rico, and quite a few post offices have been given fantastic, rich paint schemes in recent years. Check out these blue beauties, two of many from the western side of Puerto Rico.

Rincon, Puerto Rico post office, 2000 and 2019

Camuy, Puerto Rico post office, 2000 and 2019
The Rincon and Camuy post offices, each photographed in 2000 and 2019. Photos from 2000 courtesy John Gallagher.

There's plenty more to enjoy in these collections. These post offices really are wonderful and unique, and I invite you to explore the photographs here:

Puerto Rico post office photos: List, with links to photos; alphabetized album.
U.S. Virgin Island post office photos: List, with links to photos; alphabetized album.

Hope you enjoy! —Evan

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