Four miles wide and 21 miles long, Vieques remains one of the least developed destinations in the Caribbean. Traffic is still a matter of two Viequenses, driving in opposite directions, stopping in the road for a long conversation. There are still more cows, goats and chickens on the street than taxis. Indeed, much of Vieques feels untouchedits plush forest largely uncut by roads, its white crescent beaches uncluttered by picnic tablesand this is ironic, because the island has been tightly held until just recently.
For over half a century, Vieques was used by the United States Navy as, among other things, a bombing range. But in May of 2003, the Navy withdrew, after years of protests about the military presence. I had followed the controversy myself, with only a modicum of interest. That poor little island, I'd thought, envisioning a wasteland of bomb craters. What never crossed my mind was that the Navy's stewardship had shielded Vieques from commercial development. The opening of a 156-room chain hotel, the Wyndham Martineau Bay Resort, signals the start of a new era.