Scouting and Guiding in Puerto Rico
Scouting in Puerto Rico has a long history, from the 1920s to the present day, serving thousands of youth and volunteers in four programs, Cub Scouting, Boy Scouts, Venturing (Boy Scouts of America) and Exploring (Boy Scouts of America), with more than 300 units spread all over the island. The Puerto Rico Council was founded in 1927, part of the Northeast Region of the Boy Scouts of America, with the mission of preparing youth to make correct choices ethically and morally for their future by learning the Scout Law and Scout Promise. The council serves more than 6,200 youth and 3,500 volunteers.
Scouting in Puerto Rico today
Puerto Rican Scouting is served by the Puerto Rico Council or Concilio De Puerto Rico of the Boy Scouts of America. Originally the Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands Council, the political entities were separated administratively in 1960.
Geographic divisions include five districts:
- Guaitiao District, the northeast part of Puerto Rico, from Fajardo to Dorado.
- Boriken District, the east part of Puerto Rico, from Ceiba to Aibonito.
- Arasibo District, the north and central part of Puerto Rico, from Vega Alta to Hatillo.
- Caribe District, the south part of Puerto Rico from Patillas to Yauco.
- Yagueka District, the West part of Puerto Rico.
- Majagua District, north of Puerto Rico, Bayamón
All districts bear Indian names from the Tainos, Puerto Rican Indians.
Guajataka Scout Reservation
The Puerto Rico Council's camp reservation, Camp Guajataka, is on the northwest part of the island, at San Sebastián by Guajataka Lake. Camp Guajataka, or "Santuario de Amistad", is where the Scouts learn how to care for nature and preserve it.
The year 1938 marked the inauguration of Guajataka Scout Reservation, Puerto Rico's main camp center. Located in the municipality of San Sebastian, it takes its name from the Guajataca Lake (which it surrounds). Since then the Camp has evolved, and has seen many changes both on structure and program.
Scouts and Scouters that visit are lodged in one of the 11 campsite areas of the Camp. These campsites feature a series of wood shelters that house its campers. Some campsites have very simple names (such as Campsite A, B, C, D and M), while others are named in honor of distinguished figures (Paquito Joglar and Manolin) or are named based on location, flora or physical characteristics (SP or Swimming Pool Campsite area, Palomar, Cobana Negra). The council is in the process of assigning Indian names to the A, B, C, D and M areas.
The camp's operations are divided into two seasons, Summer and Christmas. The main program is presented during the summer, in which ten weeks are divided for Cub scouts, Boy Scouts and Venturers. During the Christmas season a single week summarizes the summer's offerings, and it is open for Cub and boy Scouts alike. The camp also operates off-season for special troop activities or external groups that wish to experience the outdoor spirit of the reservation.
Guajataka is considered to be the official home of the council's Order of the Arrow lodge. Most of Yokahu Lodge's activities are celebrated in the camp, and for years the order has given service to the facilities. The OA has its own campsite, called "The Cabin". This campsite is currently closed, due to structural damages, but it's scheduled to re-open after some modifications. In the past, the Paquito Joglar campsite area was considered the official gathering place for the lodge, but it became a campers area due to the need of space for the many Scouts that attended camp in summer.
The Staff of the Camp is structured based on Scouting's patrol system. These patrols are based on different speacialization areas in the camp's program. The current patrols are known as Program Aide (Scoutcraft/Scout skills), Nature Team (Ecology/Conservation), Aquatics Team, Sports Team, Administration Staff, Voyaguers (High Adventure, Treks and Project C.O.P.E.) and the Order of the Arrow Patrol. Other former patrols are Administration Team, Guías de Expedición and Rangers.
The patrols are led by a Director, which serves as an administrative official, and a Patrol Leaders, who's in charge of the patrol's specific program. In the past, each patrol had its own campsite in which they pitched their own tents and worked on pioneering gates that awed campers and visitors alike. As of this year, new Council policies have abolished this practice and now all staff members are located in a single area.
The Counselor In Training (CIT) program works in a special way, compared to other camps. Any Scout or Venturer that becomes a Staff member, regardless of age, is considered a CIT during his or her first year in camp. During this first year, the CIT learns the basics of the patrol and gets to know the "traditions" on which it is based. After successfully completing the CIT year, the Scout or Venturer is considered a full Staff Member. Staff members are known for their passion and loyalty toward their patrol, and it is very rare in current times to see a Scout that actually transfers from one patrol to another.
Due to its long history, the patrol system has served to develop a series of traditions inside each patrol. A tradition shared by all patrols is a simple recognition, symbolized by a neckerchief. The neckerchief symbolizes a Staff member that has truly served the patrol and the camp, demonstrates and shares his knowledge, and, most of the times, has been a member of the patrol for two or more years. Each patrol has its own pre-requisites for this recognition, and each has its own induction ceremony. The neckerchiefs have different colors, each color representing a specific patrol: red (Program Aide), green (Nature Team), yello (administrative staff), light blue (Aquatics), purple (Sports), white (Order of the Arrow) and dark blue (Voyaguers).
Staff work is mainly voluntary, but each Scout received an allowance to cover basic needs. The "payroll" is small compared to other camps, CIT's earn $15/week, 2nd years $25/week and third-or-more year staff earn $35/week. Administrative positions usually have a higher pay, due to the high responsibility, but the Staff members are moved more by their interest to serve than for the interest of earning money.
Order of the Arrow
Puerto Rico Council's Yokahu Lodge was founded in 1954 by Dr. Frank Wadsworth and other fellow Scouters that were inspired after seeing the service potential of the Order of the Arrow at a National Scout Jamboree. In the beginning the lodge literally translated the OA ceremonies and used American Indian attire, but decided later to slightly modify the ceremony to reflect the "taino" heritage on the island.
The lodge is divided into eight chapters that are organized based on the geographical regions on the island. The chapters, like the council's districts, are named based on words or names in the "taino" language. The chapters are Arasibo, Yagueka, Majagua, Cayniabon, Guaitiao, Guarionex, Guani and Guaraka.
There are four main activities in the lodge's calendar. The Retorno is celebrated on a weekend of the first months of the year, its purpose is to reunite the arrowmen and also serves as a chance to meet that years new Lodge Executive Committee. Halfway through the year, the lodge celebrates its High Adventure Activity, in order to challenge each arrowmen's outdoor skills. In October the lodge celebrates it's Guateke, in which new lodge officers are elected. And finally in December, the Convencion serves as the conclusion of the lodge's year and serves as a "Court of Honor" in which different recognitions are handed out based on service during the year.
Inductions are celebrated usually four times a year, during two weekends in May and two in August. The induction weekends are called Ordi-Bros since both ceremonies take place at the same time (Ordeal and Brotherhood). The Vigil Honor is celebrated as an independent activity on the last weekend of November (right after Thanksgiving).
The lodge has its own recognitions for distinguished service to the OA. The Cemi de Bronce and the Premio del Alegre Servicio (The Cheerful Service Award) or three W's for short, are earned by youth and adults respectively. Like the Vigil Honor, these awards cannot be earned by a set of requirements, but instead are decided by a recognitions Committee composed of fellow arrowmen (all youth). These awards have their own quota and are traditionally only given out during the Convencion.
Currently the Lodge has only one recipient of the Distinguished Service Award, Dr. Frank Wadsworth (1965), and is an active participant in Section and National activities. The 2008 NE-2A section Conclave is scheduled to take place at the Guajataka Scout Reservation in Puerto Rico, and will mark the first time that the Yokahu Lodge will host such activity.
Puerto Rico is the only entity of the BSA to translate the ideals officially into Spanish. The Scout Law, or Ley del Escucha is Un escucha es:
- Trustworthy - Honrado
- Loyal - Leal
- Helpful - Servicial
- Friendly - Amigable
- Corteous - Cortés
- Kind - Bondadoso
- Obedient - Obediente
- Cheerful - Alegre
- Thrifty - Ahorrativo
- Brave - Valiente
- Clean - Limpio y
- Reverent - Reverente
Girl Scouting in Puerto Rico