In 2003, the first sprouts of the Mango Beach Shop appeared in our lot next to the cowfield at Sandy Beach in Rincon, P.R. Milena and her 13 year old , Karina, set up a tent and tried sucessfully to give away their latest over-accumulation of painfully restored stray dogs and puppies. The beach's winter visitors were won over by the charm of the rescuers almost as much as they were by the pure hearts of the dogs. Encouraged by sucesss, it became a family effort. A bamboo and thatched palm hut magically appeared from the great home depot of nature around us.
Now there was a regular shop-dog rescue complex-although far from rain and wind resistant!- that could at least finance the dog mission, as well as provide a creative and social outlet for our children and their friends, for the dogs, and whoever was around the beach. Milena painted mangoes around the fringe of the tent, and so it just had to stay the mango beach shop.
There were some tee shirts and sarongs for sale, but the fun was in making things from whatever debris of nature and man that the sea washed up. Part of a day's work included combing the beach for sea glass, tiny shells and rounded stone, dried sea fans, coconuts in different stages of deterioration, and sea- polished driftwood that included exotic looking pieces of bamboo roots. Some things you find on these beaches defy identification, are the most amazing things of all. Milena hand painted some of the tee shirts, everyone painted tropical scenes on bamboo scraps, or made some "object d'art". Sea glass jewelry became Karina's specialty, and over the years, she has worked with Milena to refine the art, while staying close to the simplicity of the idea.
Hundreds of puppies and rescued dogs later, the beach almond trees have grown into monsters, and there is still no mango tree in sight. Behind the split bamboo fence, the shade and garden have taken over all but the rustic, old-caribbean style structure that eventually replaced the tent. The offerings are greatly expanded and refined, but the original feeling is still there, carried on by our chidren and their friends who sometimes act and even look suspiciously like we did when we were their age.