I was honored to have been invited to present a lecture called "Beachcombing - A Spiraling Journey" at the 2014 Great Lakes Beach Glass & Coastal Arts Festival this past Memorial Day weekend! Here is an excerpt from my lecture.
The general consensus amongst collectors is that red sea glass is extremely rare and many consider it to be a once in a lifetime find. While living in Puerto Rico I always classified red sea glass as rare but in my mind it leaned more towards the rare/uncommon side of the spectrum than it did the rare/extremely rare side.
In my experience on the island it wasn't at all unusual to find a piece of red sea glass on the beach. I have experienced epic days where I found anywhere from a dozen to thirty or so pieces in one beachcombing session.
So why so much red sea glass in Puerto Rico compared to other sea glass locations? My theory is that it has to do with Puerto Rico's political history.
Most of the sea glass found on beaches today comes from glass that found it's way to sea sometime between the mid 1800s-1970s. The late 1930s to the 1950s was a defining political era on the island. Notice where these dates reside on the sea glass timeline?
The late 1930s saw the birth of one of Puerto Rico's main political parties which is called the Popular Democratic Party and a man named Luis Munoz Marin was the party leader. The PDP is often referred to as the Populares or the red party. The color red is the official color of the PDP.
The Populares dominated the political scene for decades. Puerto Rico's other main political party, the New Progressive Party or blue party did not come into existence until the 1960s.
The late 1930s to the 1950s saw a lot of fevered excitement. Political energy was very charged and was that of a movement. Up until the 1940s Puerto Rico's governor was appointed by the president of the United States. In 1948 Puerto Rico held it's first gubernatorial election and Luis Munoz Marin became the first democratically elected governor of Puerto Rico. He was elected time and time again until the 1960s. During the era of Luis Munoz Marin the Populares heavily dominated the political scene.
Puerto Ricans have a long tradition of expressing political pride with color. So Populares incorporate red into home decor and personal adornment. So basically red table settings, red decorative glass items, red bottle Schlitz beer, various red glass Avon products etc. would have been in high demand starting sometime in the late 1930s. To this day Puerto Ricans continue to express political pride with color and it would be very unusual for someone who is red party to wear blue clothing and vice versa.