Mónica Puig received a hero’s welcome as she stepped off a small private plane in San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport just after 5:00 pm this past Saturday. There, island governor Alejandro García Padilla and his wife greeted the 22-year-old Olympic champion, who graciously smiled and waved to hordes of awaiting fans who screamed, cheered, and waved Puerto Rican flags in her honor.
But Puig’s enthusiastic reception at the airport was just a small part of the collective mind-loss that took place across Puerto Rico and coalesced around the hashtag #BienvenidaMonica. In the midst of ongoing social and economic hardship for the island, the Puerto Rican twittersphere overflowed with gratefulness and pride as Puig gave a brief press conference in which she once again dedicated her medal to the people of Puerto Rico. After wrapping up, Mónica hit the streets accompanied by an impromptu caravan that followed her throughout the San Juan where the entire city was apparently lined up to welcome her home.
But despite the warm and vocal response, the parranda has really just begun for Mónica and her beloved island. The unlikely tennis phenomenon will have her official reception on Tuesday, August 23 along with the rest of Puerto Rico’s Olympic delegation. Whether or not the young athlete will get that street named after her, as one Puerto Rican congressional hopeful recently proposed, we can be absolutely sure that Mónica Puig has emerged as the island’s newest symbol of national pride.