Winter in Puerto Rico

By: Yeramar Casiano

Your first impression of him might intimidate you.  He is a big man with white hair and a  loud voice who works in a small dark station in a secluded corner of the University of Puerto Rico- Mayagüez campus.  He might even give you the stink eye… but do not worry, he is harmless… and friendly too, if you give him a chance.

At UPRM you see people from all around the world come and go.  Winter is from all over the world but has chosen to remain in sunny Mayagüez.

He had a nice childhood but he was “sick and tired” of moving around. He was born in Switzerland to German parents.  When he was three years old he moved to Cape Town, South Africa.  A couple years later his family moved to New York.  Winter studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and when he got his doctorate, he moved back to Cape Town.  In 1988 he moved to a foreign small island: Puerto Rico.

Amos Winter is a researcher in the Department of Marine Sciences at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, and a professor of paleoceanography and climatology “There is nothing I can complain about my job,” he says. He is in charge of preparing, publishing and disseminating regular climate information for individuals and organizations whose activities are related to the welfare of Puerto Rico, and analyze climate data to determine trends and recurring cycles of the tropical weather.

“At first it was not what I expected,” he recalls.

“The first week was horrible; I wanted to go back to South Africa right away.  I felt the indifference towards me because I was a foreigner.  I wanted a tutor so I could learn some Spanish, but they ignored my petition.”

Winter felt that colleagues at UPRM did not appreciate the fact that “I sacrificed my family and the many hours flying to get here.  The first month living here was the worst.  I missed Cape Town and my family.”

He has been working the past years in his little station, Residence 1-A.  It is very small and dark.  It is located in a centric place but is difficult to find because it is hidden at the back of another building.

He works with German researcher Rolf Vieten, who is completing his doctoral studies.  The duo has been working together for the last two years.  Vieten “enjoys talking to Winter about his investigations.”

Professor Winter has been in multiple investigations through his career at UPRM. One of the most recent investigations can be found online. He collaborated with [1] Eric Harmsen, associate professor of the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering and Antonio González Pérez, undergraduate research assistant.  The goal of this investigation is to update pan evaporation data, which were evaluated from seven experimental substations located across the island.

Eventually Winter got used to the island.  He moved to beautiful Rincón, where he has a house with ocean view.  “Mayagüez is boring; it is all about work and visiting doctors.  Rincón has the beautiful beach and the restaurants,” he says.

Language became a struggle for him because he did not know a single Spanish word when he moved here.   “Spanish is a hard language, it is very confusing and it is shameful that after 26 years in Puerto Rico, my Spanish is so bad,” he sconfided.

He says that he cannot stand the news or watching television because they talk really fast and he cannot catch the exact words.  “I hate it when I am at a store and I ask to the employee something in Spanish and that person instantly replies in English.  Also when they hear my accent and they assume I am American.  I hate it.  It is reverse racism,” he says.  He wants people to give him a chance to practice his Spanish.

Professionally, however, he feels accomplished in Puerto Rico. Winter shared some of his life goals.  He currently serves as a research associate of the Geosciences Research Division Scripps Institute of Oceanography. He plans to continue working and pursuing his research at UPRM.

Some of his work includes the Caribbean Atmospheric Research Center (“Atmos Carib”), which offers the most comprehensive weather and climate information for the Caribbean Region; it is located at the UPRM.  Its mission is to coordinate climate activities and to provide climate services.

Outside of UPRM, on his free time, enjoys gardening and listening to music, especially classical music.  One of his favorites is Beethoven,s 9 no. symphony, third movement.  He admits that he took salsa lessons at one point, but “it was too difficult.”

His impressions about Puerto Rican culture and lifestyles are mixed. He regards Puerto Ricans as “very conservative,” and notes that “they like to be around the family a lot.”  But he is concerned about the problem with cheating and adultery.

Appearances might be deceiving.  At first sight Winter might seem cold and intimidating but once you get to know him, you will meet one of the most interesting and unique professors in the whole campus.

His story is inspiring, not everyone has the will power to sacrifice his entire life to start a new one and pursue a dream  in a foreign country.



Amos Winter


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