In 1996, former Vashon island resident Corky Parker purchased a 3-acre plot of land on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. Parker named this land “La Finca Caribe” and operated an eco-lodge there for more than 20 years.
Parker details her adventures in running La Finca Caribe in her new book, “La Finca: Love, Loss and Laundry on a Tiny Puerto Rican Island.” Over the two decades Parker operated the eco-lodge, she welcomed guests from around the world and chronicled her experiences through sketches and stories.
Parker will read from her book and discuss it with islander Juli Morser, at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18 at Vashon Center for the Arts (VCA) atrium. The event is free, with books for sale at the event as well as a display of some of the artwork in the book.
Vieques, located off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico, is home to Mosquito Bay, the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world and has a population of more than 9,000 people. Similar to Vashon, Vieques is only accessible by ferry or by air travel.
However, Vieques boasts a few things that are missing on Vashon, including white sand beaches, banana groves and Paso Fino horses roaming free.
La Finca Caribe includes about five cabins, a saltwater pool and plenty of open space for guests. Parker describes hosting all kinds of travelers, including solo travelers, weddings and marine biology research groups.
“People often want to know what I think makes this ‘finca’ so special, and I think if I had to say one thing it would probably just be its casualness,” said Parker in a video produced for the book’s release. “By being our most casual, comfortable selves here and letting the place echo that, it lets our travelers be the same.”
Parker, who sold La Finca Caribe to a long-time guest, now splits her time between Port Townsend and Marrowstone Island. She lived on Vashon from 1991 to 2003 and raised her three children on the island.
Parker fondly remembers hosting big “movie on the barn” parties each summer, dances at the Grange in the wintertime and premiering her documentary, “Good Fortune,” — about adopting her daughter from China — at Vashon Theatre.
She still returns to Vashon frequently, as most of Parker’s closest friends still live on the island. In fact, many of Parker’s friends stayed at La Finca Caribe over the years she operated the lodge.
Parker credits her friends and children’s friends for assisting her with chipping in to help keep La Finca Caribe going throughout the years, as she recounted memories of “work parties,” where a “posse of Vashon people” would visit La Finca and work half the day on projects throughout the property, and spend the other half of the day on the beach.
For Parker, both her time on Vieques and Vashon remind her of what is special about the character of people who live on islands.
“One rarely drifts to an island by accident, like you might slide to the next town, or the wrong side of the tracks,” writes Parker in her book. “Islands require some kind of conscious thought. A move to an island is deliberate and often involves some notion of escaping the rest of the world.”
If anyone should know this, it’s Parker—she’s lived on three islands, after all.
“La Finca: Love, Loss and Laundry on a Tiny Puerto Rican Island” is available for purchase at tupress.org, or wherever else books are sold. Parker’s reading and discussion of her book will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18 at VCA.