After finishing up a game at the Punta Borinquen Golf Club in Aguadilla, P.R., Angelique Velez Sina went to a nearby bar and found herself the center of attention with a group of men who had been playing on the same course.
“I was the only female there,” she said of that day in November 2020. “Literally everybody was talking to me.”
José Joaquin Cardona Crespo had expected his golf buddies to swarm Ms. Velez Sina, so he stood by the bar and waited, guessing that eventually she would separate herself to order a drink and he would have his chance.
He was right. “We ended up speaking for a long time,” Ms. Velez Sina said.
Ms. Velez Sina, 34, who was born in Aguadilla but lived in Washington, D.C. at the time, was on the island for her work with Friends of Puerto Rico, a nonprofit organization she founded in 2015.
They both felt a spark instantly. “I hadn’t ever felt that connection with someone as I did with José,” Ms. Velez Sina said. “I felt like I was in my early teens again.”
Mr. Cardona Crespo, 48, who was born, raised and still living in Puerto Rico, thought Ms. Velez Sina looked “radiant, beautiful,” he said. “And after we had our first talk, I knew she was smart. She had something different. We can talk all day and I never get bored.”
A few days later, he invited her to play more golf. “I played terribly but we had a good time,” Ms. Velez Sina said. She’s not as good as she would like to be at the sport, she said, but “it’s a good way for me to not be in my emails or on my phone. Otherwise, I could work for hours.”
That weekend, they met several more times. By Sunday, Mr. Cardona Crespo drove Ms. Velez Sina to the airport. “When I left her at the airport,” he said, “I was so sad.” He added, “I felt she’s the one.”
For the next two years, Ms. Velez Sina traveled from Washington to Puerto Rico every two to four weeks to visit Mr. Cardona Crespo and to expand the efforts of Friends of Puerto Rico, which supports economic development on the island. He visited her a few times as well.
As part of her work, Ms. Velez Sina purchased Panorama Farm in Las Marias, Puerto Rico, in April 2021, and together with Mr. Cardona Crespo, planted plantains, papayas and coffee. Now, they sell that coffee under the brand Café Ama Love, online and across the island, including in Walmart, at airports and in hotels.
All the profits from the coffee go back into Friends of Puerto Rico programs, Ms. Velez Sina said. These include a youth entrepreneurship program in which children aged 9 to 12 learn about running a business, then sell the coffee beans in their community. Ms. Velez Sina said the children keep all their profits and are encouraged to use the money to start their own ventures.
Ms. Velez Sina moved to the nation’s capital in 2010 after graduating from University of Puerto Rico in Aguadilla with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Several years later, in 2013, she received a master’s degree in communication from Johns Hopkins University.
When she founded Friends of Puerto Rico, she was working as a relationship manager at the International Finance Corporation in Washington. In 2018, she left her role as an associate for the chief financial officer at the Global Partnership for Education in Washington, to run Friends of Puerto Rico full time.
During two years of long-distance dating, the constant goodbyes took a toll on Ms. Velez Sina and Mr. Cardona Crespo.
“Every time he would drop me off at the airport, we would both be crying,” she said. “I thought it was so lame when I saw it in movies, but we were those people.”
With the intention of slowly moving her entire life to Puerto Rico, she began bringing an extra suitcase full of clothes, shoes and other belongings on each trip south. “Sometimes wine, too, I won’t lie,” she said.
From the beginning, when visiting Mr. Cardona Crespo in San Sebastián, a town in northwest Puerto Rico, Ms. Velez Sina found herself missing the variety of wines and liquors she could access in Washington. In March 2021, she casually told Mr. Cardona Crespo that they should open a wine store one day.
“José took it really literally,” she said. “A few days later, he rented a place.”
Six months later, they opened La Licorera, a wine and liquor store in San Sebastián. “We call it our baby,” Ms. Velez Sina said.
Outside of four and a half years at the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico, where he received a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1998, Mr. Cardona Crespo has lived in San Sebastián his entire life. He grew up watching his parents run separate and combined businesses, including a construction company, a flower store and a welding shop.
Now, he runs that same construction company, AMC Rebuild, and together with Ms. Velez Sina, operates Carsi Partners, which includes Carsi Goods, a wood- and metalworking shop, and La Licorera.
In March 2014, Mr. Cardona Crespo’s mother, Linda Crespo Lugo, died of intestinal failure at age 69, and his father, José Joaquín Cardona Ramos, died two months later of heart failure at age 62.
Mr. Cardona Crespo sees his parents’ relationship as something of a model for his own marriage to Ms. Velez Sina.
“They taught us how to be a good family,” he said of him and his two siblings. “They worked a lot, and they loved to work, like I do now with Angelique.”
Both Mr. Cardona Crespo and Ms. Velez Sina described themselves as workaholics. However, Mr. Cardona Crespo said that through trial and error, he has learned to set aside time to enjoy other aspects of life, too. He has encouraged Ms. Velez Sina to do the same.
“The rhythm in Puerto Rico is so different,” she said. “You look at the waves and that’s how people live here. They’re so relaxed, not so rushed. My career was formed in a competitive, super intense city.
Ms. Velez Sina said she’s working on finding her own rhythm, with the help of Mr. Cardona Crespo. Their 14-year age gap is, she said, “exactly what I need, because his wisdom has allowed me to reflect on life differently. We take time to sit on our deck on our farm and listen to birds. Birds, not Apple Music. I know that’s the life I want.” (As for the golf, Ms. Velez Sina has kept at it, and now it is one of their favorite shared hobbies.)
Before they met, both Ms. Velez Sina and Mr. Cardona Crespo were married, she for eight years and he for 16.
“Once I got divorced, I always said I will never get married again,” Mr. Cardona Crespo said. Ms. Velez Sina didn’t have such a firm stance, but marriage was not something on her mind, either, until a friend of the couple, Jaime Toro, brought it up in September 2022.
He pointed out that as long as they remained unmarried, if one of them were sick, they could face visitation restrictions at a hospital, or limitations on the decisions that one could make on behalf of the other in a life-threatening situation.
That conversation led Ms. Velez Sina and Mr. Cardona Crespo to have their own discussion about marriage that ended with them deciding to go for it. They wanted to live together, and in Puerto Rico, doing so without being married is looked down on by some people, Mr. Cardona Crespo said.
Plus, Ms. Velez Sina had already charmed two very important people in Mr. Cardona Crespo’s life: his two children — a son, 16, and a daughter, 18 — from his previous marriage. “Angelique has become a very important part of our family,” he said. “They love her.”
They were legally married on Jan. 23 at the Aguadilla Judicial Center, with Luis Cardona Crespo, Mr. Cardona Crespo’s younger brother, and Ingrid Arvelo, a close friend of the couple, serving as witnesses. José T. Román Barceló, a superior court judge, was the officiant. A few days later, on Jan. 29, they celebrated at the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel in San Juan, where they had gone on a date the weekend they first met. The party lasted from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Ms. Velez Sina marveled at the endurance of their 40 guests. “Nobody stopped drinking the wine or the whiskey,” she said. “How could they not stop drinking for 11 hours?”
The couple had sent out invitations for the wedding in December, so some of the guests were surprised by how quickly everything had come together. “It was so funny,” Ms. Velez Sina said. She had to keep telling people, she said, “No, I’m not pregnant.”
Though it was a small event, Ms. Velez Sina and Mr. Cardona Crespo reveled in the chance to unite the different people in their lives. Mr. Cardona Crespo said, “Everybody was happy, singing and dancing.”
On This Day
When Jan. 29, 2023
Where Condado Vanderbilt Hotel in San Juan, P.R.
Smart Choices Instead of buying a dress, Ms. Velez Sina rented one. “I was married before and I bought the dress then,” she said. She learned how difficult it can be to store the poofy concoction. “It takes up so much space,” she said. And now, she lives in Puerto Rico. “There’s a lot of humidity. I thought it wouldn’t be a good idea to keep it,” she said.
A Subtle Nudge Instead of tossing the bouquet to a group, Ms. Velez Sina handed it directly to her stepsister, to hint that she and her boyfriend should get married. “We’ve expanded our family and we would love to continue expanding it,” Ms. Velez Sina said. “Her boyfriend was a little bit shocked.”
Wine Lovers The couple cracked open a bottle of 2013 Louis Roederer Cristal Brut Rose Millesime, a rare and expensive wine, to try with a few of their guests who arrived in San Juan the evening before the wedding. “It’s a very unique bottle,” Mr. Cardona Crespo said, “so what’s more special than trying it with family and really good friends?”
Binge more Vows columns here and read all our wedding, relationship and divorce coverage here.