San Sebastián Street, revelry, and tradition

Coordinates: 18°27′58″N 66°07′09″O

They walked up to Cristo Street until reaching San Sebastián Street. Not stepping, but dancing to the pleneras (Puerto Rican hand drums) and accompanying, with their whistles or their palms, the revelry that formed at each corner of Old San Juan. By boat, by bus or train, people came in droves. Thousands of people gathered on the second day of the "streets" that began on the second week of January.

San Sebastian Street festival is a Puerto Rican tradition. Photo: Pamy Rojas

San Sebastian Street festival is a Puerto Rican tradition. Photo: Pamy Rojas

Going up...

Most of those attending the traditional celebrations of the San Sebastián Street moved, of course, towards San Sebastián street. But all around Old San Juan were groups forming revelry. Walking up Fortaleza street or down San José street, people "went up and down" forming a large spree. Members of the Plenealo group made gala of their talent and formed the real extravaganza of the streets.

In the San Sebastián Street we saw the General, who was a man who dressed in military clothing, baton, hat, and even military award decorations. Photo: Pamy Rojas

In the San Sebastián Street we saw the General, who was a man who dressed in military clothing, baton, hat, and even military award decorations. Photo: Pamy Rojas

Going down...

From the Abraham Lincoln School the cabezudos (carnival figures with over sized heads) paraded up to the Quinto Centenario Plaza. We inherited this engaging troupe from the Old World. Currently, European to Latin American countries shares the tradition of these folksy figures representing popular local characters. For the San Sebastián Street party, the cabezudos personify The General, Juan Bobo and the pig, the Jíbara, Ramón Rivera Diaz ("Diplo"), Doña Fela, and Alfonsa Villamonte Vera, among others. The unforgettable and witty Juan Bobo, Puerto Rican folk tale, is a farmer who was always with its well dressed and made-up pig. Felisa Rincón de Gautier, better known as "Doña Fela" was the mayor of San Juan for more than two decades. The colorful Jíbara, with its flowers, handkerchief, and showy skirt, symbolized the country dwellers that drew so much attention when visiting the city.

“Diplo”, comedian, with "la Puerca de Juan Bobo". Foto: Pamy Rojas

“Diplo”, comedian, with "la Puerca de Juan Bobo". Foto: Pamy Rojas

Cabezudos

The members of the traditional troupe of cabezudos were not the only ones who wore masks and costumes. Others dressed as super heroes and even animals. An individual that got a lot of attention was a man dressed in a chicken suit dancing wherever there was music. The crowd applauded and chanted when they saw him. Another who captivated the crowd was "Jíbaro" (term used to refer to Puerto Rican country dwellers) with his typical "pava" (jíbaro hat) and his machete painted in gold, posing as if he were a statue. 

The representation of Alfonsa Villamonte Vera, who was a resident of Old San Juan, and sold lottery tickets. Photo: Pamy Rojas

The representation of Alfonsa Villamonte Vera, who was a resident of Old San Juan, and sold lottery tickets. Photo: Pamy Rojas

Festivities

The festivities of "San Seb 2012" were dedicated to the singer Jose Feliciano. Winner of two Grammy Awards, the talented musician was awarded the San Sebastián award from the Organizing Committee of this celebration, which is recognized internationally. They also honored the volleyball player Vilmarie Mojica Medina, "La Tuna de Puerto Rico", the basketball player Jose Juan Barea, the athlete Javier Culson, the social program Music 100 X 35 and the artist Luis Alonso.


Read more about Old San Juan in the stories section.


Conscious Travel Practices:

1. Drink in moderation.

2. Use the recycling containers.

3. Do not leave trash on the street.

4. Use well the public transport, with patience and courtesy.