Puerto Rico’s largest and most concurred festival Fiesta de la Calle San Sebastián is the unofficial closing to the “longest holiday season in the world.”
During the multi-day celebrations, Old San Juan is completely taken over by live music, impromptu dancing in every street corner, and parades.
At daytime, the events are more family-oriented. The old city’s squares and streets are filled with activities for kids and local artisans showcasing and selling everything from paintings to hand-made jewelry.
Once the sun goes down, a young adult crowd is usual. Multiple concerts and parties take place across the walled city, and the joyous revelry continues into the late hours of the night.
Its inaugural event is the parade of the Cabezudos, (means big head) a group of people in disguise with oversized papier-mache heads representing various historic and folk characters who march down San Sebastián Street and down to the San Juan Cathedral.
Fiesta de la Calle San Sebastián was created for the local community, giving artists and handcraft traders the opportunity to exhibit their work, as well as to bring business to the area.
The plan worked better than expected, as within a few years thousands of tourists flocked to Puerto Rico to attend the street festival.
Old San Juan is a popular destination for cruise ships, and those passengers fortunate enough to be among the ships scheduled to dock in San Juan ports will be able to walk from the port to San Sebastián street.
With more than 1,100 weekly flights from the mainland to Puerto Rico, the island is an accessible location for a weekend getaway or vacation, making the San Sebastián Street festival an easy mid-January getaway from the U.S.
The cultural event will celebrate its 50th anniversary from January 16 to 19.
Despite the tremors and aftershocks that have been reported in the South area, the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz confirmed that the festival will take place.
“The San Sebastian Street Festival is an event that has international recognition. On 2013, National Geographic proclaimed them as the most important festival in the month of January. We have seven cruises confirmed. In fact, Royal Caribbean made a ‘statement’ already saying that, as in San Juan, no damage had occurred, the cruises are confirmed,” said Cruz.
The hotels in the area have not received cancellations, according the mayor. “This more than a party, is an extraordinary exercise in logistics and economic development. We are going to have 79 artistic activities that gives work to singers, musicians, sound technicians, stage managers, plus people who make their money at the kiosks,” Cruz added.
Make a note that this year, concerts will end at 11:00 p.m., bars will close at midnight and vuvuzelas (loud horns) and whistles are not permitted. Anyone using a vuvuzela will be fined $1,000.
The people in La Perla community should go down Norzagaray Street and walk to Luis Muñoz Rivera Avenue.
“If you are in the Plaza del Quinto Centenario you should move immediately to El Morro, which is, in fact, the meeting area in the tsunami plan. If you are in the Plaza de Armas, you walk down to San Francisco Street to the Capitol. In Fortaleza Street you should walk to the Capitol and if you are in Plaza Colón, walk along Muñoz Rivera Avenue or Constitution Avenue,” the mayor explained.
The festival will have musical presentations by Pirulo y la tribu, Plenéalo, Orquesta Mulenze, among a dozen artists on stage.
Other renowned artists as Olta Tañón, Ednita Nazario, Yolandita Monge, La India, Manny Manuel, Kany García, Gente de Zona, El Gran Combo, and Vico C are part of the musical rundown.