Thursday, January 17, 2008

Las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebatian

The origin of the Saint Sebastian street feast dates back to 1954 when Father Madrazo organized it in order to raise funds to restore deteriorated buildings on that street. Following the Spanish tradition, the original organizers included the "cabezudos" (big heads) representing the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabela, who together with the residents and participants would parade down the street. The tradition was temporarily abandoned when Father Madrazo left, but in 1970 in an attempt to raise funds to save the Parvulos school, Mrs. Rafaela Balladares joined forces with other members of the community and taking the reins of the organization of the feast gave it new life and color. Today the cabezudos represent characters of Puerto Rican folklore. Walking down the Saint Sebastian street its common to run into Juan Bobo and his pig, Doña Fela, Toribio, Diplo and others. Besides the cabezudos, the celebration is characterized by its traditional artisan fair, chess matches, presentations of "bomba y plena" and musical concerts. The religious aspect is represented by a procession in honor of the saint, followed by a mass, traditionally celebrated on Saturday night. The Institute of Puerto Rican Culture annually organizes the celebration of the Period Dance where typical period dress and music are key elements. But nothing compares to the happiness and bustle of all those who gather to celebrate the festivities. Taking advantage of the temporary suspension of the municipal ordinance which prohibits drinking in the streets of San Juan, hundreds of thousands of people literally overflow the streets of the old city dancing, yelling, singing and celebrating as only the Puerto Ricans know how.

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