The Vibrant San Sebastian Street Festival
Amongst the cobblestone streets, restored buildings from the sixteenth and seventeenth century, and the charm of a district in Puerto Rico that has existed for more than four hundred and ninety years, tourists often loose themselves in an ocean of attractions. They come here to explore the history of Old San Juan, try their hand at the casino, take walks along the picturesque beaches and explore the noteworthy sights and attractions, such as the Plaza de San Jose, the Ponce de Leon statue, Plaza del Quinto Centenario and the Plaza de Armas. But in January, they come to take part in a tradition that is rooted in the culture of Puerto Rico, the San Sebastian Street Festival.
The annual celebration of the San Sebastian Street Festival has been taking place for more than fifty years. It is a festival that 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 San Sebastian Street Festival, creating a lucrative tourist industry and bringing business and prosperity to an almost forgotten district.
During the day, the streets of Old San Juan are jam packed with people, food stalls, live music, artists, craft exhibits and vendors. The only way to reach San Sebastian Street is on foot as no vehicle of any kind will be able to make it through the mass of festival enthusiasts. It is an event that is looked forward to all year and the parades of color and noise attract thousands of spectators who come to see the parade participants in their vibrant costumes and traditional vejigantes masks.
Many might think that as night falls, while the artists start to pack up their stalls and the municipal workers come in to clean the streets, that the festival is over for the day, but they would be wrong. It can be viewed as the calm before the storm. At night, the massive stage that has been set up sets the musical and rhythmic tone for dancers to show off their best salsa and merengue moves, drinking beer and partying the night away.
The San Sebastian Street Festival is a lively and energetic event that sets Old San Juan on fire. It is a magnificent blend of art, rhythm, entertainment and enjoyment that starts when the sun rises, and gains more momentum when it sets. The festival has become one of the vital tourist attractions in Puerto Rico, a time for dance and laughter.