La Campechada

For a second consecutive year, Old San Juan opened all of its museums and parks to welcome visitors in order to celebrate ‘La Campechada.’ It all began last year will many activities for the whole family, including live music and performances on the Plazas and streets, artisans, and of course, food, to celebrate the life of José Campeche, the first known Puerto Rican visual artist. This year’s Campechada was dedicated to Francisco Oller, the first Latin American to influence the Impressionism movement. The Campechada ran fom Friday the 12th to Sunday the 14th of October. I could only attend on Sunday and saw two live performances. There were many simultaneous plays and other things going on at the same time, so I had to choose which ones to go to. The first one was a modern dance dedicated to pigeons. It was held at Plaza de Armas.

These silent performers spoke without words. No need to explain their statement of what big corporations have done to society these days…

Afterwards, I saw this play at Cuartel Ballajá that celebrated Oller’s life and his loves, between Paris and San Juan. I did not know Paul Cezanne was a student of his, but only for a short time.

Overall, it was a great activity. I hope to go to next year’s as well. I think it’s good to celebrate the lives of artists who have left their legacy for us to enjoy today.

St. Sebastián Street Festival

It’s officially the end of Christmas season for us Puerto Ricans, since today is the last day of the St. Sebastián street festival in Old San Juan. And, here is a little bit of history, with permission from enciclopediapr.org:

“Saint Sebastian, whose day is commemorated on January 20, was born in Narbonne, France. The saint was an officer for Roman emperor Maximian in mid-third century. The martyr, who was accused of being a Christian, refused to abandon his faith, for which he was sentenced to death by the emperor. In Catholic imagery, this saint is represented as being tied to a tree and wounded by arrows.

These festivities in honor of Saint Sebastian began in the 1950s. They were organized by Father Madrazo, parish priest of the San José Church in Old San Juan with the purpose of raising funds in order to repair various church buildings. Some years later, this celebration was discontinued.

In 1970, Ricardo Alegría, anthropologist and historian, suggested to Rafaela Balladares de Brito, resident of San Sebastián Street, to resume the festival celebration. With the help of neighbors, Balladares organized the festivities, this time to benefit Colegio de Párvulos, elementary school directed by sisters of charity and also located on San Sebastián Street.

During the first years, a group of musicians would walk through San Juan’s streets announcing the festivity early in the morning. There was a procession from San Sebastián Street to San José Church in which they carried the saint’s image. Cabezudos —people in costumes and wearing masks of enormous proportions which represented the Catholic King and Queen— participated in the procession.

As part of the activities, neighbors decorated the street and their home’s balcony. They prepared dresses for the traditional dances and typical foods. They also served as hosts of the musical shows. Additionally, in front of José Campeche’s house, Puerto Rican painter of the eighteenth century, there was a small exhibit of paintings. Later on, an artisan fair was included in the festival; it still takes place.

Today, the procession reaches San Juan Bautista Cathedral, located on Cristo Street. The Cabezudos parade, which now includes characters of Puerto Rican folklore such as Juan Bobo, the General, and Diplo, goes through the streets of the islet, followed by the public, which sings and dances to the beat of the music. There is also a formal dance as well as conferences.

In time, the San Sebastián Street Festival has become very popular. More than 200,000 people participate in it. Its fame has transcended the island; it is now internationally renowned.”

Last year, they dedicated the festival to Ricky Martin. This year, the festivity was dedicated to José Feliciano. I’ll leave you some photos I took. Enjoy!