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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Loíza’s traditional Festival of Santiago Apóstol begins Friday

By The Star Staff

Loíza Mayor Julia Nazario Fuentes said Monday that the municipality’s work team and volunteer groups are collaborating on preparations for the traditional festivities in honor of Santiago Apóstol, which are scheduled to begin this Friday and end on Sunday, July 30, with various musical, artistic and cultural offerings from the northern coastal town’s rich Afro-Caribbean traditions.

“Soon we will present the calendar of events, but from now on we remind citizens of the dates so that they have them separated in their calendars,” the mayor said. “In Loíza, these days hold great meaning because [the festival] is a reunion with our traditions and we have many Loiceños of the diaspora who separate those days to be with their families and enjoy community.”

In cultural terms, Don Ricardo Alegría Gallardo, founder of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, was one of the academics who studied the origins and manifestations of the traditional festivals in greater detail.

In 1958, Alegría published in the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras Campus’ Journal of Social Sciences that “in the nineteenth century Puerto Rican society is a complex mosaic where, on a Hispanic basis, characteristic features of aboriginal and African cultures have merged with lesser or greater force.”

“However, the process of transculturation was not uniform, in some regions the black influence was minimal, while in others, especially in the coastal area, African culture achieved a strong grip,” Alegría wrote.

From there he went on to describe the various manifestations of this Loiceña tradition. There are three images of Santiago, one each for men, women and children. Each image of Santiago has a day so that it can be honored. Different symbols of the festival can be seen in the parades. There are four types of people in the parades: the knights, the “vejigantes,” the crazy ones, and the old. Each type of person represents something different. The knights represent the European soldiers of medieval times, and use colors like yellow, red and green. Vejigantes represent the bad. Their masks, made of coconut, have many different colors and are appreciated as an authentic artisanal specialty. The crazy ones are men dressed as women who do mischief to entertain and make the participants laugh. The old men represent poor men, and wear paper masks and ragged costumes as they beg for coins.

The traditional festivities begin in earnest with a large caravan on Sunday, July 25, touring the coast from Torrecilla Baja to Loíza’s urban center, and also include the Day of the Absent Loiceños, as well as artistic presentations at night and a 5-kilometer road race, along with parades.

“As soon as we have confirmed all the events, we will publish them in a timely manner so as to celebrate together our culture, which was born in Loíza and with affection we take it to the whole world,” Nazario Fuentes said.

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