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  • The San Juan Daily Star

San Sebastián festival is back after 2-year hiatus

After a two-year absence, the Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián are scheduled to return to Old San Juan next month.

By John McPhaul

With the slogan “Shine the Tradition,” the weekend of Thursday, Jan. 19 to Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023 will mark the return of the traditional Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián to Old San Juan.

The announcement comes after a two-year absence of the annual street festival in the walled city as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Without a doubt, these traditional holidays mark the end of the Christmas season in Puerto Rico, which as we all know is the longest in the world,” San Juan Mayor Miguel Romero Lugo said Tuesday. “Two years have passed in which we have not been able to enjoy this event, and in 2023 we will celebrate it in a big way.”

The mayor said “our administration aims to resume those traditions that began the cultural event that today has become the largest in Puerto Rico.”

“We are preparing a great event for the enjoyment of the whole family while reviving the legacy of Doña Rafaela Balladares, manager of the traditional Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián,” he said.

In the 53rd edition of the Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián, in addition to the varied musical offer, efforts will also be aimed at promoting the cultural essence and traditions such as the Mass and the procession that is held in the name of San Sebastián, as well as the traditional period dances that in recent years were not performed.

“Certainly, we will have a great village party,” Romero Lugo said.

The cultural and traditional activities will begin on Thursday, Jan. 19 with the traditional ribbon cutting, in addition to the parade of comparsas, pleneros and cabezudos. On Friday, Jan. 20 the Mass dedicated to San Sebastián and its procession from the end of San Sebastián Street to the Plaza del Quinto Centenario will be held, accompanied by comparsas, pleneros and cultural groups.

On Saturday, Jan. 21 will be the period dance in the Plaza de Armas from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. The dance is a recreation of the great ballroom dances that were staged in Puerto Rico in the second half of the 19th century. The first period dance of the Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián was held in 1971.

On Sunday, Jan. 22 the fiestas will culminate with cultural and religious events and with the procession of the saint from Plaza Colón along Calle San Francisco to the San Juan Cathedral.

The platforms located in the four squares of Old San Juan will be where great Puerto Rican artists of all musical genres (salsa, merengue, ballad, bomba, plena and reggaeton) perform. Plaza del Quinto Centenario will present Plena Libre, Plenéalo, La Sonora Ponceña, Michael Stuart, Victoria Sanabria, La Tribu de Abrante, Luisito Carrión, Willie Rosario, Charlie Aponte and his orchestra, La India, Andy Montañez, Pedro Capó, and El Reencuentro de Menudo, with a finale by Tommy Torres.

In Plaza de Armas, meanwhile, Grupo Makein, Don Perigñon and His Orchestra, Orquesta los Amigos, De Plena a Plena, LUVA, Galdy Santiago and Fabián Torres with His Orchestra, Tambores Calientes, Mickey Cora and His Orchestra, Willito Otero, Zacandela, Rumba Caliente, LímiT-21, Joseph Fonseca, and A Son de Guerra will perform, Grupo Manía closing the show.

Plaza de la Barandilla will have a more familiar approach since during the day there will be activities for children that include shows such as the Remi Show, artistic programming, workshops and activities by the Municipal Department of Art and Culture. In the evening, José Nogueras, Tuna Segreles, Tuna de Cayey, Puertorrican Power, Pleneros de Severo, Atabal, Barreto y su Plena, Luis González and His Orchestra “El Tsunami de la Salsa,” Son Divas, Lissette, Choco Orta, Melina León and San Juan Habana will perform.

Taking the stage in Plaza Coló will be the djs King Arthur, Xtassy, Iván Robles Joaquín Opio and Sammy, as well as Alberto Style, DJ Nelson, Apollo y Zayri, GALE, Chris Andreu and Alejo, Algarete, Viva Nativa and La Secta.

This year’s festivities will be dedicated to former NBA and Puerto Rico national team basketball player José Juan Barea, journalist and meteorologist Ada Monzón, and “El Niño de Tras Talleres,” Andy Montañez.

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