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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

San Sebastián Street Festival returns after 2 years with revelry, art & song

Dancers recreated some of the great ballroom dances that Puerto Ricans enjoyed in the latter half of the 19th century.


Thousands of revelers attended the 53rd edition of the traditional San Sebastián Street Festival, a four-day musical, cultural, religious and entertainment event that ended Sunday and marked the end of the Christmas season in Puerto Rico.

It was a return for the event after an absence of two years. It was not immediately known how much money the event contributed to the economy. The festivities began as a religious festival to honor the saint Sebastián.

The event began Thursday under the slogan “Brilla la Tradición.” San Juan Mayor Miguel A. Romero Lugo offered a welcome message, followed by the delivery of several resolutions by the municipal assembly. The event was dedicated to José Juan Barea, Ada Monzón and Andy Montañez.

“Without a doubt, the Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián are a historic celebration that closes the celebration of the longest Christmas in the world,” the mayor said on the first day.

As it happened, Romero Lugo said he expected the visits of tens of thousands of people daily in the streets of Old San Juan until Sunday. The city had prepared itself with an emergency management, transportation and security plan in coordination with commonwealth agencies and security agencies at the local and federal levels.

San Juan Municipal Police José Juan García said Sunday that in the previous 24 hours several arrests had been reported for obstruction of justice, assault on a public order officer and driving while intoxicated, along with incidents of malicious damage to structures, but that there had been “no major incidents” at the event, where attendance figures were “above expectations.”

The official announced the following approximate attendance numbers for the festival: 60,000 on Thursday, 90,000 on Friday, 162,000 on Saturday and as of 3 p.m. on Sunday, more than 80,000, for a total of almost 400,000 as of that time.

The event gave hundreds of artisans the opportunity to sell their products, including portraits, t-shirts, jewelry, perfumes and traditional foods.

Most revelers, however, came to the event for the music. Besides music from DJs, those in attendance were able to listen to performances at the different plazas from Plena Libre, La Sonora Ponceña, Limi-T 21, Grupo Makein, Manny Manuel, Don Perignon and his Orchestra, Luis González and his Orchestra El Tsunami de la Salsa, Tuna de Cayey, Barreto y su Plena, DJ King Arthur, Apollo 1027 y Zayri, Algarete, Plenéalo, Michael Stuart, Pedro Capó, Orquesta Los Friends, De Plena a Plena, Joseph Fonseca, Atabal, Pleneros de Severo, Puerto Rican Power, La Tribu de Abrante, Luisito Carrión, Súbete a mi Moto Tour and La India, among others.

“I come every year but this year I stayed in an Airbnb to really enjoy the party,” said Concha Jiménez, who is from Dorado.

Among the cultural events, the Plaza de Armas in Old San Juan was the scene Saturday, the second day, of a traditional Grand Period Ball, as part of the cultural agenda of the San Sebastián Street Festival. During the show, which was enjoyed by adults and children, dancers recreated some of the great ballroom dances Puerto Ricans enjoyed in the latter half of the 19th century.

It was the founder of the Fiestas, Rafaela Balladares, along with Nydia Ríos, who rescued and integrated this tradition into the organization of the massive event, with the purpose of disseminating it to the new generations, as well as other elements of culture and traditions of that time, including the language of the fan.

On Sunday, Romero Lugo unveiled an art exhibition to honor the 100 years of master painter Rafael Tufiño.

“There is no better way to honor his memory, legacy and love for this walled city than to present his work to the general public as one of the most important cultural events of the San Sebastián Street Festival,” the mayor said. “Our administration is honored to offer the world an opportunity to see the streets, squares, beaches and houses of San Juan from the perspective of Maestro Tufiño.”

The exhibit has linocuts, acrylic paintings, oil paintings, xylographs, drawings, serigraphs, sketches and photographs, all from the perspective of the famous artist who died in 2008 at the age of 85 in the same city where he was born. Many of the pieces that are part of the exhibition will take the visitor back to understand the point of view of the celebrated Puerto Rican while he lived in properties located on Sol, San Sebastián, Norzagaray and Cruz streets, among others.

On Sunday, a colorful religious procession honored San Sebastián, a martyr who is remembered during the festivities. The procession was not conducted for the past three years because of the global pandemic caused by COVID-19.

“We are truly living these days with much happiness,” said Benjamín Pérez, a church priest. “After bringing the procession of San Sebastian, we saw people walking with us and that gives us hope.”

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Jan 25, 2023

The address to the exhibition was omitted in this article.

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