Puerto Rico really is the island of enchantment. Famous for some of the world’s best beaches, the mountain heartland is even more beautiful. We are both contemporary and conservative. Old ways survive, especially in the mountains. The drum is alive in Puerto Rico.
The island is so many things you never imagined. It is famously Bomba, Plena and Salsa. But it’s also Música Jíbara, Rock, Reggae, Rap, Reggaeton, and Latin Trap. Puerto Ricans are very creative. We have rich music, dance, theatre, puppet, circus, literary and art and mural traditions.
By the way, “Bomba” doesn’t mean “bomb.” It means “pump.” We pump the barril. And Bomba and Plena are not the same thing, but they do come from the same communities.
Puerto Rico Festivals
- Carnaval de Ponce
- Día Nacional de la Bomba (March)
- Día Nacional de la Zalsa (June)
- Noche de San Juan
- Three Kings Day
PUERTO RICO and the Diaspora 🇵🇷
JANUARY 6 🇩🇴 🇳🇮 🇵🇷 🇺🇾 ~ 🇮🇹 🇷🇴 🇪🇸
Sunday, May 14, 2023
Saturday-Tuesday, February 18-21, 2023
PONCE, Puerto Rico 🇵🇷
Puerto Rico Calendar
Puerto Rico has its own rhythms, including one of the world’s longest Christmas Seasons. Three Kings Day, Easter, and Christmas are important.
Carnaval Ponce and El Festival Santiago Apóstol in Loíza Aldea are major festivals. Many small towns have patron saint festivals (fiestas patronales) or some kind of local speciality such as flowers or troubadours. These are the biggest events in these small towns. We focus on the festival day, but local celebrations often last for a week or a month with a focus on the festival weekend.
Famous Salsa and Bachata bands play dance parties. The patron saints support the Salseros which is really interesting if you think about it, because Salsa often sings about the saints.
January is big because of Three Kings Day. Puerto Rico’s Christmas Season ends with Las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián in Old San Juan.
- Three Kings Day is celebrated in Aguas Buenas around January 6.
- The Sacred Family is celebrated in Corazal around January 9.
- The Festival de la Novilla is celebrated in San Sebastián on the 2nd or 3rd Sunday of January.
- San Antonio Abad (Anthony the Great) is celebrated in Añasco around Jan 17.
- San Sebastián (St Sebastian) is celebrated in San Sebastián around Jan 20.
La Virgen de Candelária is the icon of the African Diaspora. Carnival Tuesday is Feb 21 this year.
Carnaval Ponce (Ponce Carnival), Puerto Rico’s main Carnival, is in Ponce Fri-Tue, Feb 17-21, 2022.
- La Virgen de Candelária, patron saint of Tenerife, Canary Islands, Africa, is celebrated in Lajas, Manatí, Mayagüez and Coamo around Feb 2.
- San Blas (St Blaise), patron of wool combers, is celebrated in Coamo around Feb 3.
- San Patricio (St Patrick), patron saint of Ireland, is celebrated in Loíza Aldea around Mar 17.
- Festival del Frío (Cold Festival) is a winter festival in Adjuntas, Fri-Sun, Feb 25-27, 2022.
Día Nacional de la Bomba en Puerto Rico is the last Saturday in March.
El Festival de Teatro Puertorriqueño e Internacional (and University Theatre Festival Mar 31 – Apr 3) is dedicated to playwright Luis Rafael Sánchez at Teatro Victoria Espinosa in Santurce, San Juan, Mar 18 – Jun 26, 2022.
African Diaspora Music Festival
The Afro Nation Puerto Rico African Diaspora music festival is in Carolina, Puerto Rico, Mar 24-26. afronationpuertorico.com 🇵🇷
Bomba Drum Festival
El Encuentro de Tambores, Bomba drum festival, is at Plaza del Quinto Centenario in Old San Juan, Sun, Mar 27, 2022 from from 12-4pm. culturalpr.com 🇵🇷
- San José (St Joseph), Latin father’s day, is celebrated in Ciales, Gurabo, Luquillo, Peñuelas, and Lares around Mar 19.
- San Pedro Mártir (St Peter Martyr) is celebrated in Guaynabo around Mar 29.
- San Benito (St Benedict) is celebrated in Patillas around Mar 31.
April is fairly quiet because Easter often falls in April.
The 1st Motherland Festival of Reggaeton is at Balneario de Isla Verde in Isla Verde, Carolina, Sat-Sun, Apr 23-24. From $55. motherland-festival.com
Puerto Rican Music Festival
Festival de Claridad; a multi-stage indie music festival of Bomba, Plena, Salsa and artisanal crafts; is at Hiram Bithorn Stadium parking lot in San Juan, Fri-Sun, Apr 28 – May 1. FB @FestivalClaridad
- Apóstol San Felipe (Philip the Apostle) is celebrated in Arecibo around May 1.
- La Santa Cruz (Festival of the Crosses) is celebrated in Bayamón and Trujillo Alto around May 3.
- San Isidro Labrador (Isidore the Laborer) is celebrated in Maunabo and Sabana Grande around May 15.
- El Festival de la Piña Paradisíaca (Pineapple Festival) is celebrated at La Parguera in Lajas, Fri-Sun, May 27-29.
- San Fernando (St Ferdinand), Ferdinand III King of Castille, is celebrated in Toa Alta around May 30.
The rescheduled (from Mar 20) 38th Día Nacional de la Zalsa is at Estadio Hiram Bithorn, Sun, Jun 12. From $20.
Aibonito Flower Festival
Festival de las Flores de Aibonito is a flower festival in Aibonito, Jun 24 – Jul 4, 2022.
- San Antonio de Padua (St Anthony) is celebrated in Barranquitas, Ceiba, Dorado, Guayama and Isabela around Jun 13.
- Noche de San Juan (St John’s Eve) is celebrated at midnight on Jun 23. This is a big deal in Spain, but is mostly celebrated privately in Puerto Rico.
- San Juan Bautista (St John the Baptist) is celebrated in Maricao, Orocovis and San Juan around Jun 24.
- San Pedro Apóstol (St Peter the Apostle) is celebrated in Toa Baja around Jun 30.
La Fiesta de Santiago Apóstol (James the Great) is celebrated in Aibonito, Fajardo, Guánica, Loíza Aldea and Santa Isabel around Jul 25. Santiago Apóstol in Loíza is one of Puerto Rico’s great festivals.
- La Virgen de Carmen (Our Lady of Mount Carmel) is celebrated in Arroyo, Barceloneta, Cataño, Cidra, Culebra, Hatillo, Morovis, and Villalba around Jul 16.
- El Yunque (Puerto Rico’s sacred Taíno mountain) is celebrated in Rio Grande around Jul 16.
- San Germán de Auxerre (St Germain) is celebrated in San Germán around Jul 30.
- El Santo Cristo de la Salud (Christ the savior) is celebrated in Comerío around Aug 6.
- San Lorenzo (St Lawrence) is celebrated in San Lorenzo around Aug 10.
- Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Assumption of Mary) is celebrated in Cayey around Aug 15.
- San Joaquín y Santa Ana (St Joachim and St Anne, parents of Mary) is celebrated in Adjuntas around Aug 21.
- Santa Rosa de Lima (Rose of Lima) is celebrated in Rincón around Aug 30.
- San Ramón Nonato (St Raymond) is celebrated in Juana Díaz around Aug 31.
- Nuestra Señora de Monserrate (Our Lady of Montserrat); patron saint of Catalonia, Spain; is celebrated in Hormigueros, Jayuya, Moca, and Salinas around Sep 8.
- San Miguel de Arcángel (St Michael Archangel) is celebrated in Cabo Rojo, Naranjito, and Utuado around Sep 29.
- Los Ángeles Custodios (Guardian Angels) are celebrated in Yabucoa around Oct 2.
- San Francisco de Asís (St Francis of Assisi) is celebrated in Aguada around Oct 4.
- Nuestra Señora del Rosario (Our Lady of the Rosary) is celebrated in Naguabo, Vega Baja, and Yauco around Oct 7.
- La Virgen de Pilar (Our Lady of the Pillar) is celebrated in Canóvanas and Río Piedras around Oct 12.
- San Rafael de Arcángel (St Raphael Archangel) is celebrated in Quebradillas around Oct 24.
It’s time for holiday pastelles (Puerto Rican tamale) and parrandas with friends.
Puerto Rican Culture Festival
La Campechada, festival of Puerto Rican culture, was Nov 19-21, 2021. icp.pr.gov
Indigenous Taíno Festival
El Festival Nacional Indígena (National Indigenous Festival) is in Jayuya at the end of November.
- San Carlos Borromeo (St Charles Morromeo) is celebrated in Aguadilla around Nov 4.
- Nuestra Senora de la Providencia (Our Lady of Providence), patron saint of Puerto Rico, is celebrated on Nov 19.
Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) is Dec 24. Many towns produce concerts and festivals in December.
Hatillo Mask Festival
Festival de las Máscaras de Hatillo commemorates the Massacre of the Innocents in Hatillo around Dec 28. You’ve never seen anything like this. The locals party non-stop for three days. Take earplugs to cover the sirens and be careful. It can get wild.
- La Inmaculada Concepción de María (Immaculate Conception) is celebrated in Guayanilla, Humacao, Juncos, Las Marías, Las Piedras, Vega Alta, and Vieques around Dec 10.
- Nuestra Señora de la Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe), patron saint of Mexico and icon of multiracial Americans, is celebrated in Ponce around Dec 12.
Old San Juan
Old San Juan is the colonial city. It’s a tourist zone.
- Calle San Sebastían is a legendary street of bars. Las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastían over MLK Weekend is Puerto Rico’s biggest festival.
- El Escambrón is the local surfer beach. The Escambrón Marine Park is a protected bay where you can usually swim with turtles, and the reef is very alive.
- El Jibarito is one of the best traditional Puerto Rican restaurants on the island.
- La Factoría is one of the World’s 50 Best Bars. It has Salsa DJs on weekends and live Salsa bands Sundays and Mondays.
- The La Perla community becomes a big party Friday and Saturday nights. It is cool early, but be respectful and don’t stay late. People live there.
- La Vergüenza has a third floor dining room that overlooks La Perla. People often dance on the street in front on weekends.
- Pasito Pasito Waterfront is a beach bar where the “Despacito” video was made in La Perla. It has DJs and live music Sundays and Tuesdays. Check Facebook for shows and times. @Pasitoapasitolp
Santurce, San Juan
Santurce is the urban area next to San Juan. Ashford Ave in Condado is a tourist zone. It’s a bit like South Beach in Miami. Ocean Park is a well-to-do neighborhood.
There are dangerous rip currents on the beaches of Condado and Ocean Park. Seriously, people drown regularly.
La Placita is a block of bars around the old central market that becomes a giant party on weekends. There is live music for dancing Fridays-Sundays from 7pm on. Salsa turns to Reggaeton and the crowd gets younger as the night progresses.
- Calle Cerra is an art district covered with murals.
- Calle Loíza is a street of bars and nightclubs like NYC’s Lower East Side (Loisaida).
- Delavida is a bar with live Salsa and the island’s best Salseros on Thursdays and Sundays.
- El Goyco is a community center that teaches Bomba, Plena and Theater.
- Esquina Watusi is a street bar in Tras Talleres, Santurce with an artsy crowd. Thursdays are the best night. @esquinawatusi
- La Playita de Condado is a safe beach for children because its on a bay. There is a lot of sea life, including manatees, just yards off the beach.
- La Respuesta is San Juan’s underground night club. Mondays are the best night.
- La Terraza de Bonanza is a street bar that usually has Bomba, Plena or Rumba Mondays after 7:30pm. @laterrazadebonanza
We are a Caribbean people with an Indigenous, African, European and even Asian heritage. We have urban culture, both colonial and modern, but most of Puerto Rico is rural and conservative.
We celebrate Carnival in Ponce, and many little towns have colorful patron saint festivals. Our Indigenous Taíno character lives on in the way we socialize. The way we gather outdoors to eat, drink, sing and dance with family and friends recalls an Areito, a Taíno social gathering.
We speak Spanish. Many young people speak English, but not everyone does and you shouldn’t assume English.
Is Puerto Rico safe? Yes, but stupidity is dangerous anywhere. Our concept of home is different than in the mainland. In the States, your house ends at your four walls or maybe your yard. In Puerto Rico, home is the community boundary. So when you enter a Puerto Rican community, you are entering someone’s home, and should behave accordingly. Respect is answered with incredible kindness and generosity.
The call of the drum lives on in Puerto Rico. There is a lot of culture around that.
Puerto Ricans are a warm and diverse people. Culture is centered around eating and drinking, drumming, singing and dancing with family and friends, on the beach and in the mountains.
African Diaspora traditions are very alive. They survived at home for 500 years in secret, but are now part of who we are as Puerto Ricans.
We complain a lot about being colonized (justifiably), but young Puerto Ricans have risen above any question of race, religion, nationality, gender, or social class. We are simply Puerto Rican.
Travel is easy because the island has been part of the United States for over a hundred years and is just 4 hours from New York City. Spanish is the day-to-day language. Many young people speak English, but don’t assume it.
In November 2021, Puerto Rico leads the United States in flattening the COVID curve. Puerto Rican social life is mostly outdoors and social cohesion is stronger than on the mainland. ¡Boricua orgulloso! 🇵🇷
The island is a natural paradise that reveals itself little by little, the longer you stay.
Many places retain their Indigenous Taíno names. You’ve probably been taught that we are long dead, but we are still here. Like everywhere else, the First Nations just intermarried. Taíno social structures remain part of Puerto Rican life today.
Social life is all about eating and drinking with family and friends at chinchorros, the roadside bars on the beaches and in the mountains, just as life has been since before the pirates came. There are even famous chinchorro routes through the mountains and beaches.
Previously in Puerto Rico
El Encuentro de Tambores is at Plaza del Quinto Centenario in Old San Juan, Sun, Mar 27 from from 12-4pm. culturalpr.com 🇵🇷
The excellent Afroidentidades art exhibition is at Sala Este in the Arsenal de la Marina en la Puntilla (next to the Coast Guard), Mar 25 – Apr 29. cumbreafro.com 🇵🇷
The Afro Nation Puerto Rico festival is in Carolina, Puerto Rico, Mar 24-26. afronationpuertorico.com 🇵🇷
Puerto Rico Features
For our Padrino Borinquen, the great Nuyorican surrealist photographer Adál Maldonado (1948-2020) who proved that Puerto Ricans were first on the moon. Yes, really.
Puerto Rico has more than its share of talented artists. Puerto Ricans dominate today’s music industry. Adál said Puerto Rico became a cultural superpower because the colonizers denied Puerto Ricans the basic human right of self-determination.
Puerto Rican Culture
A chinchorro is a surf shack or mountain shack restaurant bar. To “chinchorrear” is to go from one chinchorro to the next all day long into the night.
Bomba is an African Diaspora drum, song and dance tradition that has become an element of contemporary Puerto Rican identity.
Plena is a hand drum music tradition that still operates as the local news.
Escuela de Bomba y Plena Rafael Cepeda Atiles; in Villa Palmeras, Santurce; is the community school of the first family of Bomba. You can take lessons there. Facebook @esc.rafaelcepeda
Ballet Hermanos Ayala is the folkloric ballet of the second family of Bomba. Their Ayala batey (sacred circle) in Loíza Aldea is a center of Bomba culture. The family patriarch created the coconut version of the Vejigante carnival mask. @losayalasdeloiza
Revista Étnica is a magazine by and for our cultural superpower: the women of the African Diaspora. @revistaetnica
Proyecto Kokobalé teaches the Afro-Puerto Rican martial art with machete and sticks that is part of Bomba Puertorriqueña. Brazilian Capoeira, Haitian Tire Machet, and Cuban Juego de Mani are similar traditions. @proyecto_kokobale
El Concilio Taíno Guatu-Ma-cu A Borikén is a Pueblo Taíno in Bayamón that is recovering our Taíno traditions. conciliotainopr.org
Adál Maldonado is one of the great Puerto Rican photographers, a natural surrealist who was part of the Nuyorican movement of the 1960s and 70s (the Latin Harlem Renaissance). He is our Padrino Borinquen. #AdalLives newyorklatinculture.com
Modesto Lacen is one of Puerto Rico’s most famous actors (“Celia” and “Esclava Blanca”). He can live anywhere in the world, but is raising his family in his hometown, Loíza Aldea. @modesto_lacen
Mayra Santos Febres is one of Puerto Rico’s most famous living writers and Executive Director of La Festival de la Palabra, Puerto Rico’s literary festival. Her latest book is “Antes que llegue la luz.” In this story, she is becoming the Cervantes of Puerto Rico. @mayra.santosfebres
El Laberinto de Coco Héctor Barez is a hot Bomba fusion project. So many influences, so Boricua. Coco was Calle 13’s original percussionist. @ellaberintodelcoco
Mar Cruz is a Bomba dancer, fashion designer and advocate for Afro-Puerto Rican culture including Kokobalé, the Afro-Puerto Rican martial art. She used to be the Bomba teacher of the children of Loíza! @sebailabomba
Amauro Febres is a Bomba drummer and organizer with a strong following of young people. He organizes Bombazos in La Perla and Piñones. @amaurofebres
Salsa is Cuban dance music of the 1950s developed by many Caribbean peoples, but it’s mostly Puerto Rican. It has Puerto Rican bomba and plena in it mixed with New York jazz.
Reggaeton is Jamaican-Panamanian-New Yorker, but Puerto Ricans made it global. Latin trap is the next sound after reggaeton.
Puerto Rico has the world’s longest Christmas holiday traditions. The Parranda is Christmas caroling Puerto Rican style. We celebrate from Puerto Rico Discovery Day (why do we still celebrate that?) on November 19 through Thanksgiving, Christmas, Three Kings, Las Octavitas until the Las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastían (San Sebastián Street Festival) ends in mid-January.
We have strong theatre traditions. Chita Rivera, Rita Moreno and Raul Julia are Broadway and film legends. New Yorker Lin-Manuel Miranda (Freestyle Love Supreme, In the Heights) wrote Hamilton which is the Broadway hit of our generation. Raul Julia, Rosie Perez, Benicio del Toro, Gina Rodriguez, Luis Guzmán and Modesto Lacen are just a few of the many amazing Puerto Rican actors.
Puerto Rico Festivals
Puerto Rico’s biggest festival is Las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastían (The SanSe or San Sebastían Street Fair) in San Juan in mid-January. It ends Puerto Rico’s Christmas season, the world’s longest.
The big carnivals are Carnaval de Ponce (Ponce Carnival) in February and Loíza’s Festival de Santiago Apóstol (St. James Festival) in July.
There are normally several fiestas patronales (patron saint festivals) every weekend of the year somewhere in Puerto Rico. These small town carnivals are beautiful expressions of their local communities. Like big carnivals, the communities get busy a month before and local events in the week before the big party. Salsa and merengue bands play the fiestas patronales. Many of them are world-famous artists.
Regions of Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico’s regions are Metro (San Juan), East, West, North, South and the Central Mountains.
The mountains of Puerto Rico’s Cordillera Central are a beautiful countryside with rainforests and everything that goes with that. They are the cultural heart of Puerto Rico.
One of Puerto Rico’s surprises is how much regional and local variation there is in people, culture, and even language.
Famous Puerto Ricans
Many people travel back and forth between Puerto Rico and New York City, but being island Puerto Rican is very different from being New York Puerto Rican. We cover New York Puerto Ricans on our Puerto Rican NYC page.
Puerto Rico Government
The government is supposed to work for the people. Make them work for you.
The Puerto Rican Government is at pr.gov
Governor Pedro R. Pierluisi is on Twitter @fortalezapr and @GovPierluisi
Senate President José Luis Dalmau is on Twitter @JoseLuisDalmau
Speaker of the House of Representatives Rafael “Tatito” Hernández is on Twitter @tatitohdz
Call the police by dialing 911
Compañia de Turismo de Puerto Rico
The Puerto Rico Tourism Company promotes tourism.
- Tourist information is at discoverpuertorico.com (COVID-19 Quarantine information) and Twitter @discover_PR
- Business information is at prtourism.com and Twitter @CTPuertoRico
Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña (ICP)
The Puerto Rican Culture Institute preserves and promotes Puerto Rico’s rich cultural diversity at icp.pr.gov and on Twitter @icppr
The Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce is a business advocate at camarapr.org and Twitter @Camarapr
Federal Government and U.S. Organizations
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor is probably the highest ranking member of the U.S. government with a Puerto Rico Rican heritage. She is a New York Puerto Rican from The Bronx.
As a colony, Puerto Rico lacks voting representation in the U.S. Congress, but these organizations and members of Congress regularly support the interests of Puerto Ricans.
- Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) and Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico (House of Representatives) Jenniffer González Colón
- New York Senator Chuck Schumer
- New York Representative Nydia Velázquez (NY District 7)
- New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY District 14)
Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico (FOMBPR or La Junta)
Puerto Rico is working through a functional bankruptcy. The federal law PROMESA created this organization to oversee Puerto Rico’s budget at juntasupervision.pr.gov and Twitter @FOMBPR
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA District 2, has been active in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria in 2017. fema.gov and Twitter @femaregion2