Puerto Rico is recognized worldwide for its cheerful culture and celebration spirit. We drink if we’re happy. We drink if we’re sad. Heck, we drink if we’re bored! But underneath the endless partying, there’s a culture deep-rooted in religion and tradition. Here’s what to know before going to Puerto Rico.

by My Puerto Rico Experience

la Rogativa

SANTOS (Saints)

The carving of saints on wood started in the 16th century, and became customary across the United States all the way to La Patagonia, Argentina. It was a way for people who lived in rural areas, where it was difficult to access a church to keep connected with their faith. Puerto Rico was the only place in the Antilles who practiced the carving of Santos and to this day, keeps the tradition alive long after it disappeared from its countries of origin.

You can still find Santos in Old San Juan, to look at (Galería Botello on Cristo Street) and to purchase (Siena Art Gallery on  San Francisco Street).

FIESTAS PATRONALES (Patron Saint Festivals)

And speaking of Saints, each town in Puerto Rico has its own Patron Saints festival, usually held in the town square. The festivals are filled with Vejigantes, Cabezudos, local music and regional food. Each festival is a spectacle and you should definitely look them up before going to Puerto Rico and try to catch one. The most popular is San Sebastián in Old San Juan, held usually at the end of January (20th). Click here for the full list.

VEJIGANTES

These masks represent the merge between Spanish and African cultures in Puerto Rico, and are deeply rooted in Loíza (the origin of this practice here is unknown) and Hatillo (tied to El Día de Los Inocentes, December 28). Most masks are made of coconut or paper.

Cabezudos

CABEZUDOS

These huge heads, associated with partying and festivities, are also a Spanish tradition we inherited in the island. Pedro Adorno, a theater and movie director is one of the most notable Cabezudos makers in the island, starting his workshop in 1985. You can see these Cabezudos in Las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastian and other Patron Saints festivals.

What to know before going to Puerto Rico, BONUS TIP: We have tons of other festivals across the island, year-round. From the Tomato festival in Jayuya, to the Flowers festival in Aibonito, check out the full list here.