San Sebastian Street Fiestas… An Exercise in Dissonance


Original Cabezudos. I shot this picture several years ago without knowing what I was shooting.

It’s almost that time of year, when people from all parts of the world converge in Old San Juan to celebrate “Las Fiestas De La Calle San Sebastian”, the largest street festival in the world taking place during the month of January.  But this time around there’s static in the air.  The organizing committee is fighting the mayoress and the mayoress is fighting the organizing committee.  Together they’re throwing away the baby with the bathwater.

Official Itinerary in Spanish. Click on image to see it larger.

Official Itinerary. Click on image to see it larger.

Here’s just one example.  A few minutes before writing this article I was trying to get a copy of this year’s itinerary.  That should be a simple enough task in an Internet connected world, right?  Wrong!!!  The only one available (obviously put together by the Municipal Government) doesn’t include the events that are under the purview of the Organizing Committee. And if you’re looking for one in English forget it.  That beast doesn’t exist!

Now, here are a couple of questions for the powers at be from both sides.  Isn’t Old San Juan the capitol of Puerto Rico?  Isn’t Old San Juan Puerto Rico’s crown jewel when it comes to tourism?  Shouldn’t the San Sebastian Street Fiestas be a tourist magnet like few others during the month of January?  Oh, and one last question… Isn’t January the peak of Puerto Rico’s tourist season?

Now, here’s something that makes no sense to me.  If the answer to all the above questions is yes, shouldn’t both sides stop trying to derail each other and work together for the sake of Puerto Rico?  Heaven knows that we need the tourism dollars and the worldwide exposure.


Last year you could cut the tension with a knife.  Each side was doing its thing but you could breathe the separateness.  It was all around you.  This year it’s gotten worse.  They even took the matter to court over patent and copyright issues.  Why is it that a group of Puerto Ricans can’t get together and work as a team?

Here’s a suggestion before I get off my soapbox.  Instead of going at each other’s throats, a few weeks before the event, why don’t they start the fighting in February and bicker all year long.  Maybe that way they’d hammer out a solution before next year and the world won’t be deprived of one of its most colorful events.


Finally, this year there will only be only one “comparza” (cabezudo parade) with the original cabezudos, which ironically is the emblematic event that added color to the fiestas several times throughout each of the four days.  I obtained this information directly from a member of the organizing committee. It will take place on Thursday, January 15, around 5:00pm; right after cutting the inaugural ribbon.


The 2014 San Sebastian Street Fiestas Are Underway!
San Sebastian Street Fiestas 2014… Let The Party Begin!
Meet The Cabezudos… San Sebastian Street Fiestas 2014

©2015,Orlando Mergal, MA

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