Every third weekend of January the legendary San Sebastián (Saint Sebastian) Street Festival is celebrated in the old part of San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico. For many people, this definitively marks the end of the Christmas season. Those who aren’t familiar with this Puerto Rican tradition may think that it deals with a festival only celebrated in San Sebastián Street. The reality is that as time has passed, the celebrations have gained an impressive boom, overtaking the limits of the street and now including practically all of Old San Juan, as this video demonstrates:
The Festival began originally as a celebration in honor of Saint Sebastian, born in Narbonne, France and who, during the 3rd Century CE, was martyred for not renouncing the Christian faith. In Catholic imagery, he is commonly represented as pierced by several arrows and tied to a tree.
In the 1950s, the tradition of celebrating the festivals in honor of Saint Sebastian began as a way of collecting funds for repairing the buildings of the church of San José in Old San Juan. After several years, the tradition was discontinued until 1970, when the archeologist, historian, and anthropologist Ricardo Alegría suggested to Rafaela Balladares, a resident of San Sebastián Street, that they resume the tradition. This is how the Festival was born, and this year it celebrated its 44th edition.
Currently, the festival has lost much of its religious character, and has transformed more into a city festivity that attracts more than 300,000 people annually.
Here I’m sharing some of the photos that I took during my visit to this year's Festival: