ONE OF THE ASPECTS THAT DISTINGUISHES PUERTO RICANS IS THEIR SPIRIT OF JOYFUL CELEBRATION AT ANY TIME OF THE YEAR. THEREFORE, IT IS NOT SURPRISING THAT THE ISLAND HAS THE WORLD’S LONGEST HOLIDAY SEASON SINCE LOCAL HOLIDAY EVENTS KICK OFF IN EARLY NOVEMBER AND END IN MID-JANUARY.

By ¡Qué Pasa! Staff

You will find celebrations practically everywhere during the season. The atmosphere is filled with vibrant colors, festive music, and yummy local delicacies. Visiting every corner of Puerto Rico becomes a unique experience as municipalities provide great events for both tourists and locals.

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Festivities begin with events called Encendidos Navideños (tree-lighting celebrations) in which municipalities showcase their holiday decorations and offer free shows and musical performances. By mid-December, trullas (the local equivalent of caroling) are seen in town squares, filling them with traditional rhythms. Aguinaldo Masses (music-filled early-morning worshipping at Catholic churches) are also an essential component of the holiday celebrations. Should you arrive on the island in January, know that several world-known events that reflect Puerto Ricans’ festive nature will be waiting for you.

Are you preparing your holiday schedule? The following list will be very helpful in planning your itinerary once you arrive in Puerto Rico.

Metro Region

OLD SAN JUAN AND SANTURCE
December 1-4: The Nutcracker
The grandeur, set design, costumes, and magic of this staging by Ballet Concierto de Puerto Rico have made this a must-see presentation of the world-known holiday classic at the Luis A. Ferré Performing Arts Center. 787-724-7032

December 10: Holiday Boat Parade
Organized by Club Náutico de San Juan, this colorful parade features boats decked in holiday decorations and lights. The event starts in the Isla Grande area and ends at Pier 6 in Old San Juan. The best spots to watch the parade are Bahía Urbana and Paseo de la Princesa. 787-722-0177

December 17-23: Aguinaldo Masses
They begin at 5:30 a.m. at different churches in Old San Juan. Schedule: December 17 at the Cathedral, Dec. 18 at St. Francis of Assisi Church, Dec. 19 in La Puntilla neighborhood, Dec. 20 at the Siervas de María convent, Dec. 21 at the San Conrado chapel, Dec. 22 at the Santa Ana church, and Dec. 23 back at the Cathedral. 787-722-0861

January 19-22: San Sebastián Street Festival
During this weekend the streets of Old San Juan come alive to the rhythm of Bomba and Plena music kicking off grand parades with masked dancers and local characters who will stroll through Old San Juan streets all the way to San Sebastián St. There will be artisans, food kiosks, and local music in nearby courtyards and squares, and also inside the Ballajá Barracks building. 787-725-7559 / 787-723-7800

North Region

DORADO (787-796-6001)
December 10: Holiday Festival

Gran Parque El Dorado, 7:00 p.m. There will be kiddie attractions, children’s shows, musical performances, and food kiosks serving typical dishes and snacks.

December 10: Municipal Band Concert
Juan Boria Arts Center, 7:00 p.m.

December 15: 4th Handicrafts Fair
Casa del Artesano, 11:00 a.m.

December 17: El Mejor Regalo play
Juan Boria Arts Center, 7:00 p.m.

HATILLO (787-262-2093 / 787-262-3561)
December 27: Innocents’ Day Festival

José Ramón Millán Square. Children are the guests of honor in this religious festival that includes music, gifts, snacks, and more.

December 28: Masks Festival
José Ramón Millán Square. Hundreds of Hatillo residents take to the streets in pairs or in groups wearing gauzy and colorful costumes with their faces covered with masks. The parade starts in different neighborhoods and ends in the town square, where you can enjoy food, handicrafts, and live music.

the-party-keep-going-02West Region

MOCA (787-877-1080)
December 2-4: Parranda Los Enchaquetaos (Caroling Event)

Juan D. Quiñones Square. That’s what they call the group of gentlemen who attend all events wearing jackets, ties, and their distinctive Italian hats. Visitors enjoy caroling, music, and local foods.

December 25-29: Masks Festival
Capá Community. People with colorful masks and costumes run or ride on horseback through the streets from the early morning hours. There is food, handicrafts, and music.

LAJAS (787-899-1335, Extensions 1660 and 1665 / 787-899-1450)
December 3: Holiday Troubadour Festival

La Parguera, 7:00 p.m.

QUEBRADILLAS (787-895-1070)
December 3: Güiro Festival

Luis Muñoz Rivera Square.

SAN SEBASTIÁN (939-640-9506)
January 15: Heifer Festival

Cruz Salto Neighborhood, PR111. A parade of floats decorated with different scenes from Puerto Rican folklore and customs.

CABO ROJO (787-254-2358)
December 31: New Year’s Eve Party

Parador Combate Beach

South Region

VILLALBA (787-847-2500)
December 9-11: Pigeon Pea Festival

Town Square. Attendees will enjoy delicious dishes made with pigeon peas. Traditional music performances, exhibitions, and children’s attractions are part of the event.

COAMO (787-825-1150)
December 17-23: Aguinaldo Masses

San Blas Illescas Church, 5:00 a.m.

JUANA DÍAZ (787-260-0817)
January 6: Feast of the Three Kings

Casa Museo de los Santos Reyes. Numerous families attend the event wearing costumes and playing different instruments to create their own joyful rhythms. There are also artisans who specialize in creating works inspired by the Magi. The tradition is so strong that it has produced the first themed museum devoted to the Three Kings in all Latin America.

Central Region

OROCOVIS (787-867-5000 / 787-867-2718)
December 18: National Woodcarvers Meet

Ramos Antonini Street. This cultural event focuses on the tradition of carving wooden saints. There will be local food kiosks and entertainment.

JAYUYA (787-828-0900)
December 2 to January 8: Holiday Forest

Municipal parking, 9:00 a.m. Exhibits include holiday scenes and light sculptures. There will be live music and traditional foods.

East Region

RÍO GRANDE (787-888-2828)
December 1: Jíbaro Holidays

Palmer Square. The event features handicrafts, music, farmers, free workshops, food kiosks, and more. Wearing jíbaro (country-folk) garb is encouraged.

LAS PIEDRAS (787-733-2160)
December 9-11: Roast Pork Festival

Paseo Artesanal. Delicious dishes made with pork; guest artists, and children’s attractions.

CAGUAS (787-653-8990)
December 16-January 8: Holiday Garden

Caguas Botanical and Cultural Garden, 6:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. Traditional scenes, decorations with lights, seasonal dishes, and shows.

CULEBRA (787-742-1033)
December 31: Happy New Year

Town Square. Welcome 2017 with a fun local party.

We recommend calling in advance for more information on schedules and other details.

Holiday Family Fun While Shopping

Shopping centers across the island—as well as urban markets and downtown stores—celebrate the Holiday Season in style. That is why they often hold events that include live holiday music on weekends. Children will have a blast welcoming Santa Claus and the Three Kings. All shopping centers have extended hours during this season. Check out the list on Shopping.

Make the most of the Holiday Season and your trip to Puerto Rico by purchasing beautiful handicrafts made by Puerto Rican artisans. A good idea is to visit Old San Juan, enjoy its magnificent architecture, dine in one of its restaurants, and acquire that special something that will remind you of the best holidays of your life.

Merriment in Hotels and Restaurants

In Puerto Rico, the joy of the Holiday Season is also present in most hotels and restaurants, which feature live holiday music on weekends. On key dates (December 24, 25 and 31 and January 1) they also offer buffet dinners, shows with guest performers, dance music, Salsa lessons, disc jockeys, and surprises. We recommend you contact the hotel or restaurant of your choice for details and reservations. See our lodgings list on Lodging  and our restaurant list on Dining. You can get additional information at www.seepuertorico.com.

AS YOU APROACH TO GUAYAMA, THE PERFECT COMBINATION OF ITS GREEN FIELDS, AN IMMACULATE DOWNTOWN AREA, AND A COAST OF UNPARALLELED APPEAL HERALD AN ADVENTURE FULL OF HISTORY, CULTURE, AND FINE DINING. THESE ARE PART OF THE HALLMARKS THAT MAKE RESIDENTS AND VISITORS ALIKE FALL IN LOVE WITH GUAYAMA’S UNIQUE CHARM.

By: Robert Colberg Orengo
Photos: Yoel Parrilla and Juan José Rodrígue

Past and Present Go Hand in Hand

The architecture that surrounds the Ciudad Bruja’s (Witch City) downtown area showcases the historical wealth of a coastal area that flirts with the mountain region. Other facilities brimming with evident modern air coexist here, adding variety to Guayama’s many tourism-oriented offerings. Wear light clothing and comfortable shoes, and get ready to have a great time with your whole family! The photos and videos you’ll capture to perpetuate your visit here will be simply spectacular. You can explore locations on your own, but it is advisable to take advantage of the free trolleybus tour. An expert guide will provide information on the tourism attractions that are located in the downtown area. Call the Municipal Tourism Office at 787-866- 2506 for more details about available tour schedules.

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SAN ANTONIO DE PADUA CHURCH

The only neo-romantic style church in Puerto Rico took 40 years to build (1827-1867). Here’s an interesting fact: two clocks are displayed on the façade; one is a hand-painted timepiece that marks the time when the church was baptized, and the other was brought from Switzerland.

CRISTÓBAL COLÓN SQUARE

In its center rests the water fountain donated by former Mayor Genaro Cautiño in 1918. Around it, 16 gardens featuring leafy laurel trees (planted in 1895) provide cooling shade to the 118 benches and the three monuments you’ll find there: two in honor of the Guayama-born soldiers who perished during different wars and one that highlights the life and work of writer Luis Palés Matos.

One City, Three Gastronomic Routes

The culinary wealth of Guayama is evident in its Gastronomic Routes. Whether in the downtown area, on the coast or while enjoying the mountains’ greenery, you will find a restaurant endorsed by this program. Puerto Rican treats have their place on this route, as do international dishes. Did you know that Puerto Rico’s most delicious pastelillos (fried turnovers) as well as the island’s largest alcapurrias (meat- or seafood-filled fritters) are found in Guayama?

The event known as Noches de Encanto (Enchanting Nights)—which is held once a month in the Cristóbal Colón Square—will allow you to sample the local gastronomic varieties, as well as enjoy art exhibits, performances, and shows.

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CASA CAUTIÑO MUSEUM

This majestic building built in 1887 is located on one side of Cristóbal Colón Square. It was designed by Guayama-born architect Manuel Texidor and served as the home of three generations of the prestigious Cautiño family, known for their contributions to the town’s culture and development. Casa Cautiño, one of the best examples of of neoclassical architecture with evident criollo influences, exhibits much of its former inhabitants’ furniture and belongings.

 

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EL LEGADO GOLF COURSE

A beautiful 285-hectare valley surrounded by the Central Mountain Range and caressed by the Caribbean Sea is the setting for this 7,200-yard 18-hole course. At its Guamaní restaurant you can sample exquisite dishes from our local cuisine and enjoy a great variety of drinks while basking in the breathtaking view. Learn more about the restaurant’s hours of operation and prices by calling 787-866-8894.

PUNTA POZUELO

This is one of those places where you feel so comfortable that you will want to come back again and again. The impressive view of Jobos Bay is the top attraction, followed closely by the restaurants where you can enjoy tasty Puerto Rican and international delicacies. You can take a boat trip through the bay and the nearby mangroves that are part of the Jobos Bay Reserve.

ADOLFO PORRATA DORIA PERFORMING ARTS CENTER

It originally housed the Superior Court of Guayama. This classic ionic building built in 1927 now features an art exhibit room, expo-theater, and a hall for cultural events. In the lobby you can admire a collection of 180 Bibles from different parts of the world, including the smallest known to date.

Other Places to Visit

• Town Hall
• Guayama Theater
• Casa del Rey
• Casa del Poeta
• Totem: Urban Memory
• Catalino “Tite” Curet Alonso Convention Center
• Carite Forest
• Yacht Club
• Club Náutico

At www.visitaguayama.com you can get more information about these and other attractions to include on your tour.

Interesting Facts

• Guayama comes from “Guamaní,” a Taíno indigenous word given to the area or the river, which means “our path” or “big place.” Another version points to Guayama, an indigenous chieftain captured by the Spaniards and exiled to the Dominican Republic. That is why the town is also known as “La Ciudad del Guamaní” (“The City of Guamaní”).
• The town’s nicknames “Pueblo de los Brujos” (“Witches’ Town”) and “La Ciudad Bruja” (“Witch City”) come from Moncho el Brujo, a well-known local baseball pitcher. Legend says that Guayama’s inhabitants brought candles, magic powders, and wild herbs to the games to intimidate opponents.

The richness of Puerto Rican cuisine is evident during the Holiday Season. The fusion of ingredients grown locally using modern elaboration techniques has earned the island a privileged reputation within international gastronomic circles.

By Robert Colberg Orengo

The so-called “fusion cuisine” integrates different ingredients and various processing techniques for a creative, tasty, and memorable end result. In that sense, our guest chefs are true masters, as Puerto Rico’s traditional holiday dishes take on a different dimension in their hands.

Chef José Santaella

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For this renowned national gastronomy expert, the Puerto Rican delicacies he would recommend during the Holiday Season include the well-known pasteles, accompanied with rice with pigeon peas and lechón. An exquisite classic that can also be had year-round!

In fact, this would be part of the menu created by the owner of Santaella restaurant if he caters a banquet for a group of visitors. The complements would be morcillas, fresh-picked green bananas, tembleque for dessert and coquito as a beverage. An ode to Puerto Rican cuisine!

Codfish Fritters

Ingredients:
• 1/2 pound cod fillet
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 2 cloves garlic, crushed
• 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
• 2 cups water
• Vegetable oil for frying

Instructions:
1. Boil cod in water for two minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and immerse immediately in cold water to stop the cooking process. Once it is cold, crumble cod.
2. In a separate bowl, place cod and add flour, salt, pepper, baking powder, garlic, cilantro, two cups of water, and mix well. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.
3. Heat oil in a deep, heavy frying pan. Use a ladle to pour the dough into the boiling oil and fry until golden brown on both sides. Remove fritters from the frying pan and place in a dish covered with a paper towel to absorb excess oil. Serve immediately.


spit-roasted-piglet

Chef Luis R. Piñeiro

chef-luis-r-pineiroThe owner of Piñeiro’s Latin Cuisine & Seafood bets on the gastronomic choices in Puerto Rico’s western region when treating a tourist to dinner. “I would definitely take them to the Porta del Sol region, specifically to Cabo Rojo. There I would offer them the best of the local catch of the day, a mofongo stuffed with seafood or a fried fish with caramelized onions and tostones,” he said. As a highlight for this season, he presented a roasted leg of suckling pig, mamposteado rice with pigeon peas and chorizo with pickled green bananas, apple puree, and cilantro oil.

From the local cuisine available all year long, he would recommend “rice with pigeon peas, ribs, and chorizo.” The best side dishes, in his opinion, would be lechón (spit-roasted pork) marinated with local spices, pork morcillas (blood sausages), and grilled yucca empanada (longer and thinner than a pastel, it is wrapped in a banana leaf and cooked over an open fire).

¡Qué Pasa! (QP): Suppose a visitor hires you to cook a delectable dinner to ring in the New Year. What would it include?

Luis R. Piñeiro (LRP): “As a starter, I would offer some almojábanas (rice flour fritters) with butter and local cheese along with some celeriac fritters. The main course would be rice with fresh pigeon peas and pork ribs cooked over firewood, lechón with crunchy golden skin, and green banana pasteles. To drink, we would have sesame horchata (a milky drink made from ground nuts), and chocolate pitorro (strong artisanal liqueur). For dessert, coconut and cinnamon tembleque.”

Spit-roasted Leg of Piglet

Ingredients:
• 8 ounces of suckling pig’s leg
• 2 cloves garlic
• Salt to taste
• Pepper to taste
• 1 teaspoon oregano
• 3 ounces olive oil

Process:
Season the suckling pig and refrigerate for 12 hours. If you do not have a grill or barbecue, you can cook it in the oven. To do this, heat oven to 350° F and cook for four hours or until the meat is juicy.

Pigeon Pea Mamposteao Rice

Ingredients:
• 4 ounces stewed fresh pigeon peas
• 8 ounces white rice, previously made
• 1 teaspoon chopped onion
• 1 teaspoon finely chopped cilantro
• 1 ounce chorizo
• 1 teaspoon grated green banana

Instructions:
In a pan over medium heat, combine rice, stewed pigeon peas, along with the rest of the ingredients. Remove from heat when all are mixed and the onion has become transparent.

Pickled Green Bananas

Ingredients:
• 3 boiled green bananas
• 1 ounce chopped onion
• 1 ounce chopped green peppers
• 2 bay leaves
• 1 clove garlic
• 2 ounces olive oil
• 2 ounces vinegar
• Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:
Peel the bananas and boil them. When soft, remove from heat. Let them cool and cut into slices about one-half inch thick. Pour into a bowl and combine with remaining ingredients. Let stand at least one day for all flavors to combine.


pasteles

Chef Wilo Benet

chef-wilo-benetPasteles (tamale-like boiled delicacies) are the beloved Puerto Rican holiday dish that the owner of Pikayo restaurant would recommend tourists sample. Therefore he chose this tasty dish to represent him. Pasteles’ usual rectangular shape has been reinterpreted in a cylindrical form—that’s quite an unexpected twist! Benet’s pasteles are made with yucca (cassava), green bananas, and pumpkin and are stuffed with pork confit. An emulsion of sweet peppers and local tomatoes serves as a complement.

¡Qué Pasa! (QP): Where would you take a tourist who has never tasted any Puerto Rican delicacy?

Wilo Benet (WB): “I would take them to El Cuñao restaurant in Cayey or to the Don Candy fish market in Fajardo.”

QP: If you had to design a typical Puerto Rican menu for a New Year’s Eve event, what would it include?

WB: “I would do it but with a different twist: pigeon pea soup with green banana balls and chicharrón (pork cracklings); pasteles made with yucca, green bananas, and pumpkin with pork confit; an emulsion of sweet peppers and local tomatoes; organic local watercress salad. As a beverage, I would serve DonQ white rum with passion fruit. To complete the experience, my dessert would be a terrine of tembleque (coconut milk-based chilled custard) with grated sesame and chocolate sauce.”

Pasteles

Ingredients:
• 1 pound pork loin
• teaspoon adobo (island seasoning)
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 small onion cut into small cubes
• 4 cloves garlic, ground
• 1/2 cubanelle pepper cut into small cubes, without seeds or the inner white bark
• 2 tablespoons of sofrito (tomato and herb based sauce)
• 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
• 1/4 cup tomato sauce
• 1/2 cup green olives stuffed with peppers
• 1/2 cup canned chickpeas, drained
• 1/2 cup raisins
• 1 cup of water
• 8 banana leaves cut into 12” x 12”
• 5 cups of taro root dough (To prepare the dough: “After peeling, grind them in the food processor or grater.”)

Instructions:
1. Clean meat; cut and discard excess fat from pork loin. Cut pork loin into cubes, season with adobo, and set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in a frying pan. Add pork cubes and sauté for about three minutes, stirring sporadically. Stir in the onion, garlic, cubanelle pepper, sofrito, and cilantro. Mix well and cook for an additional two minutes until onion is translucent and has lost its raw flavor.
3. Add and stir in tomato sauce, olives, chickpeas, raisins, and then a cup of water. Lower heat to medium and, stirring sporadically, continue cooking for 30 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed, flavors are concentrated, and the meat is very tender. Remove from heat and set aside until it reaches room temperature.
4. Meanwhile, loosen banana leaves and remove any hard stalks left from the edges. Using kitchen tongs, hold leaves over a gas flame or an electric burner for about 20 seconds on each side. Be sure to move them continuously while over the heat source to avoid burning the leaves. This operation makes them more flexible and promotes the release of their natural oils, which imbue pasteles with flavor.
5. Form the pasteles. In a bowl, combine the taro root dough with the pork preparation and mix well. Place the banana leaf on a flat surface. Pour a cup of the pork mixture over the center of the leaf, leaving at least two inches on each side. Fold the bottom edge over the mixture and fold it over itself twice, as if it were a package. Using your hand, push the filling of the open side inward to compact the “package,” and fold over the open parts of the leaf. Set aside and repeat the process with the remaining banana leaves and filling.
6. Steam the pasteles on a bamboo steamer for 20 minutes, to the point the dough retains its shape and is well-cookedl. To serve, remove each pastel from its wrapper. To experience as the locals, if desired, pack the wrapped pasteles with butcher’s thread and freeze them. To prepare them, just place them in a pot, cover with water, and boil for 45 minutes.


mallorca-bread-pudin

Chef Mercedes Grubb

chef-mercedes-grubb“Of the many holiday dishes made in Puerto Rico, one is essential: pasteles. The technique, the elaboration, and the taste show the affection we have for this seasonal gift,” said the chef of Gallo Negro restaurant when we asked her what delicacy is an integral part of the Puerto Rican culinary tradition.

The Piñones beach sector, located between Isla Verde and Loíza, would be the area selected if she were to take a visitor to become acquainted with our local cuisine. “By going there, you cover all bases: alcapurrias (meat or seafoodfilled fritters), bacalaítos (cod fritters), pinchos (kebabs), fresh fish, and mofongo (fried, mashed plantain)—which is mandatory—accompanied with cold coconut water with Ron del Barrilito rum,” our interviewee said.

QP: What do you believe is the perfect menu for the Holiday Season?

Mercedes Grubb (MB): “It would include tostones (fried green plantain slices) stuffed with rabbit fricassee as an appetizer. The main course would be a pigeon peas risotto with pernil (roasted pork leg) confit, onions, and avocado mousse. For dessert, I would consider a pudding made with mallorca (sweet and airy bakery specialty) bread and coquito (coconut-based eggnog) made with Ron del Barrilito with Chantilly crème and nuts, which is what I present here.”

Mallorca bread pudding á la Ron del Barrilito

Ingredients:
• 2 eggs
• 2 tablespoons melted butter
• 2 vanilla beans (scrape the pulp with a spoon)
• 2 cups coconut milk
• 1/2 cup Barrilito Rum
• 2 cups sugar
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 4 cups mallorca bread, diced into cubes
• 1/2 cup nuts of your choice

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 325° F. Beat eggs along with butter, vanilla, coconut milk, Barrilito Rum, sugar, and salt.
2. In a pan covered with butter, add the bread to form a layer. Pour the liquid mixture over the bread and add nuts. Bake for 50 minutes or until the top of the bread pudding is golden.

saborea-pr-logoThe Top Gastronomic Festival of the Island

Delight your palate and prepare to live a delicious and fun experience! From the 6th to the 9th of April, Saborea Puerto Rico shows you the best of local, Caribbean and international cuisine. Visit saboreapuertorico.com and book what we assure you will be the best gastronomic experience of your life.

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