The traditional “Festival de las máscaras” Hatillo Mask Festival is celebrated on December 28th in the town of Hatillo, Puerto Rico. Both my son and I were there to see the “caravana” of floats with giant speakers, decorated jeeps, and cars blasting their music. The participants wear very elaborate and colorful costumes and meshed masks. The streets and main roads are closed to general traffic. They walk down the streets all in good fun they start squirting you with water, shaving cream or whatever else they may have.
Guess who got wet? Both my son and I! I was running away attempting to cover my DSLR camera so it wouldn’t get wet. It was fun! (Check out the YouTube video below).
The festival continues throughout the day. Food vendors, artisans, and music can be enjoyed by all with a procession finalizing at the town’s plaza.
How did this tradition get started? It dates back to 1823 when the settlers from the Canary Islands founded the town of Hatillo.
The festival remembers the first Christian martyrs or Holy Innocents (Santos Inocentes). Based on the Bible book of Matthew where it is recorded that many baby boys under the age of three years were murdered as commanded by King Herod in his quest to kill baby Jesus.
Other festivals and carnivals in Puerto Rico are:
Ponce Carnival or Carnaval Ponceño
The Ponce Carnival is celebrated the day before Ash Wednesday. Is a week-long celebration with lots of loud and colorful parades. Masked “vejigantes” taunt the crowd. Similar to Mardi Gras in New Orleans this carnival is derived from the old world tradition with a final celebration mark the beginning of Lent.
You can also make your very own “vejigante” masks from Kid World Citizen Puerto Rican Mask Art
Festival de Santiago Apóstol
Festival de Santiago Apóstol in the town of Loíza is a celebration rooted in Spanish and African culture. It celebrates the apparition of Saint James patron saint of Christian Spanish military in both Loíza and Spain. This is said to have helped them conquer the pagan Moors. It’s also a lively parade with “Bomba” music a traditional and African folk music. During the carnival, you will see “vejigantes” and the Spanish knights battle representing the forces of good and evil.
Children’s book about carnivals in Puerto Rico
Looking for books to read on carnivals in Puerto Rico? We own these two books and just like my son enjoyed so will your kids.
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