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Festival de Santiago Apóstol 2021

A religious celebration that blends Spanish traditions with African heritage

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Last updated: by Olga Valchyshen
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Vibrant parades and a reenactment of the battle between the forces of good and evil — this festival has it all! Every July, the town of Loiza holds the Festival de Santiago Apóstol (Festival of Saint James, the Apostle). The celebration that lasts several days occurs around the St. James Feast on July 25th. The unique blend of African and Spanish Catholic traditions makes this festival one-of-a-kind. It originated after the apparition of Saint James, who protected the Spanish military helping it fight the Moors.

The main attraction of the Festival de Santiago Apóstol is the parade of vejigantes and the battle between the vejigantes and the Spanish knights, which symbolizes the fight between the forces of good and evil. Los vejilantes represent devils or Moors. In Loiza, these characters wear scary masks with horns made of wood and coconut. Spanish knights, also wearing masks and luxuriously decorated costumes, are called Los Caballeros. Other masked participants include Las Locas and Los Viejos. During the holiday, it's also typical for Loíza men to be disguised as women.

Another attraction of the festival is the traditional Bomba music and dance that reveal strong African influence. Fiestas Tradicionales in Loíza is the best time to enjoy an eclectic and lively culture of Puerto Rico as well as try festival foods and local snacks. Kiosks and stalls are also offering crafts and arts. The festival takes place in several Loiza neighborhoods, however, the main processions take place around Iglesia San Patrício, Plaza Publica, and Capilla Santiago Apóstol in the Medianía Alta neighborhood.

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