Celebrate Fiesta de Santiago Apostol in Loiza
Loíza is a town steeped in tradition. It has roots that combine Spanish culture and traditions with African culture, and meld them into a unique Puerto Rican experience.
One of the most colorful examples of this would be the annual Fiestas Tradicionales en Honor a Santiago Apóstol (traditional festivities to honor Saint James) in Loíza. It is a multi-day event that occurs around July 25, the feast day of Saint James.
Expect lots of colorful parades, dance shows, music (traditional bomba along with newer stuff), and tables/kiosks selling crafts and traditional food.
Saint James, one of the 12 apostles, is the patron sant of cristian Spanish military, having helped them conquer the pagan Moors. His apparition is said to have appeared in both Spain and Loíza, so both have adopted Saint James as their patron saint. Spain and Puerto Rico have similar celebrations for the feast day of Saint James.
Apparently, there are three images (statues) of Saint James that play a role in the traditional celebrations: Santiago de los Hombres (Saint James of the Men), Santiago de las Mujeres (Saint James of the Women), and Santiago de los Niños (Saint James of the Children). Each image is honored on a specific day during the week-long celebration.
Each of these statues are guarded at specific private homes throughout the year (called mantenedores) and, the night before the feast day, they lead a procession to the church will mass will be held.
On July 24, the statue of Santiago de los Hombres is carried in procession to Saint Patrick Church (Iglesia San Patrício) in town.
On July 25, mass is celebrated in honor of Saint James in both Saint Patrick Church and in Saint James Church (in the Medianía Alta neighborhood).
On July 26, the statue of Santiago de los Hombres is carried in procession to Saint James Church. This procession includes the traditional running of the flags carried by horsemen. Mass is held at Saint James Church following the procession. Later in the day, the statue of Santiago de las Mujeres is taken to Saint James Church.
On July 27, mass is celebrated at Saint James Church in honor of Santiago de las Mujeres.
On July 28, the statue of Santiago de los Niños is carried to Saint James Church, where mass is celebrated.
What to Look For
During the processions and parades, you will see four types of masked "characters": Los Caballeros, Los Vejigantes, Las Locas, and Los Viejos. Traditionally, these are all men from Loíza wearing costumes and masks.
Los Caballeros represent the Spanish knights. They are elaborately dressed, with colorful (yellow, red and green) capes covered with sequins and ribbons. Their metal masks are made to look like European knights, and are decorated with mirrors, bells, colored ribbons, and paper flowers.
Los Vejigantes represent evil, the devil, and the Moors. They are elaborately dressed with brilliantly-colored costumes, and masks. The grotesque-looking masks have horns and are typically made from a coconut shell (per tradition in Loíza). Often the Vejigantes sing out verses that are answered by the people attending the festival.
Los Viejos represent the local men of limited means. Their costumes are made from rags, and their masks are made from cardboard boxes or paper bags. Some of these men are popular musicians who perform in the streets.
Las Locas are men dressed as crazy women. They are very animated.
2013 Saint James Festival
For 2013, the festival runs from Friday, July 19, through Sunday, July 28.
The weekend of July 19 to 21 will be more like a typical town carnival. There will be artisans, music, and food in the Plaza Medianía Alta and Plaza Pública. The crowning of the town’s queens and royalty is usually the Saturday.
The big Carnaval parade will on July 21 at 1 or 2pm in the town plaza with floats and dancers and music etc.
The traditional Saint James festivities start on July 24 with the procession to St Patrick’s and then on July 25 with mass and procession at 9am at both St Patrick and Saint James Church.
The traditional correr el santos (march with the saints) will be on July 26 to 28. These processions start at various places along Road 187 (see map) and go to Saint James Church.
Use this map to locate places mentioned in this article. You can click on a placemark to view the GPS coordinates for that place.