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 saint of Christian 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 multi-day 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 through town from the Church.
On July 24, the statue of Santiago de los Hombres is carried in procession to Saint Patrick Church (Iglesia San Patrício) in town. And then there is a Mass
On July 25, there is a procession of the “Loicenos Ausentes” from the Herrera Bridge to the Public Plaza in town.
On July 26, the statue of Santiago de los Hombres is carried in procession to Saint James Church (in the Medianía Alta neighborhood). This procession includes the traditional running of the flags carried by horsemen. Then it is returned to the house of the mantenedor. The Procession with the statue of Santiago de las Mujeres goes toward St Patrick’s Church.
On July 27, the procession takes the statue of Santiago de las Mujeresfrom town to the mantenedor’s house in the Medianía Alta neighborhood.
On July 28, the statue of Santiago de los Niños is carried from town to the mantenedor’s house in the Medianía Alta neighborhood.
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 scary-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.
2014 Saint James Festival
The Town also has “Carnaval” during this time. For 2014, the festival runs from Thursday, July 24, through Monday, July 28.
The traditional Saint James festivities start on July 24 with the procession to St Patrick’s and a Mass and then on July 25 with a procession to the main public plaza to enjoy a celebration.
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 Patrick’s Church and then the next day, return from town back to the starting points. There is also a Carnaval Parade through town on Saturday at 3pm. “The Fiesta en el Batey Ayala” is the last Saturday of the Festival week. For 2014, it will be July 26, at 12 noon-7pm at the Hermanos Ayala’s property. Music and dancing and a general street party!
Use this map to locate places mentioned in this article. You can click on a placemark to view the GPS coordinates for that place.