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San Sebastain Festival in Miami

By Darlene Vazquetelles 

One of the best gifts you could give yourself when moving to a different country is to keep your traditions and culture alive.  You add some decorations from back home, hang the flag, paintings, and souvenirs you brought back with you.  You play the music, cook the traditional food, go online to keep up with the news from your country, etc. As a way to stay connected to your roots, you attend local events that represent the traditions and customs of your home country.  One example of a cultural representation away from home is the San Sebastian Festival in Miami! 

If you have been reading my posts, you know that I am a proud Puerto Rican. Although many people see Puerto Rico as "Americanized" because of its status of Commonwealth of the United States, the people on the island continue to emphasize loyalty to the culture and folklore that heavily exists on the island. There are hundreds of traditions that define the island of Puerto Rico, and one of them are the numerous festivals we celebrate throughout the year.  One of the most famous festivals is called the San Sebastián Festival (Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián). 

Brief History

The San Sebastián (Saint Sebastian) was a Christian who was martyred for his faith around 288 A.D.  There is a street on the north side of Old San Juan named in his honor, and this is where this event takes place. The event is filled  with crowds, food, alcohol, live music, and arts and crafts exhibited by Puerto Rican artists. There were Rum and Coquito (our version of Eggnog) tastings, Puerto Rican fritters which represent our diet and even a pig roasting. 

For next year, the plan is to add more streets to this block party in Brickell (Miami) in honor of the original San Sebastian Festival in Puerto Rico. It promises to be a new cultural event in South Florida!

My mother, Actor Julian Gil and Myself
San Sebastian Festival in Miami
This banner placed at the event in Miami shows what the San Sebastian Street in Old San Juan, PR, looks like during the festival.
In Miami you have more of the Latin flavor because Miami has become the new home for people from Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, Cuba, Puerto Rico, etc.   Many of us have left our countries for different reasons.  The important thing is to be able to keep your values, your history, and your roots alive.  It is part of who we were, who we are and who we will be.  It is what we pass to our children in the future, what we teach others who come along the way. I encourage you to be open minded and learn more about other cultures. In times where there is still so much ignorance and racism, these type of events are important. You learn about others and at the end you realize there is always something you can relate to.   After all...what a great way to bring people from different backgrounds together than with good music, food and dancing? Until next time...signing-off from Miami...

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