Culture of Puerto Rico: A Peek into Puerto Rico's Rich Traditions

The culture of Puerto Rico is usually considered to be very colourful and a blend of various influences worldwide. Puerto Rico has its own unique culture and traditions which are highly accepted and executed by the people residing here. Ranging from food, forms of music and dance, sports, annual celebrations, festivals and everything else, Puerto Rico has a calendar of its own. This island is pretty rich in history and ancient cultural influences.

History of Puerto Rico

The Taino ceremonial park in Puerto Rico
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Broadly, the culture of  Puerto Rico is a combination of Taino, Spanish, and African cultures. The Taino community people were among the first ones to settle in Puerto Rico. Even after Spanish people arrived, they tended to marry Taino Indian women in order to fulfil their motive of populating the country. Following both of these, there were African slaves imported here, followed by Chinese immigrants, Italians, French, German, and even Lebanese people. Even American people joined the population after Puerto Rico became a colony of the United States in 1898. 

Culture of Puerto Rico: Music and Dance

Bomba dancers in Puerto Rico in colorful costumes
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With Caribbean influences, Puerto Rican music involves the use of many ancient musical instruments even today making it stand out from the rest. Instruments like mayohuacan (wooden slit drum), guiro (made up of hollowed gourd), cuatro (guitar with 10 strings) and Tambours (made of hollowed tree trunks and animal skin) form the composition of majority of Puerto Rican music.

As a result of using percussion instruments in parallel to the stringed instruments while composing music, Salsa comes out to be the most preferred genre of music in Puerto Rico.
Musical Instruments of Puerto Rico
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Dance forms in Puerto Rico are majorly a gift from ancient Taino, Spanish and West African communities. Puerto Ricans involve admirable costumes for performing their dance forms like long, flowing skirts for women and large hats and sashes for men to complement their dance partners. Bomba is one of the most popular dance forms in Puerto Rican culture. It was said to have originated at ancient sugar cane fields by the slaves as a medium to express their frustration. 

Culture of Puerto Rico: Holidays

Christmas decorations throughout Puerto Rico in holidays
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Puerto Rican culture is full of celebrations. With the longest holiday season all around the world, Puerto Rico has 19 official holidays on its calendar.  The Christmas season known as La Navidad brings in people singing Christmas carols as a surprise by gathering around people’s homes. It extends up to mid January.

Apart from long Christmas celebrations, they also have Three Kings Day, celebrated on January 6 every year.  It is celebrated in memory of the Wise Men who were said to have visited after Jesus was born. It involves more than 25,000 people as a part of the celebration for this particular day. Many of the festivals in Puerto Rican culture are celebrated via parades with colourful puppets, floats, food, dancing and music.

Sports Culture in Puerto Rico

A picture of a player in complete baseball attire in Puerto Rico
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Baseball is considered the most popular sport all over Puerto Rico. Said to have originated from American and Cuban communities, it was adopted in Puerto Rican culture in 1897 for the first time. The popularity of baseball spread like wildfire throughout Puerto Rico spread after the American Baseball Club was beaten by 32 to 18. It was adapted as a sports activity in schools in Puerto Rico after this. Notable players like Roberto Clemente and Carlos Beltran have encouraged the importance and existence of baseball as a part of Puerto Rican culture.

Religion and Culture in Puerto Rico

Symbol of Christianity
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Ponce de Leon was the first one to introduce Roman Catholic Faith among Puerto Rican people. Consequently, Catholicism is the religion dominating Puerto Rican culture even today. People here treat Christianity as very close to their hearts. More than 75% of the total Puerto Rican population is either Catholic or has strong connections abiding by it.

Traditions in Puerto Rico

A glass of eggnog similar to coquito drink
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The world famous Three Kings Day parades in January in Puerto Rico constitute the biggest part of this culture. Apart from it other traditions followed here include: clapping when a plane touches the Island and drinking the local coquito in vacations. It is a coconut-based drink that is extremely sweet and looks similar to that of eggnog.  

Art in Puerto Rico 

World famous museum of art in Puerto Rico
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Puerto Rico showcases murals and art museums throughout its streets. Considered to be the best medium to describe Puerto Rican history, art constitutes a very important aspect of Puerto Rican culture. It has two major and world famous art museums named as: The Museum of Art of Puerto Rico (located in Santurce) and the Puerto Rico Contemporary Museum which definitely top the wish lists of the visitors.

Taking back a piece of local artwork, whether in the form of a painting or a hand-carved craft can prove to be the best takeaway as a memory from our trip to Puerto Rico. Contemporary, classic, urban or any other style of art, Puerto Rico has inspirational art pieces for all of them.  Reflecting its Caribbean culture, street art trend is very popular all over the island.

Annual Festivals in Puerto Rico

Ricky Martin at the national puerto rican day parade
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A festival or one or the other celebration takes place in Puerto Rico almost every weekend.  Festivals here are very colorful and Puerto Rican people leave no stones unturned to make these loud and grand. Puerto Rican music shows, amusement rides, grand parades all over the streets, and delicious speciality food, all constitute the celebration of each and every festival here. Following the Catholic beliefs, celebrations stretch from mid-weeks till the weekend's most of the time. Enjoying a Puerto Rican festival proves to be a great way to experience local culture for the visitors. Some of the most famous and exclusively Puerto Rican festivals are listed below:

1. Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián

A sight of annual festival in San Sebastian
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Considered as the unofficial closure ceremony of the holiday season, this festival is one of the most predictable parties of Puerto Rico. It takes place from Wednesday evening till Sunday afternoon in San Juan. Stages are all set for artists for live music, dance, and circus performances.
When: Third weekend of January
Where: Old San Juan 

2. Festival de la Novilla

A hoarding from annual festival la de novilla
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San Sebastián is a not so well-known rural town to the west of Puerto Rico. Usually celebrated on a Sunday, visitors can experience everything from folk music to salsa. A cow is embellished with a crown of flowers and a parade follows it throughout the town. This particular festival always closes with a concert of traditional music.

When: Third weekend of January
Where: San Sebastian 

3. Fiesta de los Reyes Magos

Grand celebration of Fiesta de los Reyes Magos
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As per the Catholic beliefs January 6th was the day when the Three Wise Men visited baby Jesus for the first time. To celebrate this occasion, Puerto Rico experiences town festivals and grand parades with local people and actors dressed as the Three Wise Men and delivering gifts to the children. Two of the most famous festivals are Fiesta de Reyes Juanadina in Juana Díaz and Fiesta de Reyes Isabelinos in Isabela to celebrate the day in the best possible manner.

When: January 6
Where: Juana Diaz, Isabela 

4. Festival de Santiago Apóstol

Beautiful fireworks at Festival de Santiago Apóstol
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 Vejigante is a popular local folk character dressed in a colourful mask and multicolor jumpsuit. The masks are made of coconut and driftwood. During this festival a very lively parade can be witnessed across the town where battles between the vejigantes and the Spanish knights take place. These battles reflect the contradictions in the forces of good and evil. Bomba music can be widely enjoyed by the visitors in this festival.

When: Last weekend of July
Where: Loiza 

5. Festival Nacional Indígena

Festival Nacional Indígena conference
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This festival celebrates the significance of Taíno culture and traditions in Puerto Rico.  Though, the Taíno community was overtaken by the Spanish people but their influence can be felt in Puerto Rican culture even today.  Jayuya is such a place that captivates the highest peak in Puerto Rico along with the best coffee plantations on the island and a hot air balloon.

When: End of November
Where: Jayuya 
Getting to know such rich and diversified culture of Puerto Rico is absolutely not enough unless you experience it in person. So what are you waiting for, book your tickets today and witness the admiring culture of Puerto Rico.

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