Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastian

“Voy subiendo, voy bajando…
Voy subiendo, voy bajando…
Tu vives como  yo vivo, yo vivo vacilando!”

(The Puerto Rican interpretation of vacilando is “goofing around”.  No one is undecided about having fun at la Calle San Sebastián!)

Fiestas Calle San Sebastian 2012

This past weekend, hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans and visitors gathered in Old San Juan to celebrate Las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastian.  This festival started in the 1950s to commemorate the namesake of the popular street, martyr Saint Sebastian. In the 1960s, it began to incorporate traditional cultural elements like art, music, gastronomy, crafts, and dance.  Today, las Fiestas bring together Puerto Ricans from all walks of life and mark the end of the holiday season.

Although the festival’s main drag is restaurant and bar lined San Sebastian Street, its heart during daylight hours is the Cuartel de Ballajá.  Artisans line up at these historic barracks to sell their crafts.  Paintings, prints, wood sculptures and carvings, pottery, and all sorts of handmade goods can be found under two huge tents set up at the Cuartel or along its main corridor.

Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastian: Cuartel de Ballaja

Since this is a food blog, I wanted to highlight some of my favorite food related crafts from the tents.  They include pilones (mortars and pestles carved from wood), tostoneras (wooden contraptions to press tostones – fried flattened plantains), mugs, stemware, cooking utensils and candy.

Pilones y Tostoneras


Stemware Carved from Native Wood


Pottery Mugs and Jars


Hardwood Utensils


Puerto Rican Candy

In addition to crafts, there were plenty of yummy eats.  Remember the tutorial on frituras a couple of months ago?  It will come in handy!

Bacalaitos - Codfish Fritters


Arepas Con Queso & Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice


Assorted Fritters

Fruit Drink Stands

Pork Pinchos with Tostones

We enjoyed a crabmeat alcapurría and a lime frappe while we browsed and people-watched.

Alcapurria de jueyes with hot sauce

Lime Frappe

Vejigante Calle San Sebastian

Even though we left the Fiestas early, we took our time getting back to the car, taking in some of the quieter Old San Juan streets.  A visit to Café Cuatro Sombras wrapped up our afternoon in the old city.

Old San Juan Balcony

Old San Juan - Miranda

I can’t wait until we get to do it all over again next year on the third weekend of January.  If you have any questions about the festival or any of the crafts and foods in this post, leave me a comment!

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Adriana is a financial analyst by day, avid home cook in the evenings, and food blogger and runner in the strange hours between those two. When not in the kitchen concocting meals and stories to pass around, she is out looking for the next great bite (or the ingredients to make it at home), checking what's new at the market, or planning a trip around great food and wine.

11 Responses to “Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastian”

  1. January 16, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

    Wow – I’d love to sample my way through this, and buy some gorgeous mortars 🙂 I really want to go visit Puerto Rico sometimes, I have Puerto Rican colleagues who make the best food!

  2. January 16, 2012 at 9:08 pm #

    What a fun fiesta! Looks nice and warm! The food looks awesome and I want those wooden spoons!

  3. January 16, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

    I was there on Friday night, it was lots of fun! I bought a pincho, then went to Ballajá and got myself a bag of candy (lots of dulce de coco, yummy). Can’t wait either for next year!

    • January 16, 2012 at 10:11 pm #

      My favorite part this year was hanging out at the Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y el Caribe. They had a book fair, a coffee stand, and lots of tables around with cooler artesanias. It was so laid back – a little oasis in the middle of the crowds!

      • January 17, 2012 at 6:35 pm #

        Ahhh! 🙁 I didn’t get to that part. A new stop for next year, yay!

  4. January 16, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

    Looks like such a fun time!

  5. January 16, 2012 at 11:18 pm #

    Looks like a sunny and fun day with plenty of good food to try! Lots of nice things to look at and possibly take home- I like that;-) The old town looks beautiful, love the colors of the buildings, such a pretty setting for this event.

  6. January 18, 2012 at 9:18 am #

    Thanks for a glimpse of this beautiful fiesta in your wonderful country. The street food looks amazing! Most of all I love the sunny WARM looking day!! It’s in the 20’s in my neck of the woods.

  7. Maria Aponte
    January 19, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

    This is such a great post! I love it! And I love the mugs and the jars! They would look great in my kitchen! Saludos!

  8. January 19, 2014 at 7:03 pm #

    esas eran las arepas que estaba buscando!!!!!!!!!! Les pasé por el lado y no las vi!!!!! Qué rabia me da!!!


  1. Puerto Rican Christmas Recipe Roundup - Great Food 360˚ - December 28, 2014

    […] If you answered anything other than a rousing “Puerto Rico!”, click here for my original tutorial on Puerto Rican Christmas.  One sentence summary?  Puerto Rican Christmas stretches from the day after Thanksgiving to mid January.  That gives you plenty of time to enjoy the delicacies of the season, cleanse your palate from the overdose of lechón, arroz con gandules, and coconut sweets, and then do it all over again before it is time for la Calle San Sebastián. […]

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