My First Afro-Diasporian Festival in Another Country

Basking in the presence of beautiful and buttery blackness is one of my favorite pastimes.  My time in Puerto Rico blessed me with the chance to experience an Afro-Diasporian Festival on one blacknificent (yes, I just made that word up) day.  Now y’all know I live for a good festival (if you don’t know or need a refresher visit my festival tips post here).  So, when my homeboy Rafael told me about the Festival Santiago Apostol, I was like, “bet… let’s go.”  At the beginning of the year, I had Puerto Rico on the brain and was planning to make it my first solo dolo trip.  However, when the opportunity arose for me to attend this festival AND travel around the island with 2 actual Puerto Ricans (Rafael and his roommate Edie), how could I pass that up?

The Festival Santiago Apostol occurs every year around July 25th in the town of Loiza.  Loiza is where the sugar plantations back in the day were located and I’m sure you can guess what that means?  Need a little help?  This town was a major site of slavery on the island and as a result, is home to a large population of Afro-Puerto Ricans.  The festival is held to honor Saint James and to celebrate the role that Africa has had in shaping the culture of Loiza.

A traditional Vejigante mask.  Los Vejigantes represent the devil, evil and the Moors.

The several days long celebration consists of dance shows, musical performances, parades, traditional food, and much more.  I was able to witness one of the parades which included people donning costumes, playing music, riding horses, riding on floats, etc.  There is one main road that goes through the town with all other streets branching off from it.  The procession starts at a point closer to the beginning of that road, makes its way to the other end, and then turns around and comes back down the street.  After the parade is over, it turns into a big block party with everyone hanging out and turning up.

Los Caballeros represent the Spanish knights.

The energy in the town on this day was so live.  You can tell everyone came out the house making sure their outfits were on point and that they was looking cute.  There was so much pride and positivity, especially amongst the people who dressed up in traditional costumes.  You could tell that a lot of work and energy went into their outfits.  Everyone’s hair was on fleek.  The only time I get to see this many luscious, healthy, different colored, and moisturized afros in one spot, is at an Afro-Diasporian festival.  The diversity of us as a people was so present with folks of different shapes, sizes and hues of blackness.

People in the parade (and the rain lol) wearing various costumes.
A traditional Caballero masks in the workshop where they are made.

In addition to being able to relax and enjoy beautiful black beauty all afternoon, one of my favorite parts of the festival was the Bomba dancing.  Bomba is a traditional style of music in Puerto Rico as it brings together African, Spanish and Taino influences.  This dance focuses on the active participation from the drummers (there must be at least two) and the dancer.  In Bomba, the dancer sets the beat and the drummers follow.  The best part about the Bomba dancing was that everyone, young and old, boys and girls, men and women got in the circle and danced.  The pride and joy everyone who participated showed was felt all throughout the crowd.

If you get the opportunity to attend this festival, I would HIGHLY recommend it.  You get to enjoy performances, a parade, traditional Puerto Rican cuisine, and beautiful and buttery blackness.  What more can you really ask for?  I would highly recommend Puerto Rico in general if you have never been.  You will not regret your decision.  If you have attended or know of any other Afro-Diasporian festivals anywhere in the world, please let me know in the comments so that I may add them to the bucket list!

The parade also included an assortment of floats, both big and small.

2 thoughts on “My First Afro-Diasporian Festival in Another Country

Add yours

  1. Love this post. I’m Puerto Rican but was born in NY, and I’ve only been to PR once. Next time I go I want to visit Loiza. Back in the days the Lower East Side of Manhattan (LES), where the Nuyorican Poets Cafe is located, was heavily populated by Puerto Ricans, and still is, anyway the nickname of the Lower East Side became Loisaida. I wonder if someone from Loiza created that name. 🙂 This is one of my random, pointless ramblings. LOL
    I’ve enjoyed your posts.
    Keep it up.
    God bless.

    Liked by 1 person

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