The Americans have Marti Gras, The Brazilians have the Carnival in Rio, and not to be outdone, the Boricua have the Carnaval Ponceño (Ponce Carnival). This annual celebration dates back to a masked ball held in 1858 by the Spaniard José de la Guardia, a tradition that has carried on through the years. The Puerto Rican Tourism Company officially adopted it in 1937, and later, in the 1950’s, the government added an official parade. Today the event continues, with a week-long celebration ending the day before Ash Wednesday, and boasts an annual attendance around 100,000.
Ponce Carnival 2016 Schedule (to be announced)
Carnaval Ponceño Traditions
One of the Carnaval traditions is the arrival of the vejigantes, masked and colorfully costumed characters representing good and evil spirits. They carry with them inflated and painted cow bladders that they playfully hit bystanders with to ward off evil. But not to worry, this is a family friendly environment. The local shops sell the spectacular vejigantes masks if you are adventurous enough.
What to Bring & Wear
There are a few things to remember. First, bring a pair of comfortable walking shoes. There could be considerable walking, especially if you didn’t get a great parking spot, plus a lot of standing during the street events. Expect it to be hot and sunny, so dress accordingly-shorts, sunglasses, etc. Stay hydrated and wear sunscreen. Also, bring some change to tip the street musicians and some toilet tissues-there are public restrooms along the route, but they could be out of tissue. Lastly, have fun and join in, as it is definitely encouraged!
Carnaval Ponceño Directions
If you plan to visit the Carnaval, it is 1 ½ to 2 hour drive from San Juan in normal traffic along route 52, a divided toll highway. Plan to arrive early if you want a decent parking spot. There are also many buses throughout the day that can take you there, but expect it to be a 3 hour trip by bus. The festivities take place in downtown Ponce, with the majority of them centering at the Plaza las Delicias.
Plaza las Delicias in Ponce
GPS Coordinants–18.012042, -66.614136