El "Dia de San Juan" Festival Scholarship Fundraiser - Article written by: Edward Perez
I could feel the anticipation building within me for several weeks. I wasn’t alone. My eagerness was being echoed and expressed in the voices and actions of my friends. It was if everyone were a guitar string that had been wound too tightly. So tightly in fact, that if that string were touched, no matter how gently—it would snap. All I heard for weeks was, “Will you be there? Who’s going? Are you going? I’m going. It’s in two weeks. It’s in one week. It’s this weekend. SOB! I can’t sleep! Text me! Let’s leave now!”
This year summer had taken so long arrive that everyone was suffering from cabin fever. Summer would tease us with a nice day, to get our hopes up, and then relapse into several days of drizzle and gray skies. What is this, Seattle? Because of this we were all chomping at the bit to get the festival season started—one half hour of sun followed by three days of cloudy, chill days was torture. We were going to explode if this continued much longer but finally, finally … after many fits and starts the warm weather was here to stay. The sky was blue, the air clean and clear with the sun high and bright in the sky. Perfect—and just in time—because today is the day for “El Día de San Juan” the first grand festival of the summer. I can think of no better way to kick off summer than with a trip to the Caribbean. Ahhh … San Juan, Puerto Rico, sun, sand, and salsa—there is nothing better.
But, dammit, I had a previous engagement that prevented me from arriving until after 2 p.m. Another delay! I’m going to miss so much!
Everyone is already there and I’m stuck here! Even so, I felt lucky being able to go at all because my schedule has been so erratic and insane lately. Once free, I ran home, showered, changed, gathered my gear, put the top down on the convertible and raced to the festival site with a big smile on my face and the wind in my hair. As I drove past I could see the festival was in full swing. I could hear the music, see the smoke wafting through the treetops, and smell all that delicious food. I could hear the laughter and shrieks creating those layers of happy sounds that are produced when people are having a wonderful time. Throngs of people were flowing towards the entrance, cars raced every which way in a desperate search for parking. The main lot was already full and I’m sure had been from early in the day. This is one day when things do not run on “Puerto Rican time.” The number of revelers in attendance left me at the mercy of the street-parking gods but this is never a problem. I don’t know why but I have incredible parking Karma. I found a spot straight out about a quarter of a mile away after a couple of minutes searching.
It was a beautiful day and with each step I took towards the festival it grew even lovelier. As I approached the music increased in volume, the aromas were becoming stronger and more enticing, the symbols and emblems of Puerto Rico more prevalent. Of course nearly every car I passed had a small Puerto Rican flag hanging from its rear-view mirror—but that’s par for the course. What I enjoy most are the more esoteric iterations of esa linda bandera. A tall, dark, gorgeous, curvaceous, long legged woman teetered along on a pair of red, white, and blue knee-high boots with heels set at a height that would make Gene Simmons ask with concern, “Those heels are a little high don’t you think?” A single Puerto Rican star gleamed proudly from each heel with every precarious step she took. Her boots matched her very short-shorts, her generously filled tank top, dangling earrings, multiple rings, smoky glasses, large hat, and make-up.
I often wonder just where to get things like baby carriages, coolers, hubcaps, and bikini tops which are all versions of the Puerto Rican flag … but it doesn’t matter really. What matters, is the utter joy, pride, love of land, country, and self I see all around me. I have never seen another people so completely enamored of their flag in such a joyous and unconditionally loving way. Perhaps the Brazilians are more rabid but, if so, not by much. I must say you have to admire a people who know who they are, love who they are, are proud of who they are, and manifest it in such a way that brings everyone around them such happiness.
Inside the festival was in full bloom: children, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, friends, family were eating, laughing, drinking, dancing, and taking in the first beautiful day of the Summer. I was bathed in the luxurious sights, smells, and sounds of la isla del encanto, Puerto Rico. Everyone is welcome as I can surely attest. Come in. Sit down. Have something to eat. Have some coquito and ensalada de bacalao. Take off your shoes. Wiggle your toes and your hips. Stay awhile. Let’s dance! Merengue. Salsa. Bachata. Cha-cha-cha. Bomba.Plena. Reggaeton. Rumba. Guaguanco, it doesn’t really matter because El "Día de San Juan" Festival is everything a festival should be and I was so happy to be there—finally! I had looked forward to this day for so long, and now, it had arrived and it was more than glorious.
I’m already looking forward to next year. Are you going?