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At the center of this program is the San Sebastian Street Festival in Old San Juan. Our participation in the San Sebastian Street Festival will include the opening ceremony, parades, arts and crafts exhibits and live music entertainment in different plazas.
The main site for the program will be Old San Juan. Called "La Ciudad Amurallada," (The Walled City), Old San Juan was founded in 1521. In 1508 Juan Ponce de León founded the original settlement, Caparra, behind the almost landlocked harbor just to the west of the present metropolitan area. The settlement was abandoned and moved to the site of what is now called Old San Juan. San Juan is one of the biggest and best natural harbors in the Caribbean and is the second oldest city in the Americas.
During our first day our Program Leader and a Puerto Rican architect will lead a full day walking tour through the narrow streets of Old San Juan to experience five centuries of Spanish Caribbean history. We will become acquainted with significant architectural features of the city, historical sites, forts, plazas, cultural centers, fountains, museums, and galleries and with Old San Juan lively people's cultural life and idiosyncrasy.
In addition to our participation in the main venues of the San Sebastian Street Festival, we will expand on our understanding of Puerto Rican culture when will visit the Museum of Art of Puerto Rico, a modern five-story structure in a 1920 neo-classic building. The Museum supports Puerto Rico's 500 years old tradition in painting, sculpture, graphics, ceramics, folk art, photography and other contemporary media; nothing like art history to learn the history of a nation.
We will get a glance at contemporary arts visiting the Puerto Rican Contemporary Art Museum. Founded in 1984, the Puerto Rican Museum of Contemporary Art was the result of collaboration between a number of generous artists and the civil society to create a collection of a variety of art forms and contemporary art expressions.
To experience Puerto Rican dance and music we will explore night entertainment venues.
THE VIBRANT SAN SEBASTIAN FESTIVAL
Amongst the cobblestone streets, restored buildings from the sixteenth and seventeenth century, and the charm of a district in Puerto Rico that has existed for more than four hundred and ninety years, tourists often loose themselves in an ocean of attractions. They come here to explore the history of Old San Juan, try their hand at the casino, take walks along the picturesque beaches and explore the noteworthy sights and attractions, such as the Plaza de San Jose, Plaza del Quinto Centenario and Plaza de Armas. But in January, they come to take part in a tradition that is rooted in the culture of Puerto Rico, the San Sebastian Street Festival.
The annual celebration of the San Sebastian Street Festival has been taking place for more than fifty years. It is a festival that was created for the local community, giving artists and handcraft traders the opportunity to exhibit their work, as well as to bring business to the area. The plan worked better than expected, as within a few years thousands of tourists flocked to Puerto Rico to attend the San Sebastian Street Festival, creating a lucrative tourist industry and bringing business and prosperity to an almost forgotten district.
During the day, the streets of Old San Juan are jam packed with people, food stalls, live music, artists, craft exhibits and vendors. The only way to reach San Sebastian Street is on foot as no vehicle of any kind will be able to make it through the mass of festival enthusiasts. It is an eventthat is looked forward to all year and the parades of color and noise attract thousands of spectators who come to see the parade participants in their vibrant costumes and traditional vejigantes masks.
First day of the San Sebastian Street Festival. Opening parade of the cabezudos and comparsas.
A landmark monument to the Conquistador Age and one of the most historic hotels in Old San Juan Puerto Rico, Hotel El Convento in San Juan, Puerto Rico showcases a timeless aura of Old World charm and splendor. Befitting its origins as a Carmelite convent more than 350 years ago, our splendid Puerto Rico luxury hotel is a loving restoration of Spanish Colonial architecture and design. All 58 elegant rooms are adorned with rich wooden beams, handcrafted tiles, carved chairs, velvet settees, and antique chests. Our colorful past at El Convento in San Juan includes highlights such as:
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