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Sanse 2021... The Fiestas That Couln't Be | Orlando Mergal

Yeah, that’s me in 2008. Click to see image larger.

Puerto Rico has one of the longest Christmas seasons in the world. It starts on Thanksgiving day and ends with “las octavitas”. These are the eight days that follow “Three Kings Day”, which takes place on January 6. Another event that usually coincides with “las octavitas” is “Las Fiestas De La Calle San Sebastian” (The San Sebastian Street Fiestas), which usually take place on the third weekend of January, from Thursday to Sunday. This year it would’ve been Sanse 2021.

So why Sanse 2021? Along the years some “creative” publicist came up with the idea of shortening the name of the fiestas to SanSe XXXXX, where the exes are replaced with the corresponding year. I personally hate the idea. I feel like it cheapens the event and detracts from its character and tradition. After all, you don’t hear anyone call Las Fiestas de San Fermín “la SanFe”, or Mardi Gras “the Margra”.

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World renown events like “Las Fiestas De La Calle San Sebastián” have earned their world class status through the hard work of hundreds of everyday people who devote time and energy and generally don’t expect anything in return. We shouldn’t throw out decades of name recognition only to replace them with faddish commercial monikers.

But hey, that’s only my opinion.  Let me get of my soapbox…

Sanse 2021... The Fiestas That Couln't Be | Orlando Mergal

Click on image to see it larger.

This year SanSe 2021 (God, I hate that name!) is not going to happen. Covid-19 took care of that. After all, the “largest street fiestas in the world”, taking place in the month of January, would’ve been the “largest super spreader” in the history of the Corona Virus Pandemic.

Just imagine close to half a million people, spread over a four-day period, congregated in a couple of narrow streets in Old San Juan, shoulder to shoulder like canned sardines. Puerto Rico would become the Covid-19 capitol of the world in no time!  Dr. Fauci would cringe!!!

So, incoming mayor Miguel Romero did the right thing. He cancelled them. Albeit, I still don’t get the “divine will” part, that he says was the main criteria for his decision. With all due respect Mr. Mayor, God didn’t cause the proliferation of Covid-19. It was human haughtiness, stupidity and sheer carelessness. But then again, let me get off my soapbox…

Become An Honorary Puerto Rican

In any case, if you were planning to spend some time in Puerto Rico, warm up and attend Sanse 2021, you’ll have to plan for 2022. In fact, I’d stay home altogether.  I wouldn’t be caught dead on a plane until I’ve been vaccinated. But again, that’s just me.

However, just to whet your appetite, and to make sure that you DO come next year, I thought I’d show you some pictures from years past.


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©2021,Orlando Mergal, MA

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Learn More About Puerto Rico

Dusk at san Juan Bay, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Enjoy an adventure through centuries of history.

Juan Diego Falls, El Yunque National Rainforest, Río Grande, Puerto Rico

Explore the only tropical rain forest in the U.S.

Morning at Combate Beach, Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico

Have fun at one Puerto Rico's world renown beaches.

Orlando Mergal buys all his photo equipment at B&H

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means that if you click on a link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services that I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


The San Sebastián Street Festival in Puerto Rico, or La SanSe, which dates back to 1954, has made its way stateside in recent years, with 2017 celebrations planned in Boston and Orlando. Fiestas de la Calle, Miami, which was scheduled for its second year, was canceled for logistical reasons (with the intention of returning in 2018). For those living in the Boston area, the Villa Victoria Center for the Arts has partnered with The Theater Offensive to launch their inaugural La SanSe celebration. Yet the largest and longest running festival happens in Orlando, where an estimated 400,000 Puerto Ricans live in the metropolitan area.

La SanSe is annual street festival that takes place in Viejo San Juan, beginning on the the Thursday of the third week of January and lasting until Sunday. It honors the Christian saint and martyr Saint Sebastián whose feast day is celebrated on January 20th. According to sources, the festivities “were organized by Father Madrazo, parish priest of the San José Church in Old San Juan with the purpose of raising funds in order to repair various church buildings.” Years later, the festival was discontinued, only to be revived in 1970 by anthropologist Ricardo Alegría who “suggested to Rafaela Balladares de Brito, resident of San Sebastián Street, to resume the festival celebration.” Again, with philanthropy in mind, the festival raised money for an elementary school, the Colegio de Párvulos, which is located on the same street. (To learn more about the festival’s history, click here). Nowadays, more than 200,000 people attend the San Sebastian Street Festival each year. And for many, it marks the end of the long holiday season in Puerto Rico–with traditional music, dancing, food, local artisans, and cabezudos of important figures; among the festivities.

La SanSe Takes Orlando officially began in 2015, though festival organizer Javier Rivera had been organizing San Sebastián celebrations in the area as early as 2009. Those events were relatively small in comparison, typically hosted by local businesses–until 2014, when around 7,000 people unexpectedly showed up. That prompted a move to a bigger venue the following year–Festival Park in Orlando–and so La SanSe Takes Orlando was born. Now in its third year, the festival has continued to grow in size and reputation. Rivera says that people travel from all over Florida state and Puerto Rico to attend La SanSe Takes Orlando, which takes place January 14-15th. Last year for example, the festival averaged 22,000 attendees per day, and this year he expects that number to reach 30,000; which is why the two-day event has been moved to yet another venue, the Central Florida Orlando Fairgrounds.

The event is free and open to the public, with over two dozens sponsors. Musical acts include La Tribu de Abrante, Andrés Jiménez, Vico C, Plenealo, and several DJ acts, among others. Atención Atención, the well-known children’s act from Puerto Rico, will also be performing. In addition, actor and philanthropist Raymond Arrieta will be honored by the festival, and news anchor Carmen Dominici has been named Madrina of La SanSe Takes Orlando.

Like Three Kings Day before it, La SanSe is a reminder of home, of traditions that originate on the island, but find roots in the diaspora as well. El Museo del Barrio, for instance, celebrated the 40th anniversary of its annual parade in East Harlem. La SanSe Takes Orlando could be the start of the long-running tradition that may one day rival the original. For now, Rivera hopes the festival will continue to grow and possibly expand to more cities, giving Puerto Ricans stateside something extra to look forward to during the holiday season.

For more information on La SanSe Takes Orlando, click here. 

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On The Town: 5 Things to Know About La Sanse Takes Orlando

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Here are five things you should know about Orlando's Puerto Rican festival, La Sanse.

1. Largest Puerto Rican Festival in Florida

La Sanse is touted as the largest Puerto Rican festival in Florida and the 4th largest in the nation. “This event is going to smell like Puerto Rico and it's going to sound like Puerto Rico,” event co-producer Jan Michael Ramery said.

2. Thousands Attend the Festival

20,000 people are expected both days this weekend.

3. Celebration Dates Back to 1954

The festival is a celebration of the one that started back in 1954 in San Juan. La Fiesta de la Calle San Sebastian has unofficially become the bookend of the Christmas season in Puerto Rico.

4. Replica of a Famous Door in San Juan

At Sanse, Puerto Ricans will recognize a replica of one of the most famous doors in San Juan. "In La Calle de San Sebastian, there is an abandoned building and someone, many years ago, came and painted a flag on the door,” Ramery said. “People started taking pictures with it." There’s also a country cottage, another selfie station. “We do something called chinchorreo. We visit places like that to eat and to have a drink."

5. Admission to the Event is Free

La Sanse Takes Orlando is Jan. 19-20 at the Central Florida Fairgrounds. Admission is free.

For more information, visit

Coming to Orlando in 2022

La SanSe Takes Orlando brings thousands to Orlando to celebrate Puerto Rican culture

click to enlargesanse_orlando.jpg
Our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico are getting a lot of challenges tossed their way of late, between earthquakes and Trump’s callous disregard of his duties to provide aid and comfort in times of emergency. This is a vibrant island and culture that needs to be celebrated, and so La SanSe returns for another year just in the nick of time. The free event offers a wealth of music, arts, food, vendors, traditional dancing, drink and perspectives from Puerto Rico and its people, so interwoven into the cultural fabric of Central Florida. The musical offerings, featuring a partial Menudo (!) reunion (get ready to scream, and then maybe register to vote with Boricua Vota), Andres Jimenez, LIMI-T 21, Puertorrican Power and Los DPR, among others, are top-shelf. Weekend plans: made.

11 a.m. Saturday-Sunday, Jan. 18-19 | Orlando Amphitheater, 4603 W. Colonial Drive | 407-295-3247 || free

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