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Culture

Photo: Ponce Museum of Art, Ponce

Puerto Rico’s culture is a lively mix of Taíno, African, and Spanish influences. This fusion extends to almost every aspect of Puerto Rican life: our rich cuisine, colorful arts and crafts, vibrant music, and traditional festivals.

You’ll experience this diversity anywhere you look, listen, and taste. Our museums feature both European classics and Afro-Caribbean sculpture. Our buildings blend traditional colonial styles with a bright palette of colors. Our music brings together instruments, rhythms and sounds from eras and places as distant from each other as 18th century West Africa and medieval Spain.

Puerto Rico’s yearly calendar is teeming with mesmerizing cultural events, such as the Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián that mark the end of Christmas in the winter to the Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest that brings together international Latin jazz stars during the spring. But no matter when you come, our culture will be all around you.

Different examples of Puerto Rican arts and crafts reflect the diversity of its cultural heritage. There are the vejigante masks that represent benevolent spirits found in African religions. There are hand-carved saints taken directly from our Spanish Catholic tradition. Then there’s mundillo, an ancient Taíno lace-making technique. Museums around the island exhibit Puerto Rico’s unique variety of identities in their maximum artistic expression.

A small but priceless gem in Old San Juan, the House of the Book, or Casa del Libro, is a must-visit for any book-lover. Among its treasures are documents signed by Catholic monarchs dating back to Columbus’s second voyage in 1493 and over 300 volumes from the 15th century.

The playful yet instructive Museo del NiГ±o is a favorite destination for kids of all ages. With exhibits that include a mini TV studio, a children-only town, and a variety of exhibits that educate children about science, health, music and art, the museum is a unique and delightful attraction in Old San Juan.

Children’s Museum in Carolina

More than 100 thematic, interactive, and educational exhibitions for all ages and interests. The museums also features outdoor games, a go-kart track, and a full-size American Airlines airplane.

Museo de Arte de Ponce

One of the most important centers of European art in the Caribbean, the Museo de Arte de Ponce is one of Puerto Rico’s most renowned cultural treasures. Among the artists on display here are Roy Lichtenstein, Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones and Lord Frederic Leighton, to name just a few. The museum is ingeniously designed not by period or style, but rather by a “point and counterpoint” philosophy that combines works that present contrasting viewpoints of a common theme or subject.

Museum of Contemporary Art

Housed in the historic Rafael M. Labra, the Museo de Arte ContemporГЎneo (MAC) celebrates a great variety of modern art expression, from paintings and sculpture, to video and mixed media.

Museum of Transportation

Discover Puerto Rico transportation history. An exciting journey through time. The Museum offers a wide array of activities for the whole family. Try your skills on one of museum's state-of-the-art flight and race simulators. Experience the adrenaline rush on a Grand Prix race simulator. Admire an authentic recreation of a gas service station and enjoy all the fun exhibitions.

Puerto Rico Museum of Art

The Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (MAPR) in Santurce is San Juan’s magnificent fine arts showcase. Inaugurated in 2000, the architecturally stunning, 130,000 square-foot structure exhibits works including Puerto Rican art from the 17th century to the present. In addition, the museum hosts numerous exhibits throughout the year and boasts an outstanding children’s interactive exhibit.

FundaciГіn Luis MuГ±oz MarГ­n

Enjoy a visit to the home-museum of Luis MuГ±oz Marin - first elected Governor of Puerto Rico, the DoГ±a Ines Park Arboretum and a visitor center. Offer educational and interpretative tours. Daily tours at 10:00 am and 1:00 pm. Appointments required for groups. For information contact: (787) 755-7979 x. 201/202.

The most whimsical building in Ponce is a red-and-black Moorish fire station located in Plaza Las Delicias. Built in 1882, the striking Parque de Bombas was the city’s primary fire station for over a century. In 1990, it was decommissioned and converted into a museum commemorating the history of Ponce’s firefighters.

Performing arts in Puerto Rico are an essential part of our cultural offering, as well as one of the richest and most diverse traditions in the entire Caribbean. Besides the large cities of San Juan and Ponce, many smaller towns have local theaters, some of which are housed in historic buildings. Our crown jewel, Teatro Tapia, has the oldest freestanding drama stage in the United States.

Teatro Francisco ArrivГ­

This art-deco theater was built in 1939 and was a Santurce icon for much of the era. In the 1960s it became a showcase for Mexican and South American cinema. Today, it’s home to a variety of shows, from international productions and musical concerts to puppet theaters.

Teatro La Perla

Teatro La Perla (“The Pearl Theater”) captures Ponce’s artistic heart. The first theater in Ponce was built in 1846; the neoclassical white-columned structure you see today dates to 1862. It is the premier venue for operas, plays, concerts and other events. It is also among the largest theaters in the Caribbean and one of its most historic. It can seat just over 1,000 people, and its acoustics are so good that microphones aren’t really necessary.

A visit to Teatro Tapia is more than a night out at a theater; it’s a tribute to the history of performing arts in Puerto Rico. This classic icon, located on Fortaleza Street in Old San Juan, houses the oldest freestanding theater stage still in use in the United States. The horseshoe-shaped theater was built in 1824 and seats about 700 people. Today, the iconic theater hosts ballets, concerts, operas, plays, and other cultural events. Tickets can be purchased online at Ticket Center PR.

Set at the crossroads of the main highways connecting the north to the south and the center to the east of the Island, Caguas is a place where the past, present and future of Puerto Rican culture meet.

The Garden exhibits the rich multicultural wealth that’s the foundation of the creole heritage, combining the Taíno, African, and Spanish influences. The Garden also exhibits tropical flora in all its exuberance and variety and is home to a great variety of wildlife.

Inside the Cathedral of Caguas lie the remains of the first beatified Puerto Rican, Carlos Manuel “Charlie” Rodríguez, who was born and raised in Caguas.

When you visit the Caguas Botanical and Cultural Garden, you learn about the Pre-Columbian TaГ­no indigenous people once ruled by Chief Caguax. In the second portion of the tour you participate in creating a native TaГ­no dish using indigenous cooking methods. Open from Thursday to Sunday. Transportation available from San Juan piers.

Jayuya, “The Indigenous Capital of Puerto Rico”

Tucked-away in the mountains, this municipality has been able to preserve many remnants of the native taГ­no culture. Visit its museums and natural lush attractions.

Plaza de la RevoluciГіn y HeladerГ­a Lares

Back in 1868, the mountain town of Lares was witness to Puerto Rico’s first attempt at independence. The failed uprising against Spanish rule had its epicenter at the town square, now known as the Plaza de la Revolución. Across the street from the plaza is another – quite different in tone, yet much beloved – institution that has been associated with the town for decades, the Heladería Lares. Since 1968, this parlor has treated its patrons to a unique ice cream experience. Although traditional fare, such as vanilla and chocolate, is always served, more adventurous palettes will likely gravitate towards the curious assortment of distinct flavors waiting to be sampled, including rice & beans, corn, tomato, and even cod fish!

The race is world-renowned, welcoming runners from over 50 countries throughout the years. But the event also attracts thousands of spectators from all over Puerto Rico who come to see the race and enjoy the San Blas Festival.

The Route is a journey of 11 stops through Caguas’s traditional urban center that includes City Hall Museum, Tobacco Museum, Art Museum, Musical Center, Popular Arts Museum, the Cathedral, and other historic sites.

One of Puerto Rico’s most important celebrations is the San Sebastián Street Festival, which is held in January all over Old San Juan but mainly on San Sebastián Street. The festival began as a celebration by a local priest to commemorate the life of Saint Sebastian, a martyr who died in the name of Christianity. Residents of Old San Juan wanted to bring back the event. They would decorate their balconies, religious processions would take place on the streets, and local artists would exhibit their paintings or sculptures, creating an impromptu street market. Some 40 years later, these practices remain intact, with one small difference. What was once a small crowd of residents has now become a national event attended by tens of thousands of revelers each year. For four straight days, music, food, art and cocktails enthrall the attendees until the wee hours of the morning.

The Three Kings Day, or Epiphany, is one of the most important holidays on the Puerto Rican calendar. Traditionally, the island, and most of the Latin world, marked January 6 as the day to exchange presents. On the night before, Three Kings eve, kids would gather grass, hay or straw in shoe-boxes for the Magi's horses or camels. Traditionally, you'll find carvings and artwork of the three kings on horses instead of camels; those are called Puerto Rican Kings as horses were the main transportation medium in the island back in the 19 century.

Every year, for more than four decades, the town of Aibonito hosts the largest plant show & sale on the island. The Festival de las Flores features exotic flowers & plant displays, a large section for plant sales, live local music shows, and food kiosks. It is usually celebrated on the last weekend of June or the first weekend of July.

The race is world-renowned, welcoming runners from over 50 countries throughout the years. But the event also attracts thousands of spectators from all over Puerto Rico who come to see the race and enjoy the San Blas Festival.

The race is world-renowned, welcoming runners from over 50 countries throughout the years. But the event also attracts thousands of spectators from all over Puerto Rico who come to see the race and enjoy the San Blas Festival.

As one of the earliest Spanish settlements in the New World, Puerto Rico’s oldest structures aren’t just historic. Many of them were among of the first of their kind built in the Western Hemisphere. Any of them are guaranteed to take you back in time.

Formerly the house of a town mayor, it is now a history and culture museum. Tours that begin here take you to other town landmarks.

These sulfur water springs have been open since the 19th century.

This mansion was the one-time home of the family that produced Don Q rum. It is a magnificent example of the opulence and lavish lifestyle of turn-of-the-century aristocracy in the south of Puerto Rico. Today, it is a lovingly restored museum and showcase.

Across the street from the castle is a massive cross-shaped tower called the VigГ­a Cross. This structure commemorates a much older cross that once stood on this site in the 1800s. The original structure was a cross-tree (cruceta) from which numerous flags were hung. The flags signaled which ships were approaching Ponce harbor.

A unique 19th century landmark and an engineering marvel, Hacienda Buena Vista houses the only remaining, operating model of a Barker hydraulic turbine. The American Society of Mechanical Engineering named it a Mechanical Engineering Landmark in 1994. Among the meticulously restored buildings at Hacienda Buena Vista are the 19th century manor house of the plantation owners, stables, slave quarters, and an extensive stone canal that channeled water to the mill.

One of the most important archaeological finds in the Caribbean islands, the Tibes Ceremonial Center traces the lives of indigenous tribes in Puerto Rico to approximately 25 A.D. To date, excavations at Tibes have uncovered ball courts, skeletons, and ceremonial plazas.

This parochial temple houses the ruins of an historic shrine built by Franciscan friars in stone in memory of martyrs who died at the hands of the Caribe Indians in 1528.

The second oldest cathedral in the Americas, the San Juan Cathedral dates back centuries. The original structure, built in 1521, no longer stands; the current building was begun in 1540 and gradually evolved into the graceful Gothic façade you see today.

Located in the western town of San Germán, Porta Coeli (“Heaven’s Gate”) is one of the oldest churches in the Americas. It was built by the Dominican order in 1609 out of masonry and stucco. Its red façade is the most distinctive landmark of its city. It houses a museum of religious art, including a 17th century portrait of St. Nicholas de Bari, better known today as Santa Claus. Close to Porta Coeli is the town’s cathedral, San Germán de Auxerre. With an intricate and lavish interior, it’s one of the largest buildings in the region.

Built in the small town of Hormigueros in the west coast, this basilica dates back to the late 16th century as a dedication to the Virgin of Montserrat. Its architecture combines Romantic elements and features a bell tower with Arabic elements.

Puerto Rican culture is mostly a fusion of Taíno, African and Spanish influences. Music is certainly not the exception, although other cultures have also contributed to Puerto Rico’s rich musical traditions. Perhaps the defining characteristic of Puerto Rican lies on its percussion.

Here are a couple of our most distinctive musical styles:

This style traces most of its heritage from Africa. Its instrumentation is exclusively based on hand drums and small percussion like maracas or shakers. When performed live, it’s always a passionate exchange between drummer and dancer.

Played especially during the Christmas season, plena is often considered our version of the carol. Its instrumentation almost always features hand drums called “panderos” and a scrape gourd known as the “guiro.” Its most distinctive feature is its vocal part, in which the singer interprets rhyming verses about any theme.

This is our local take on the waltz. The most famous example is “La Borinqueña,” our national anthem.

Originally, a mixture of Cuban, Puerto Rican, and other Afro-Caribbean rhythms, it took form within Nuyorican communities (New Yorkers of Puerto Rican descent), where it also adopted elements of American styles such as rock and R&B. Today, it’s Puerto Rico’s most widely danced genre.

The newest addition to Puerto Rico’s musical catalog, it’s a fusion of Jamaican dancehall, Panamanian reggae, and American hip-hop.

Puerto Rico’s Coliseum has capacity for up to 18,500 people. It routinely hosts a great diversity of events: music concerts, sports, family shows, and private shows. Its facilities were constructed in compliance with NBA and NHL standards, sizes, and regulations.

Atlantic San Juan Tours

FundaciГіn Luis MuГ±oz MarГ­n

Old San Juan Heritage Walking Tours

Private Tours of Old San Juan (Leisure Awakenings)

Puerto Rico Historic Building Drawings Society (PRHBDS)

25 Photos of Puerto Rico That Will Have You Planning Your Next Vacation

If you didn't already want to visit Puerto Rico, you will now.

Puerto Rico is much more than sparkling beaches around every turn. There's really something for every kind of traveler to enjoy—even if spending a lazy day under the sun isn't your cup of tea. Old San Juan, castillos, Fortaleza Street (otherwise known as "Restaurant Row" to the locals), ziplining, rainforests—the list of travel-worthy experiences goes on. Ahead, 23 photos of Puerto Rico's most beautiful sites to kick off your trip planning.

This cave, which is situated on top of a limestone cliff, in Arecibo is the perfect day trip. Don’t miss it—your Instagram followers will thank you.

Beaches, rainforests, dry forests—Puerto Rico has it all.

Any destination with a waterfall is well worth a visit.

Located 17 miles east of Puerto Rico's mainland, Culebra Island's Soni Beach is a day dream turned reality.

Thanks to its many gorgeous beaches, Puerto Rico is home to perfect surf conditions for hobbyists and professionals.

Not to be missed: This natural phenomenon is one of a handful of places in the world that you can float among the bioluminescent glow of microorganisms.

Ol San Juan is the oldest territory in Puerto Rico, dating back to 1521.

You can't visit Puerto Rico without trying some of their drink of choice: Rum.

Old San Juan was dubbed a World Heritage Site in 1983.

Old San Juan is full of small gardens, tended to by locals.

Stretch out in the sand and take in the historic views of Old San Juan at the same time.

Kayaking is one of the many outdoor adventures you can have on just about any beach in Puerto Rico.

Old San Juan is made of up of seven square blocks filled with ancient buildings, massive stone walls, and colonial homes.

Measuring in at 130,000-square-feet, this is one of the largest museums in the Caribbean.

The beaches light up come nightfall, serving to an entirely different crowd than during the afternoon hours.

Pastel-colored homes line the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan.

The scenic Guajataca Tunnel connect the cities of Isabela and Quebradillas.

In the early 16th century, this castle was the only protection against sea attacks on Puerto Rico.

Colorful homes in the original capital of Puerto Rico: Old San Juan.

The soldier sleeping quarters at Castillo San Cristobal

An onlookers view of Fort San Cristobal.

An aerial view of the resort-lined Isla Verde Beach.

The tiny Coqui Frog is native to Puerto Rico, mainly known for its shrill call.

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