The Island’s Traditions Are Strong In Pennsylvania
The longest Christmas celebrations in the world are in Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans begin their celebrations before Thanksgiving and extending it until the third weekend in January culminating with El Festival de la Calle San Sebastian in Old San Juan. Those traditions are imported to Pennsylvania by the more than 500,000 Puerto Ricans living in the state – and those arriving here every month.
The smell of pasteles and pernil asado are synchronized with the smell of coquito, arroz con gandules, and arroz con dulce in cities and towns where these traditions have been transported and celebrated. In many instances, these smells join the traditional Pennsylvania Dutch smells creating a culinary kaleidoscope that is second-to-none. The sounds of el cuatro, maracas, and guiro are the greatest expression of musica jibara which is played all year round but during this season takes a stronger, more meaningful and serious approach for identity and pride.
The parrandas are symbols of friendship – for old ones to meet or for new ones to emerge. They are traditions passed down by many generations. In so many places in Pennsylvania, these sounds join the traditional Christmas caroling of Mennonites creating a hormonic kaleidoscope transcending races and religions.
As we celebrate this special season with folklore, food, music, culture, and traditions, let’s make it a priority to wish each other prosperity, health, and peace. Allow the symbolic birth of baby Jesus to serve as the birth of our renewed commitment to build a Pennsylvania worthy of the sacrifices of our ancestors and worthy of the future of our children.
¡Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año Nuevo!
Norman Bristol Colon