Puerto Rico: The Holiday Island with the Longest Christmas Season in the World, Part II, by Luis Martínez-Fernández


After nearly four centuries of colonial rule under Catholic Spain, in 1899 Puerto Rico became an American colony, a transition that opened the floodgates for efforts to “Americanize” the population, the most ambitious of which – and the United States. more disastrous – has been the temporary imposition of English as the language of school instruction.

Since then, Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States has oscillated between the political poles of independence and statehood; politicians and voters on the island too.

Unfortunately, almost all issues are politicized on the basis of parties. The calendar of public holidays and the way government officials celebrate certain holidays are not immune to partisanship.

Take, for example, last week’s official New Years celebration, the spectacular midnight rise of a bright star (as opposed to a falling ball) culminating in fireworks. Video from the show highlights the use of pro-state imagery – watch and judge for yourself. Rather than the Star of Bethlehem, onlookers saw a rising star of the American flag (symbolizing the desire to make Puerto Rico the 51st state) surrounded by sparks forming the shape of coconut leaves. The coconut palm is the emblem of the pro-state New Progressive Party.

Puerto Rico’s 1902 Political Code established the island’s official holiday calendar, which, as one would expect, was a politically and culturally hybrid list. He eliminated most of the Spanish Catholic holidays, the day of Corpus Christi, for example; kept on New Year’s Day, Good Friday and Christmas Day; and added four more federal holidays: George Washington’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Thanksgiving Day. Two other territorial holidays completed the calendar of the nine holidays: March 22 (Spanish abolition of slavery in Puerto Rico) and July 25 (the day of the American invasion in 1898).

Each new federal holiday is observed on the island, which has added several days on its side. I will take a vacation any day of the week, but I find it strange that Puerto Ricans are watching both the Discovery of America (October 12) and the Discovery of Puerto Rico (November 19); the abolition of slavery in Puerto Rico (March 22) and Juneteenth. Yes, the Commonwealth’s holiday calendar reflects his political schizophrenia.

During the 20th century, the government of Puerto Rico added numerous public holidays, all of a political nature, including four commemorating the birthdays of political leaders who defended one of the three formulas of political status: Eugenio Maria de Hostos and Jose de Diego (independence), Munoz Rivera (autonomy) and Jose Celso Barbosa (State); and from 1952, on July 25, the commemoration of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Nations.

In 2016, Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla of the pro-Commonwealth People’s Democratic Party, who months earlier declared Puerto Rico’s $ 72 billion debt “unpayable”, enacted a bill that reduced the number of days public holidays from 20 (21 during elections years) to 16 (15). “We cannot get Puerto Rico out of its economic slump,” the governor said, “sunbathing at the beach”. The birthdays of the aforementioned politicians were now grouped together on the third Monday in January, with the birthdays of five new ones – let’s call them “notable” – once again, representing each of the political status options. Previously known as “Presidents Day”, it would now be “Puerto Rican Presidents and Patriots Day”. In the interest of gender balance, 10 Puerto Rican women have been added to the pantheon of patriots.

Openly partisan, Garcia Padilla’s successor Ricardo Rossello of the New Progressive Party abolished Commonwealth Constitution Day and added (March 2) to U.S. Citizenship Day. In 2021, his pro-state successor, Pedro Pierluisi, reinstated Commonwealth Constitution Day and the birthday of pro-state leader Barbosa.

When the People’s Democratic Party returns to power, Barbosa can be expected to be fired on generic Patriots’ Day.


As I write these words – it is January 7, the day after Kings Day – the Christmas season is over. In Protestant tradition, it actually ended on January 1. The next day, many of my neighbors started carrying their Christmas trees to the sidewalk to pick them up. On the holiday side, this Protestant writer embraces his ancestral Catholicism.

On many public holidays in Puerto Rico, the Christmas season has started early and won’t end until January 24. As the popular Christmas song “Lechon (roast pork), Lechon, Lechon” says: “As November ends I’m already well prepared… and after January 6th we continue the tradition and the octavitas begin. “Félicidades!

It is only 10 days before the next holiday (beach day), Martin Luther King Jr. Day. A further 15 public holidays will be observed during the remainder of 2022.

Luis Martinez-Fernandez is the author of “Revolutionary Cuba: a History” and “Key to the New World: a History of the First Colonial Cuba. »Readers can reach him at [email protected] To learn more about Luis Martinez-Fernandez and read articles from other Creators Syndicate authors and designers, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www. creators.com.


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