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A Festivity in the Río Piedras Botanical Garden

A Playdate among Nature and Culture
Publication of Discovery: March 12, 2016
Issue: March, 2016

The University of Puerto Rico Botanical Garden is a great place where kids may explore beautiful flora and fauna, play in a green space and learn about the ecosystem through arts and crafts workshops offered on Saturdays by the Workshops Program for Kids administered by a foundation named Fundación Ecológica Educativa, Inc. This botanical garden is located in the Municipality of Río Piedras, Puerto Rico.

The foundation held a festivity targeted at kids to commemorate Saint Sebastian (San Sebastián) and the official festival being held in his honor on the same weekend in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. The festivity in the botanical garden offered kids and families amenities that promoted Puerto Rico’s culture and folklore in an open space surrounded by nature. This special event gave the opportunity to participate in the activities and explore beyond these.

Since we arrived very early in the morning to the botanical garden, we had the chance to first admire the natural areas nearby. The adventurer kid who accompanied us loved to be able to run around the green space, and mostly the exploration per se.

The area named “Laguna Grande” (Big Lagoon) surprised us with beautiful scenery comprising an artificial pond surrounded by many trees and flowers. As the adventurer kid explored the surroundings, he was amazed at a small brown and very interesting lizard that was eating his prey.

The relaxing sounds of water running on a stream and the nearby wooden bridge caught the attention of the adventurer kid. He could not resist the sudden urge to get his hands wet and at the same time admire the water flowing on pure soil and rocks. He conquered the bridge and the stream.

The adventurer kid was also delighted with the small and colorful wooden bridges and the water fountain in other green areas. Not only the kid felt free, but also he found very amusing to cross the bridges over and over again.

Then we headed to one of the arts and crafts workshops aimed at kids during the festivity in honor of Saint Sebastian. The task was to create a puppet depicting a “cabezudo” face. “Cabezudos” (Big Heads) are people who disguise with oversized heads made of papier-maché, foam or fiber glass, and a matching costume. They participate in a parade at the official San Sebastián Festival celebrated in Old San Juan. The “cabezudos” depict persons or characters that the residents of Old San Juan liked back at the time when the San Sebastián Festival was first organized and thereafter.

During the workshop, the boys were given the task to create The General “cabezudo” puppet that depicts the face of a former resident of Old San Juan, who used to wear a police uniform with medals and guard the San Francisco Street. The girls’ task was to craft a pig “cabezudo” puppet, which represents the pig character in the traditional Puerto Rican folktale stories of “Juan Bobo”.

Ms. Norma Rivera instructed the kids on how to craft their puppet. The materials needed to make this craft are: (1) fleece fabric, (2) school glue, and (3) plastic eyes for the pig puppet.

Following this workshop, we took a break for lunch. The adventurer kid ate the traditional Puerto Rican “pincho”, pieces of pork on a wooden skewer. I savored a guanime with stewed cod. The guanime is a dish resulting from the Tainos indigenous people heritage, and is mainly elaborated with cornmeal.

After our hunger was satisfied, we gladly headed to the next arts and craft workshop for kids. This time the craft to create was in honor of the “vegigantes”, the folkloric characters that traditionally are present at African roots’ festivals celebrated in Puerto Rico.

Mr. Angel Díaz gladly instructed the kids on how to depict a “vegigante” on a cardboard with the following materials: (1) colorful silk paper, (2) toothpicks, (3) plasticine, and (4) school glue. Kids were free to design the “vegigante” of their choice.

Please check out the article’s photo gallery so you may see the creations of the adventurer kid and his friends.

Afterwards, we listened to Puerto Rican popular music, and continued enjoying other amenities of the festivity.

The kids’ arts and crafts workshops available in the Río Piedras Botanical Garden on Saturdays are available from 1:00 pm- 3:00 pm. For detailed information, you may contact Paquita Gómez at 787-759-6678 or send an email to aventuraeneljardin@yahoo.com.

tour provider: Fundación Ecológica Educativa
book here
where the crew ate: Yola s Fondita de Mar
photograph by: N. Michelle Rodríguez

Note: This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all details with the pertinent businesses before planning your trip. Please be cautious. The company behind this publication assumes no responsibility for your safety when participating in the activities mentioned in this article. You are responsible for confirming whether you are capable of participating in any of these activities or tours, regardless of the effort level or any other information provided in this website.

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mind speak!

Salvador Ferrer, San Juan, PR- “My favorite attractions were the water flowing on the stream, and the bridges.” (translation ours)

Sofía Hernández, San Juan, PR- “I liked crafting the puppet and gluing the pieces together.” (translation ours)

Daniel Hernández, San Juan, PR- “I liked preparing the puppet with the General’s face.” (translation ours)

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