Fiestas Tradicionales de Santiago Apóstol (St. James Carnival) is one of Puerto Rico ’s liveliest and most colorful festivals, spanning about six days around July 25. Based in Plaza de Recreo de Loíza, the festival features lots of costumed parades, dances, street pageants, concerts, and traditional food vendors.
Ostensibly a celebration of the town’s patron saint, St. Patrick, religion takes a back seat to this raucous street party that has origins in 13th-century Spain but is heavily influenced by African traditions.
At the center of the celebration is a street pageant in which costumed caballeros (Spanish knights), masked vejigantes (Moors), and locas (trickster men dressed as old women) reenact Spain’s defeat of the Moors. The colorful vejigante mask, made from coconut shell, wire, and papier-mâché and featuring protruding horns, has become a highly collectible, iconic symbol of the festival and Puerto Rico  as a whole, and there are several local artisans in the area who produce them.
St. James Carnival is also a prime place to revel in the African-influenced bomba music, which is performed late into the night.