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One Huge Parranda Bash: The Festival of the Innocents in Moca

By Brenda A. Mari

December 17, 2004
Copyright © 2004 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

Navidades on the island comes rushing in right smack after Thanksgiving, taking over the hearts and wallets of many by storm. At this time, Puerto Rico becomes livelier than ever, with "parrandas," the Puerto Rican version of neighborhood caroling, winding full speed ahead with a caravan of revelers at its tow. City folks flee to the mountains to take in the "friíto rico" cool breeze, basking in the midnight chill and the thousand Christmas lights that shine Griswolds-like throughout the one-story cement houses that flank our curvy roads.

Well, about this parranda thing, there are some folk out there who know how to do it right. They even turned it into a bona fide festival with masks and costumes and everything. Yonder in them western hills of Moca, Christmas Day will kick start the 11th Festival of Masks of Moca, a.k.a. The Festival of the Innocents. From the 25th to the 28th of December, the sleepy, lace-making town of Moca will transform itself into a world of much carousing, complete with a smorgasbord of fritters, typical Jíbaro music and carnivalesque merriment. The Festival’s hub will be at the Capá Sector of Moca, on the Hernández Commercial Center, right on Route 111.

This year, the event is being dedicated to Don Manuel Pérez, which has been there practically since the fete’s humble beginnings in 1994, says Lisette Soto, current president of the Festival’s directing body. Eleven years ago, what in the 1930s began as an informal affair through the barrios of Moca and San Sebastian with the La Parranda La Genuina, became legitimate with the help of the Festival’s founder, Don Osvaldo Méndez. These days, the parrandas are roughly divided by barrios or sector of the municipality; there are 9 of them: Los Amigos Unidos, Los Compadres, Los Nietos de Papá, La Selecta, Las Botas de Gallo, Los Viejos de Siempre, La Nueva Genuina, Los Ruiseñores de la Loma and La Clásica.

The masks are made of cloth and painted in bright colors, and the "pavas," or straw hats are adorned with sequins, an array of fake flowers and everything else that twinkles bright under the hot "wintry" sun. The body of the costume is made from oversized shirts and pants from which they hang ribbons, and, you guessed it, more sequins. The colors of choice seem to be red, green, black, yellow, but many others appear as well.

The carnival hits its high note on December 28th, The Day of the Innocents, which is dedicated to children. The day celebrates the fact that Jesus Christ survived the massacre of the little boys commanded by Herod in order to rid himself of the one who would "bring his kingdom down." It is also known as the December Fool’s Day because pranks are played on the innocent. Needless to say, on this day, game is the name of the game.

So, without much further ado, here’s the Festival’s itinerary:

Moca Mask Festival/The Festival of the Innocents

Saturday, December 25

3 - 7 a.m. (yes, that early!) ?Diana Navideña. A musical caravan will be making its rounds to announce the beginning of the festival. They will practically cover all of Moca and some of the neighboring San Sebastián with a lively caravan, complete with floats and mask wearers. So if you’re around, join in if you will.

6:30 - 7:30 p.m. Official inaugural act. The town’s Mayor, Jose Enrique "Kiko" Avilés Santiago, will officially get this party started.

7:30 p.m. Kerigma. This sacred music group will soothe your travel weary soul and help digest that heavy "alcapurria."S

9 p.m. El Parrandón. The directors of each and every parranda will enliven the vibe for all those present and show off their unified stuff.

10:30 p.m. La Familia Barreto con "Raulito", and Yadeli and Tony from the popular talent TV show Objetivo Fama. The Barretos will show you what true jíbaro music is like, along with some not so famous famous.

12 a.m La Filosofía de Don Benancio. Local rock trio caters to the partying young into the wee hours of the morning.

Sunday, December 26

2 p.m. Mask Parade. Starts from the intersection of Route 421, right on Route 111, toward the Hernández Commercial Center, where all the kiosks and the stage are. All of the 9 Parrandas will showcase their thing on floats, along with the usual riders on the side.

3 p.m. El Trío Aborigen. Bohemian music on stage for the romantic soul while the procession is nearing.

5:30 p.m. Gran Encuentro. Again the Parrandas get together for one huge bash, sounding off typical Christmas "aguinaldos," or songs, and the like.

7:30 p.m. Peyi y Su Familia. Jíbaro music ne plus ultra takes the stage by storm.

9 p.m. La Parranda Los Tradicionales. More Christmas songs, the Puerto Rican way.

10:30 p.m. Alfonso Vélez. Professional aguinaldo singer seals the night with that Jíbaro twist.

Monday, December 27

12 noon - 3 p.m. Los Santos Inocentes. Kids will have a blast. There will be clowns, prizes, activities, games, more kids. What else could your kid ask for?

6:30 p.m. Parranda Los Amigos Unidos. From now on, it’s Parranda Time. So buff up on up your Puerto Rican aguinaldos, plenas and bombas.

8 p.m. Parranda Los Compadres.

9:30 p.m. Parranda Los Nietos de Papá

11 p.m. Parranda La Selecta

Tuesday, December 28

10 a.m. Parranda Las Botas de Gallo

6:30 p.m. Parranda Los Viejos de Siempre

8 p.m Parranda La Nueva Genuina

9:30 p.m. Parranda Los Ruiseñores de la Loma

12 a.m Parranda La Clásica. A simulated New Year’s Eve celebration takes place, closing the evening with a very golden brooch.

So there you have it folks. Now that’s called partying!

Brenda A. Mari is an editor/reporter for The San Juan Star, an accomplished web copywriter and a fan of everything unusual. She can be reached at

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