BY: Kelsins V. Santos
The night was brilliant. Happy adults and cheerful kids walked the streets of Mayaguez, those who enjoyed the beautiful array of Christmas lights which seemed to inhabit every nook and cranny of “Plaza Colon”, the center park of the city. Vendors were also present opening up shop along the streets that pass by the laterals, providing kids and adults tasty traditional snacks that would leave them asking for seconds after the first bite. Traditional charms, candles, aromas, handmade decorations and even children’s toys were being sold, but this of course was only part of the big event. As the people of Mayaguez walked across the plaza, the decorative lights were nothing short of amazing. These decorations filled the night air with a holiday gleam that can only be felt through the smile of a child receiving his first gift on Christmas day. A full spectrum of colors adorned the trees as lights as if they were the leaves themselves, drawing attention of those at the plaza, to even those who were observing the beauty of tradition high up from their balconies. Though all those lights were a spectacle in themselves, the most beautiful addition was the 20 foot Christmas tree that towered in front of the city hall.
Among all the lights and decorations, the Christmas tree stood tall and bold, lined with an array of colors representing the Christmas spirit and tradition that the city of Mayaguez represents. A beautiful, brilliant pine, on top of which sat a majestic star for everybody to admire. The many people who passed by the giant tree always turned heads if not only for a split second to enjoy and admire the grandiose symbol of the eternal holiday spirit that resides in the people of this town.
“It really puts all the decorations together,” said Gabriel Martin, a foreign spectator of the festivities being held that night. “I’ve never seen anything like this from where I’m from, I can tell that the people here really get the most out of their tradition”
Though the amazing light show was the main attraction of the “encendido,” it was only part of the night’s attractions.
Besides the magnificent tree, two large stages stood in front of the City Hall, which were faced with countless seats of admirers who were enjoying the traditional music of Puerto Rico. The audiences was primarily composed of the older generation humming to the music, seemingly reminiscing on the past days that made the music being played such a considerable part of their lives. Children, teens and adults were also enjoying the music. Musical groups, all native of Puerto Rico, that performed on stage included “Reyes de la Montaña,” “Tuna de Cayey,” and the “Cantores de Bayamon”.
Music wasn’t the only performance that was to be held during this beautiful night “Sultantiva,” a group that specializes in belly dance, presented its exotic performance to the crowd and captured the eyes and ears of all. The smooth, clean moves of the dancers were a sight to behold and those present c claim it was a spectacular affair. The dance, according to Mayaguez lore, interpreted the voyage and life of a beautiful woman from the far reaches of Arabia and her visitation to Mayaguez; she was coined as “la sultana del oeste” for her exotic beauty, which in turn became the famous name of the city.
“The music and performances were great! My friends and I really enjoyed the music. I’ve visited the Encendido festivities every year, and it seems to get better and better each time around. I hardly expected the belly dancing to be truthful” mentioned Steven Santos, a student from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez. “I always enjoy it. My friends enjoy it and those that are here definitely do enjoy it. This is like the maximum expression of Puerto Rican tradition.”
As if the night could get any more spectacular, between the beautiful lights that hung on the trees and buildings, the traditional sweet music and the family friendly atmosphere, the sky held the last show. Fireworks filled the sky in a array of designs and beautiful colors. The people gasped and awed as the light show exploded high above, turning the deep night sky into an intense painting that attracted the eyes of all those who had the privilege to see such a marvel. This intense scene was accompanied by the cheers and screams of the people, who applaud the brilliant performance as if it were an artist expressing his work.
“I definitely loved it. The vibes were so great. The fireworks really put all the night’s activities together. They had lights from the ground all the way up to the sky,” said Martin.
“Business as usual, they always top it off with a crazy firework show. Each year I enjoy more and more” stated Santos.
The festivities continued on throughout the night. The “Encendido Navideno” of Mayaguez not only marked the start of the holiday festivities but presented great opportunities for Puerto Ricans to embrace this cultural activity.