By Zain Deane
Even better, take the Night Tales tour of Old San Juan. Debbie will take you into buildings that aren't open to the public at night, and treat you to a marvelous historic account of Puerto Rico's capital.
The other place where faith and legend intertwine is at the sculpture of La Rogativa. Located at the end of Caleta de las Monjas a short walk from the El Convento Hotel, the sculpture depicts a bishop with a torch held high, leading a procession. It commemorates one of Puerto Rico's most evocative legends. During the battle of 1797, the British forces under Sir Ralph Abercromby were attacking the city from the east. Facing a daunting force, the citizens of San Juan took to the streets in a religious procession. The British troops saw them from a distance and, believing them to be reinforcements arriving to help the Spanish garrison at Castillo San Cristóbal, withdrew, saving the city.
Of course, you don't need a natural disaster to find people in need of help. This Christmas, if you want to give back to communities around the island that could use the help, here are a few local charities that would love to hear from you:
The "pava," or straw hat, is a rustic accessory that is immediately associated with two things: the jíbaro culture of Puerto Rico (more on that here) and Christmas. Used by the jíbaros to block the strong Caribbean sun when they worked the land, these straw hats have found their way into the most Puerto Rican homes, where they are stashed away but usually come out during the holidays. It's not surprising to find people sporting pavas during a parranda (the 'Rican take on Christmas caroling).
You can find these hats at souvenir shops around the island, or you can order one online. Here's a good place to get your very own pava (and other Christmas goodies) for the season.