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Go Fly A Kite!: Lajas Gears Up For Its 30th Kite Festival

By Brenda A. Mari

February 11, 2005
Copyright © 2005 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

‘Tis the season for love and snuggling in the chillier-than-usual tropics. Yes sir. And the wind is picking up its stride, earlier than usual — what with all these cold fronts we’re getting. The love month is here and you already should know where you’re taking your sweetheart on the 14th. (If you don’t know, I suggest you get yourself going — pronto, or face the music.) So, what better way to extend the lovefest than to head southwest for another weekend of fun and soaring beauties?

Next weekend, Lajas will be the place to be with its 30th Tigüero and Kite (Chiringa) Festival. Original, colorful and inventive kites from all over the island will show up to strut their stuff on the Lajas skyline, sporting a wonderful view of the Caribbean Sea as their backdrop. The ambiance is festive and family-oriented. There will be fritters galore, hot dog overflow and pizza abundance, as well as 50 invited artisans from all corners of the island selling their wares. There will be kids running around and kites, from the plastic Gayla variety to the ones with the most sublime of designs, will be testing their mettle against the tricky Caribbean sea breezes. Look out El Morro, Lajas is where the kite fun is at.

Back in April, 1975, a group of kite lovers in the town of Lajas got together to let their amateur creations soar beyond their wildest dreams. This creative group included Rogelio C. Toro, Ricardo Bonafé, Julito López and the current founding president, Israel Rodríguez. The first festival was very informal, and had no food kiosk or artisans of any kind. It took place at the Cerro Las Animas in the Barrio Candelaria of Lajas. It wasn’t until a year later that the late comedian Jose Miguel Agrelot came to visit and presto, the fair took an official life of its own. Since then, many music, art, and political luminaries have graced the stage.

If you’re wondering what a tigüero is, it’s what the Taínos used as sleds to zip down smooth hills. The royal palm tree puts out its delicate flower and forms a boat-shaped husk to protect it. That boat-shaped cover, when dried, is called the tigüero. It’s different from the yagüa, although they used those to slide down the hill as well. The yagüa is the main rib of each stalk of the royal palm tree, and it is cut to size, whereas the tigüero come already shaped and in different sizes. You’ll see the little ones having the time of their lives whizzing down the hill on their palm tree toboggans. There will be contests separated into age categories.

The Festival will take place on the Cerro Los Olivos in Lajas, on PR-116, Km 1.3, from Friday, February 18 to Sunday, February 20, 2005. The kites will not be evaluated for how far up they go, but will be judged according to beauty, originality, design, message and size. This year the festival will be dedicated to renowned lawyer, inmate rights activist and former spokesperson of the Committee of Friends and Relatives of Prisoners (CAFC) Dra. Trina Rivera de Rios.

The Festival has as its goal to preserve Puerto Rico’s culture and to provide a venue where people come to be in touch with nature, have a good time and connect with good old Puerto Rican values.

Following is the Festival’s schedule:

Friday, February 18, 2005

7:00 p.m. Opening ceremony and official kick- off for the Festival.

7:30 p.m. Happy Hills Orchestra

Come dance like the days of the golden yesterday with the first Latin Big Band in Puerto Rico to have been led by a woman, Josefa "Pepita" Nazario.

9:15 p.m. Grupo Así Somos

This incredible and talented Nueva Trova group led by Cecilio Colón brings together the violin, the saxophone, the acoustic guitar and more with a touch of intelligent Puerto Ricanism. These guys are as soulful as they come. Check them out at

11:00 p.m. Grupo Guara y Son

More guaracha and down-home son for your hip-shaking pleasure.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

2:00 p.m. Libre Competencia de Chiringas y Tigüero.

Those who prefer flying their plastic Gayla kites can do so then. It’s pretty much a free for all, not yet a contest per se.

3:00 – 7 p.m. Bohemia music with Vivian & Papo

More "chiringa" flying, arts & crafts shopping and bacalaíto noshing to the sound of a soft typical Puerto Rican music.

7:30 p.m. Grupo Somos Tres

Indulge in more Puerto Rican patriotism with this Nueva trova group.

9:30 p.m. León de Judas

Jive smooth to this popular Christian reggae group.

11:00 p.m. Grupo Tumbao Crillo

Check out how this amazing blind "trovador" from Ponce, Indefonzo Cotto, summons his riffs from his cuatro.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

9:00 a.m. Registration for Kite and Tigüero Contests

10:00 a.m. Kite Contest

12:30 p.m. Tigüero Contest

1:00 p.m. Luis Oliva as Juan Bobo

See this renowned local mime play one of the most endearing simpleton character in Puerto Rico.

2:00 p.m. Awards for Contests

Lucky winners get their 15 minutes of fame.

3:00 p.m. Roy Brown

Check out before you go. Roy Brown is by far the main man of Puerto Rico’s Nueva Trova movement. His name is synonymous with staunch patriotism, a firm love of what is the true heart of Puerto Rican people.

4:00 p.m. Homage to Dra. Trina Rivera de Ríos.

This incredible woman who has fought for the constitutional rights of the incarcerated gets her due.

5:00 p.m. Bohemia Music

A well-known surprise guest will appear to delight the public with nostalgic music.

7:00 p.m. Grupo 40 y 20

Shake those hips to more guaracha. Stock up on "alcapurrías" while you’re at it.

8:30 p.m. Grupo Siluetas Sueltas

More Nueva Trova to soothe your soul.

10:00 p.m. Cachete Maldonado y Los Majaderos

Get down and dirty, or get lofty, whoever you want it, with the congas and bongós with this African-influenced percussion group. Angel "Cachete" Maldonado is the former leader of Batacumbele, an Afro-Cuban musical group that’s all that and more.

12: 00 a.m. Closing

That’s it folks! Go home. Enough of the kite flying and rumba dancing. Make sure you ‘re not to tipsy to drive back these hilly roads.

The Lowdown

Cerro Los Olivos

PR-116, Km. 1.3, Lajas, Puerto Rico

Asociación Los Chiringueros, Inc. (Association in charge of the Kite Festival)

Founding president: Israel Rodríguez

HC Box 17362, Lajas, Puerto Rico 00667-9607

Phones: 787-899-5036,

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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