Ponce Artisans, EFR
- Santos, Masks, Coffee, Rum, Mundillo
- By: Janeth Valariño
A great way to make your Island experience last is to take back with you some of Puerto Rico’s special local products and crafts. Whether it’s savory dark rum or a comfy, colorful hammock, your memories of Puerto Rico will live on through your unique native treasures.
The hand carving of wooden saints (santos) is a tradition that dates back to the Island’s colonization by the Spanish in the 16th century. For a long time these wooden figurines were solely used as objects of worship in rural homes. In recent times, santos have taken on a more decorative role and are even considered patriotic symbols.
Masks play an important role in the carnival tradition. Primarily made of papier-mâché or dried coconut shells, this art form finds its main home in the municipalities of Ponce and Loíza. There are different types of masks, but the ghoulish vejigante is by far the most recognized with its multiple protruding horns and fang-teeth personifying the devil.
Puerto Rican-harvested coffee is not your usual cup of Joe. The Island’s geographic location, climate and soil reap what is characterized as a sweet, full-bodied brew. Hailed as the “Coffee of Popes and Kings” is Alto Grande Super Premium Coffee grown on the peaks of Lares. Puerto Rico’s mountainous interior yields other outstanding brews, including Café Yauco Selecto, ranked among the world’s top ten coffees by Wine Spectator Magazine. Check the directories of Lares, Maricao and Yauco for coffee plantations and local harvest festivals that give you an opportunity to taste and buy coffee right from the producers.
Puerto Rico just so happens to be the rum capital of the world, having produced the sugarcane derived liquor for more than 450 years. Available in many tasty varieties including light, gold, dark, and flavored, all local rums, by law, must age for a one-year minimum. Bacardi, Captain Morgan, Don Q, and Barrilito are just a few of the brands that display the “Puerto Rican Rum” label, which ensures superior quality. These rums are widely available on the Island.
Mundillo is a delicately handwoven bobbin lace. The tradition was brought over by the Spaniards and is a craft distinctive of Puerto Rico and Spain. In June you have an excellent opportunity to buy this specialty lace at the Festival del Mundillo held in Moca - the Mundillo capital of Puerto Rico.
Hand-rolled cigars, colorful hammocks, handcrafted jewelry, and local sweets are other excellent mementos of your visit to the Island.