When traveling my goal is to learn about African culture and connect with local culture in various parts of the world. I have visited Puerto Rico various times but had never heard of Loiza. It was great to learn about the community that strongly embraces their African Roots. Come follow along as we learn more about the culture of the community through art, history, music and food.
Loiza is located on the northeastern coast of Puerto Rico. Yuiza or Loiza is named after a Taino woman who is the only noted female chief. During slavery in the 16th century, the Yoruba tribe from Nigeria were brought over to Puerto Rico. As a result, it is now known as the largest concentration of Afro Caribbeans in Puerto Rico. To this day, the residents maintain the heritage and culture of the African people.
Historical Parque Histórico Maria de la Cruz Cave
The park is open Wednesday from 8am-5pm and the workshops (headwrap, bomba, and museum are available from 9am-4pm. Tickets are only $8 for all activities.
Maria de la Cruz Cave
In 1948, archeologist Dr. Ricardo Alegría found evidence of early human people inside the cave. He discovered pre-Colombian artifacts from the Taino people. Years later the cave was used as shelter by both freed and enslaved Africans. You can take a small guided tour inside the cave where you can climb, locate beehives and hear about the history of early settlers.
Bomba is a type of drum from Puerto Rico used to tell a story. The bomba has over 16 rhythms and has both African and Spanish elements. Slaves working on the sugar plantations used the drum as a way to communicate. It was used to both convey rebellions and celebrate victories.
During slavery, head wraps were worn by women to cover there hair. Now we embrace our heritage and wear them to show pride in our culture. This Young lady showed me how to tie a head wrap.
Artesanias Castor Ayala
Unfortunately, Mr. Raul Ayala was not at home but I had the opportunity to meet his sister who welcomed me with open arms. Mr. Ayala is most known for his contribution to the Bomba and creating vejigante masks. The mask is made from coconut husks and decorated in brightly colored fangs and horns. The folklore says that the vejigente represents the Moors being defeated in Spain let by Saint James. To honor the saint people dressed as demons during a big festival in July called Fiesta de Santiago Apostól, or Festival of Saint James, held in Loíza each July.
As I was scrolling through Facebook, I came across a post from Akeem Tolson who visits Puerto Rico often. Let us meet Akeem as he tells us a little more about his travels to Loiza.
Tiffany: Why do you enjoy Puerto Rico?
Akeem: I’m always excited about my trips to Puerto Rico, every visit is like my first time. It has become my favorite place to go for “mental health breaks”.
Tiffany: How did you meet Mr. Raul Ayala?
Akeem: During this trip, another friend of mine asked me to reach out to Mr. Raul Ayala in Loiza. The Ayala family is well known throughout the island of Puerto Rico and abroad for their contributions to Bomba music. Bomba is a style of traditional Afro Puerto Rican music that is centered around percussion and African based dance movements. We went to Loiza, which had been hit hard by the hurricane and met Mr. Raul Ayala. He showed us how his shop was destroyed by the storm. Despite his loss, he was gracious enough to give us a brief history lesson about Puerto Rico, Loiza, the African origins of bomba and the vejigante masks. In July, I went back to experience the cultural festival.
Akeem: I encourage all visitors to Puerto Rico, especially black travelers, to add Loiza to their itineraries. For more info about my travels to Puerto Rico, contact: Instagram: @live_be_do Facebook: live.be.do
Samuel Lind Estudio
I had the opportunity to visit Mr. Samuel Lind a native of Loiza, PR. He is a soft-spoken mild-mannered artist who packs a powerful punch through his art. Mr. Lind embodies the spirit of the bomba music and black people of Puerto Rico. I love the details that he puts in both his statues and oil paintings. Samuel Lind Studio is located on Road PR-187 km 6.6, in Loiza.
Puerto Rican Snacks
After visiting different sites in Loiza, my stomach was excited to try local street food. I tasted Alcapurrias, which is yucca and green bananas filled with a beef filling. Next, I had bacalaitos otherwise known as fried codfish fritters. The chicken and beef pinchos were flavored very well and were accompanied by BBQ sauce and a bread roll. Also check out the San Juan Food tour for more great food.
Although Poets Passage is not located in Loiza, I recommend checking out this little gem. It is a small cafe, book store, and poets lounge. On Tuesdays, they have open mic night. They perform poetry live music in both English and Spanish.
Need a place to stay in consider staying at a hostel in Puerto Rico.
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