Each of Puerto Rico’s regions has its unique culture, way of living and traditions, with the charm of its people being the unifying theme. Any given month, there is a sunny celebration going on in some part of the island. Finger-licking food, hip-swinging music and local handmade crafts are the cornerstone of any festival in Puerto Rico. Every festival has its own reason to be, be it a religious or cultural basis, or celebrating what the town is most known for. This is the case of the Festival de la China Dulce de Las Marías, in the Porta del Sol town of Las Marías.
The Festival de la China Dulce translates into the Sweet Orange Festival. You might be asking yourself, oranges are called chinas in Puerto Rico?! Indeed they are. Way back when oranges first were being shipped to Puerto Rico, they came in crates and sacks marked with the word China, since that’s where they came from. The name stuck and Puerto Ricans, and only Puerto Ricans, have been calling oranges chinas ever since.
Getting back to the festival, each year the town of Las Marías, known as the City of Sweet Oranges, celebrates the Sweet Orange Festival. Oranges from Las Marías are known to be sweeter than other oranges grown in Puerto Rico. Local orange growers gather and show off their culinary creations, oranges being the focal point. You can sample delicious baked goods, refreshing drinks, sauces, wines (orange juice of course) and some wacky types of citrus fruits available only at the festival. In its initial run, the festival was held at the town square. Today, the festival’s popularity has skyrocketed, forcing the festival to expand to a citywide celebration attracting foodies from all over the island and beyond. Local musicians perform from sun up to sun down, local artisans display their latest sculptures, paintings and knick-knacks in a sweet, citrus-infused atmosphere.
Every year the festival gets bigger and bigger, and the growers get more and more creative with their recipes, coming up with new and delicious ways to use oranges. If you want to get your juices flowing, swing your hips and shop for some quality crafts, head down to Las Marías on March 18th to the 20th for the 2011 edition of the Sweet Orange Festival. We promise, you’ll have a sweet, sweet time!