Puerto Ricans from across the Valley will come together for music, dancing and dominoes at an El Dia de San Juan celebration Saturday, sponsored by the Puerto Rican Social Club of Arizona.
The event is named for the Puerto Rican holiday in honor of St. John the Baptist. In Puerto Rico, people gather at beaches to celebrate the holiday in the midafternoon; at midnight, they jump into the ocean backward three times to
symbolize baptism, immersion and new life.
The local celebration includes a picnic lunch, Latin American music played by disc jockey Ray Rodriguez of Mesa, and a dominoes tournament.
Rodriguez said the event will provide ample opportunity for dancing, and is open to anyone who enjoys Latin American music and culture.
"We play whatever (people) like to hear — salsa, merengue — music with a Caribbean flair to it," he said.
Samuel Colon of Fountain Hills founded the club last year in response to the growing number of Puerto Ricans in the Valley.
Colon has worked as a demographer for the Arizona Department of Economic Security for 15 years. He noticed in the 2000 census there were about 700 Puerto Ricans in Fountain Hills alone. In the state, the Puerto Rican population is approaching 25,000, he said.
The club’s purpose is twofold. "We want to share the Puerto Rican history, culture and traditions with the rest of the population," he said. "And we want to be a beacon for Puerto Ricans in the Valley to get to know other Puerto Ricans."
Miguel Rivera of Cave Creek, the club’s vice president, is coordinating the dominoes tournament at the picnic, which has six entrants so far. The winner will receive a trophy.
"It’s a great way to meet Puerto Ricans and play dominoes," Rivera said. "Dominoes are very big in Latin America — very big."
For Gretchen Mouser of Peoria, the El Dia de San Juan event brings back memories of sneaking out to an El Dia de San Juan celebration at age 16 in Puerto Rico.
"My cousin and I were told we could not go, but we snuck out of our house," she said, adding that at the end of the night they got caught by their parents.
El Dia de San Juan
What: Puerto Rican Social Club of Arizona’s El Dia de San Juan celebration
When: Begins at 10 a.m., lunch at 12:30 p.m., Saturday
Where: Rattlesnake Cove at Bartlett Lake, 17 miles northeast of Carefree off Bartlett Dam Road
Cost: Lunch, $5 adults, $3 children. Park fee, $5 per vehicle. Dominoes tournament, $5 entry fee.
Information: Miguel Rivera, (480) 515-0799; Samuel Colon, (480) 837-7617