Editor’s Note: This is the first of three stories we’re publishing today on this weekend’s “La Campechada” event taking place in Old San Juan, exploring how it impacts the city’s economy and benefits its participants.
By: Angela A. Aponte
Special to News is my Business
La Campechada, San Juan’s cultural-tourism event slated to take place this weekend, has proven to be a strong source of employment and economic movement for the municipality, promoting local businesses and creating more than 500 jobs in artistic fields this year.
The festival’s organizing committee, composed by different people from 25 entities, ranging from government agencies to cultural corporations like the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture (ICP, as it is known by its initials in Spanish), oversaw production and logistics for the event, striking agreements with the small businesses located on the streets where the festivity will take place, so that the few kiosks owned by the festival don’t interfere with the locals’ sales.
“The idea is that we’re dealing with a project that impacts the islet of San Juan and benefits our local businesspeople. There’s the lodging industry, the food industry, the public transport industry: taxi drivers, carriers, conductors that bring tourists to visit all of these Old San Juan areas that are full of historical monuments,” said Josilda Acosta, the ICP’s Cultural Promotions Program director, listing a few of the town’s economic sectors that will profit from the celebration.
The project was originally a Puerto Rico Museum of Art’s (MAPR) exposition dedicated to the 18th century Puerto Rican painter José Campeche, titled “Campeche: Mito y realidad” (“Campeche: Myth and reality.”)“La Campechada” will take place Nov. 15-17, free of charge, in Old San Juan, mostly along San Sebastián Street, although the celebration will spread out to other streets as well.
The ICP and the government subsequently took over the project upon determining that it represented a cultural reengineering tool with an important calling to artists and public sector representatives to actively participate in the island’s cultural movements. The help received from public funds assigned through the ICP turned the initial concept into what is now considered one of the island’s most important cultural events.
The MAPR’s Executive Director, Lourdes Ramos, assured that the comments and reactions they have gathered from the city’s business owners after the festival has ended have as a common denominator their satisfaction with the weekend’s sales, expressing that they move more during the three days of the celebration than they do during the six months prior to it.
“La Campechada” directly benefits more than 160 artisans working in the plazas in Old San Juan, and about 150 artists and performers representing areas from theatre to music, while close to 200 musicians also see a windfall from the event, among others.
“At the plazas alone we [ICP] are investing $145,000. The Institute is also contributing close to $50,000 in musical activities […] Every artisan has the possibility of making more than $3,000 in profits in activities like these. The businesses [benefit] in terms of food — all the people that attend, eat in San Juan and drink here — and that has a direct impact on San Juan’s economy,” affirmed Acosta.
‘Important attraction for locals, tourists’
Last year, the festival drew more than 150,000 people from different parts of the island and of the world; this figure represents a fraction of the San Sebastian Street Festival’s attending public. In only a few years after the first edition took place in 2011, “La Campechada” has become an important attraction for locals and tourists alike, bringing together diverse communities.
This year, festival supervisors are counting on the arrival of three cruise ships and more tourists than in 2012, when the scene attracted travelers that came to Puerto Rico with the specific purpose of attending the event.
But the annual celebration has encountered a few difficulties along the way. The island’s delicate fiscal state and recent budget cuts in the ICP’s finances caused the event’s administrators to reduce the funds used for production by more than 57 percent. In 2011, the ICP contributed $700,000, which was used to employ artists, musicians, performers, artisans, and actors, as well as to pay for production costs, like hiring companies to work on sound, lighting, security, and stages. However, for 2013, the Institute’s contribution was down to $300,000.
“La Campechada” will take place Nov. 15-17, free of charge, in Old San Juan, mostly along San Sebastián Street, although the celebration will spread out to other streets as well. Fine arts artists will expose their pieces, working directly with the community while offering workshops. There will be expositions, exhibitions and even coffee sales, as well as performances for the general public to enjoy at many of the plazas, including Plaza Colón, Plaza del V Centenario, Plaza de Hostos, and Plaza de Barandillas.