What’s a girl to do with a few days by herself in San Juan, Puerto Rico? Find some cool things to do. And what better thing to do than engage in one of my all-time favorite travel hobbies, right? That’s right—I tracked down The Art Walk PR for some serious mural hunting. And we explored all the incredible Santurce street art. Huge thanks to Georgie for showing me around!
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Calle Cerra: The Home Of Santurce Street Art
While—technically—Santurce includes the entire San Juan peninsula, most people consider it the working-class barrio tucked away between Miramar and Condado, Puerto Rico’s major resort area. Home to the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, and the Santurce Es Ley street art festival, the arts scene is taking Santurce by storm. And it’s quickly becoming the next hip “place to be” in San Juan.
It wasn’t so long ago that Santurce was considered a major “no-go” zone for tourists. But after a multi-million dollar renovation to the area market and a massive influx of street art, the up-and-coming neighborhood is transforming into the cultural hub of San Juan. And with the largest concentration of Santurce street art—some murals as tall as 50 feet—Calle Cerra is the heart of it all.
Themes of Santurce Street Art
Of San Juan’s annual festivals, two of them invite artists from around the world to contribute to the Santurce street art. There’s the previously mentioned Santurce Es Ley, founded by artist and curator Alexis Busquet. And then there’s Los Muros Hablan, or “The Walls Speak,” which has been held twice thus far. And boy, do those walls ever speak. The majority of the murals we viewed express very pointed messages, and circled around a few key themes.
Climate Change & Environmental Conservation
Whether it’s Fintan Magee’s “Glass Half Full” or Ana Marietta’s regal cranes, preserving our planet is one of the top messages you’ll see when touring the Santurce street art. (Of particular importance to my Old San Juan B&B, too!)
Fintan Magee’s mural shows a young boy (his son, actually) carrying the weight of a glacier on his back. The glacier, meanwhile, melts around him and begins to submerge everything. The “noble birds” below, by Ana Marietta, are often referred to as “humanoid animals” with “anthropomorphic” features. They’re painted with the specific intent of creating empathy for Earth’s creatures, and portraying them in an elevated light. Danae Brissonnet’s vibrant mural explores the interconnectedness of Earth’s ecosystems and people within it.
Historical & Current Social Issues
Learn about some of Puerto Rico’s historical and current social issues as you walk Calle Cerra, too.
The massive 1442 mural depicts the journey of the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria… and the bodies of all the slaves left in their wake. Josue Pellot’s “Nothing Is True” mural addresses the “lie” that is tourism. And the juxtaposition between the world tourists see and the real world beyond. And Luis Alejandro Rodríguez’s mural is of a young girl eyeing dimensions, paintbrush in hand. It points to the defunding of the island’s arts programs and the effects that will have on children.
Cultural Reverence & Paying Homage
A third larger theme observed on the tour was that of cultural reverence. While Santurce’s market has been renovated and new restaurants and clubs are opening, there’s an homage to be paid to the original roots of the neighborhood. A deep appreciation for Puerto Rico’s culture.
Juan Ramón Gutiérrez of The Stencil Network makes references to all-original Santurce restaurants and the music scene it’s so well-known for. Further down Calle Cerra, you’ll find a black and white mural of people playing dominoes. On a pop-up table with plastic lawn chairs. (Which people were literally doing—exactly like that—when we were walking past.) And Dominican muralist Evaristo Angurria shows two women hugging. One woman is red and one is blue—to represent the bond between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Touring Santurce Street Art With The Art Walk PR
Our Art Walk PR guide, Georgie, was just incredible. She was really knowledgeable and super friendly. (We even ran into some of the artists—that she knew—while we were on the tour!) While you could certainly just walk down Calle Cerra on your own and see the street art, I’m glad I chose to do a tour with someone who was familiar with the area. As a female solo traveler, I likely wouldn’t have ventured very far on my own.
Overall, the tour was excellent. The Santurce street art is truly extraordinary and, while I’ve seen a lot of arts districts in my life, I haven’t seen any quite as vibrant as this one. If you’re looking to experience Puerto Rico in a more in-depth way, Calle Cerra is definitely one of San Juan’s cultural heartbeats.