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Festival of the Masks in Hatillo brings together 6,000 “runners”

Hatillo- Some 6,000 people or “runners” from 168 groups participate on Wednesday in the traditional Hatillo Mask Festival in Puerto Rico, a custom whose origin dates back to the Spanish Canary Islands and which next year will be two centuries old.

Wearing colorful costumes adorned with bells and eye-catching masks, the participants march in floats through the streets of the town of Hatillo as they try to scare and entertain the thousands of attendees at the event, which commemorates April Fools’ Day.

One of the leaders of these groups, Emmanuel González, who this year leads the team of five Jeep “Los Que Sobran” highlighted to EFE that he participates in the festival to maintain the tradition of his hometown.

González, now a resident of the state of Georgia (United States), said that $15,000 was spent to compete among one of the various categories that make up the event: tradition, religion and culture. Every year, the Jeeps or floats that travel through the main streets of Hatillo, a municipality on the north coast of Puerto Rico, are designed with a theme. This time, González and his team decided to dedicate their five Jeeps to the sea, so they included an anchor work in each vehicle. “Since we are coastal, the sea represents us and we love it,” he explained.

Last year they dedicated it to the Christmas tree. “They are my roots from my town and I like to maintain them. There are always people saying that the tradition is falling, but I come every year and spend a lot of money so that the tradition does not die. Even if it’s alone, I’ll keep coming, and I won’t trade this tradition for any other one,” he asserted.

So far, 168 groups have registered, which are over 6,000 runners, and 429 between Jeep and floats.

The Festival of Las Máscaras de Hatillo dates back to 1823, when immigrants from the Canary Islands dressed up as women and demons, and visited the homes of family and friends on horseback to play pranks on them. The first festival was formally organized in the 1970s, although it is an activity that has its origins in the tradition of April Fools’ Day, a date that commemorates the historic event in which King Herod ordered the death of all newborn males with the order to kill Jesus of Nazareth.

The Hatillanos (name of Hatillo) have added other customs over the years, such as the use of floats, trucks and all-terrain vehicles, from which they jump even when the cars are moving.

The masked men prank each other, spill shaving cream, rum, or water, and hit or hug each other. Once they arrive at the public square of the city, the comparsas are evaluated for their originality and theme used in their costumes, floats, horses and even decorated SUVs are part of the parade.

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