“Cabezudos” of the Calle San Sebastian


This post is also available in: Español

The opening of the traditional “Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián” in Puerto Rico is usually led by the “comparsa de los Cabezudos“, the big-head figures that are the symbol of this event.

But did you know that the Cabezudos is a centuries-old tradition that by far precedes the “Fiestas de la Sanse” (as they have been nicknamed)?

Cabezudos” in the Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián

The “Cabezudos” were introduced to the Fiestas de las Calle San Sebastián since their origin in the 1950s. It was said that the priest of the San José parish (the one close to the corner of the San Sebastián and Cristo streets), decided to organize these festivities to collect funds for maintaining the church and the San Sebastián Street. For this, he had the agreement and support of then San Juan mayor Doña Felisa Rincón de Gautier.

"Cabezudos" in calle San Sebastian, Puerto Rico.
“Cabezudos” of Tite Curet and Ismael Rivera walk through calle San Sebastian. (photo: Orlando Mergal)

Father Madrazo traveled to Spain to see how similar festivities were done there. It was in Spain where he saw the “Comparsa de los Cabezudos“, and brought the idea back with him.

Since the Calle San Sebastián festivities were scheduled after the “Octavitas“, the first “Cabezudos” of the 1950s represented religious figures, mostly the “3 Reyes Magos“, which opened the festivities with the “Comparsa de los Cabezudos“, just like in Spain, but with typical Puerto Rican music and dancing. A few years later, when father Madrazo was transferred out of the San José parish, the festivities ended as his successor did not continue organizing the festivities.

When Dona Rafaela Balladares de Brito decided to rescue the Calle San Sebastián festival in the 1970s with the encouragement of then Culture Secretary Ricardo Alegría, the “big heads” came back with a wider representation of popular figures, including politicians, known sportsmen, artists, or other popular local public figures of the time, like for example Doña Fela, Diplo Toribio, and La Puerca de Juan Bobo.

History of the “Cabezudos“; a Legacy from Spain

"Cabezudos" and "Gigantes" in Spain
“Cabezudos” and “Gigantes” have been used in Spain and other parts of Europe for centuries.

The history of the Cabezudos goes along that of the “Gigantes” (giants), and it goes back to the Middle Ages in Europe. Various European countries used both “Gigantes” and “Cabezudos” in their festivities, with the first recorded instances going as far back as the 1200s, mostly around Pamplona (Navarra), in Spain. As we do today, they normally represented popular people of the time.

In Spain, besides the early indication of their use in Pamplona, the Fiestas de San Fermín was among the first ones with recorded evidence of the use of these big head figures, starting around the year 1607, although anecdotes of the use of “Cabezudos” and “Gigantes” in San Fermin date as far back the year 1276.

The tradition of using them began to spread quickly through Spain, and from there to other countries around the world, and that’s how they made their way to the festivities in the Calle San Sebastián in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Comparsa de los Cabezudos 2017

Here’s a taste of what the “comparsa de los Cabazudos” looks like. It’s quite a good video taken by someone that was right in the middle of the event.


The “Cabezudos” are colorful figures that have become a symbol of the “Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián“, which is now an internationally known festival. Therefore I feel it’s important to understand this piece of our Latino culture and heritage.

Note: in this link you can read more of the history of the Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián.

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  1. […] [Note: you can read more on the history of the “cabezudos” on the blog HERE.] […]

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