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THE SANTOS OF PUERTO RICO CARVINGS
AND THREE KINGS DAY


Three Kings wooden Santos Carvings

A child growing up in Puerto Rico 50 years ago did not know Santa Claus! January 6 was the most special day, the day the three kings arrived to bring presents to the baby Jesus, but stopped on the way to drop off a gift for every child.

On the eve of Three Kings Day each child gathered some grass for the camels to eat and put it in a shoe box under the bed. There was one present per child, left under the bed, only one!

It is interesting to find that in Puerto Rican tradition, Melchior is the Moorish king, or the one with a dark complexion, while Balthazar has white hair and beard, and Gaspar is a beardless youth.

The Christmas Holidays in Puerto Rico now last from sometime before Christmas Eve through a few days after Three Kings Day. Nothing gets done, everyone parties, cooks special foods and half the population stays somewhat drunk. Don't even bother to attempt to do any business during this time in Puerto Rico. . . . Read More . .

The numerous carvings of the Three Kings fall into several iconographies and a third more narrative, historical type. The devotional compositions present the Three Kings standing or on horseback, facing the devotee. The figures are placed horizontally on a common base, shoulder to shoulder.

The less common, narrative, historical composition also depicts the Three Kings on horseback, but sideways in three-quarter profile, looking toward the star of Bethlehem, to which the leading king points with his right hand.

"In a country where the official church was often identified with an oppressive colonial government, santos and the domestic devotions associated with them allowed their owners to bypass the church in their dealings with the sacred world."

There were many famous carvers of wooden saints in Puerto Rico and some present day ones. The lived in the mountains and were the local supplyer of the carved saints.

The easiest place to see a fine collection of antique wooden carved saints is in the Ballaja Museum, 'Exhibit of the Americas' on the second floor.

Another place might be the Santos Museum in Santurce, which might be open, call first. Website and information. Tel. 787-268-0224 Email: rholm@caribbeanconsulting.com

 


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