Festival de la China Dulce
A Sweet FestivalI know Las Marias as my dad's hometown. But generally, the tiny town of Las Marias is known for being tiny. Oh, and for its oranges. The Festival de la China Dulce (an annual sweet orange festival) lets you savor oranges cake, orange flans, orange merengue cookies, orange jams, and—most importantly—polvorones de china (Puerto Rican shortbread cookies with an intense orange flavor).
But the oranges aren't the only thing that's sweet. Traditional candies (in the photo) abound. Try the dulce de ajonjoli (sesame seed lollipops) or the tembleque (a sort of light coconut pudding).
To top that off, everywhere you turn, authentic Puerto Rican food will catch your eye. You can expect roasted pork, a variety of fritters, all kinds of rice, and pasteles. Pastel means cake in some dialects, but I'm referring to a dough made out of plantains or yautia, colored with anatto oil, wrapped in a plantain leaf, and stuffed with meat and olives. Accompany your meal with a smoothie, piña colada, beer, or (of course) orange juice.
Take your plate and sit on the sidewalk under a tree like the locals to listen to live music and watch as colorful masses perform folkloric dances onstage.
Afterward, shop around a little for unique mementos to take back home. Artisans from all over the island come to show off their goods, often made out of leather, wood, or sea shells. Then take a glance at the houses, many of which have never been remodeled.