Leisure Activities in Puerto Rico

San Juan, Puerto Rico
On the beach in San Juan, Puerto Rico (photo credit: Pablo Verdin)

During the beginning of the Industrial Era, work was a long daily ordeal that often lasts over 14 hours a day year round.  The notion of paid vacation was non-existent and holidays were rare.  Free time and therefore leisure activities were unimaginable.  Things began to change with the modernization of the industrial society, as technology improved productivity and workers gain more bargaining power through their technological skills.  Today, in Puerto Rico, it is not uncommon to have a five-day work week of eight hours per day, in addition to a number of paid vacation days during the year.

Another major difference between the Industrial Era and today is that one may be longer compelled to work in order to put bread on the table and pay the rent.  Nowadays people may consider their leisure time to be an important decision factor in choosing their work.  Thus, one may be willing to earn less money by working fewer hours in order to have more leisure time on hand.

Open-air music concert, San Juan, Puerto Rico 
(photo credit: Deborah Levy)

Street fair, San Juan, Puerto Rico
(photo credit: Deborah Levy)

So what do Puerto Ricans do with their leisure time?  We will present some survey results from the TGI Puerto Rico study, a survey of 2,055 individuals aged 12 or older, who were interviewed between February and April, 1999.  In the table below, we show a list of leisure activities and the percent of persons who said they did those activities either 'frequently' or 'sometimes' during the last 3 months.

Leisure Activity % did frequently last 3 months % did sometimes last 3 months
Read books 18.0% 12.2%
Went to beach/lake 9.5% 21.8%
Card games/board games/dominos 8.6% 14.1%
Exercised/went to gym 5.8% 9.3%
Dined out (not fast food) 5.8% 19.6%
Danced/went dancing 4.7% 12.7%
Home decoration/DIY project 4.5% 8.6%
Went to bars/nightclubs 3.3% 6.4%
Attended concert 3.0% 9.7%
Attended cultural events 2.6% 8.1%

(source: TGI Puerto Rico, MediaFax Inc)

Participation in these leisure activities varies by demographics.  In the next table, we use a correspondence map to display the relationship between leisure activities by age/sex groups.  As one might expect, elderly people are book readers while young males are bar hoppers and dancers, and so on.

(source: TGI Puerto Rico, MediaFax Inc)

In the list of leisure activities, we see that attendance at cultural events was down at the bottom of the list.  This actually belies the importance and significance of cultural activities in Puerto Rican society.

First of all, the forging of a cultural identity is an essential component of all nationalistic programs.  What is sometimes forgotten is that there is not one nationalism, but many competing, evolving nationalisms seeking hegemony at any one moment.  In the case of Puerto Rico, the competitive landscape is much more obvious as the status of Puerto Rico is contested vigorously among three nationalist visions: statehood, commonwealth and independence.  Each nationalism enlists the cultural process on its side in the public debate about the future.  In turn, within each nationalism, there is not one but multiple cultural visions clamouring to be articulated.  As an example, all we need to do is to contemplate the polarized reception of music genres such as salsa, merengue, rap and reggae by different groups in Puerto Rico.

Perhaps just as importantly, the forging of a cultural identity is also an essential component of marketing strategies and advertising campaigns.  Corporations use images of Puerto Rican culture to advertise liquor, beer, cigarettes, and other products.  They also sponsor many cultural festivals and awards (e.g. Premio Budweiser al Artesano Mayor, Bacardi Folk Arts Fair, etc).

Domino game, San Juan, Puerto Rico
(photo credit: Deborah Levy)

Outdoor concert, San Juan, Puerto Rico
(photo credit: Deborah Levy)

Hard Rock Cafe, San Juan, Puerto Rico
(photo credit: Deborah Levy)


(posted by Roland Soong on 2/05/00)

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