Most Frightening Trip Ever — Hatillo, Puerto Rico

The most frightening trip I have ever experienced was driving through Hatillo, Puerto Rico on December 28, 2008.

Our family flew to San Juan and rented an SUV  for the 2  1/2 hour drive to Rincon. The trip took us 4  1/2 hours, and one of those hours was the most frightening in my life.

We began our trip cruising west along the north shore, as we caught glimpses of the lapis Atlantic Ocean through the windows of our green Ford Explorer, our excitement increased.

When we approached the seaside town Hatillo, we hit traffic congestion and a confusion of color, and cacophony pierced our eyes and ears. Sirens screamed, horns blared, and men garbed in garish, fluorescent clothing and bizarre, grotesque masks guzzled liquor and beer while riding in the back of colorfully painted trucks and parade floats.

As we entered Hatillo we were in gridlock and the town was bedlam, with groups of men staggering in the streets swilling alcohol. We closed our windows, locked our doors, and peered at the insanity. Unfortunately, we became their target.

We feared for our safety

Men swarmed our SUV, shook it, and shot it with Silly String. I hoped that they wouldn’t overturn it. Metal boomed, as they pounded their fists on the hood, roof and windows, and I wondered if the glass would shatter. Police, who were outnumbered probably 100 to 1, ignored the pandemonium, and we knew if the crowd became violent, we were in trouble. I was mostly worried about the children in the back seat, who ranged from 9 to 15 years old.

Our jeep creeped at about 2 mph for about an hour, and we cringed and gaped as some of the men became falling-down drunk.

Eventually, we spotted a cross street about four blocks ahead. Without coaxing, my husband drove over the curb, and on the sidewalk, and we passed the gridlocked cars. When we turned on the open street and accelerated, we high-fived and laughed from relief.

Mascaras de Hatillo or Hatillo Mask Festival

We learned that the locals were celebrating the Hatillo Mask Festival or Mascaras de Hatillo. It appeared to me, that for some, it was an excuse to get drunk and terrorize anyone caught in the gridlock, though the festival is legitimate.

Mascaras de Hatillo, Puerto Rico

Mascaras de Hatillo, Puerto Rico (Photo credit: enlacepr)

It commemorates when King Herod ordered soldiers to kill little children after Jesus was born to prevent Jesus from becoming king. The gaudily clad men represented these soldiers.

I suspect if we visited the lovely seaside town Hatillo on another day, we would have found it charming not alarming. Not happening…

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34 thoughts on “Most Frightening Trip Ever — Hatillo, Puerto Rico

  1. I live in the country and “town” is actually a small community. I go to the city, but it doesn’t take much for me to start looking for safe places to get out of the crowd. I’m glad you made your escape! 🙂

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  2. Lisa says:

    Wow, just watched the video. I was considering going to the festival with my family but not now, it just seems to scary and different from parades at home

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  3. Hector Valle says:

    deverian de evitar ser tan ridiculos y de faltarle el respeto a la gente de mi pueblo ese festival se selebradesde1948ven mi pueblo y conmemora la matansa de ninos por el rey herodes ,el dia de los inocentes en otros paises y estados lo selebran haciendo maldades y destruccion,en primer lugar antes de viajar empapese de lo q sucede en el pais q visite nosotros los puertoriquenos y en especial la buena gente de Hatillo no somos criminales ni delincuentes y le aseguro q si hubiese tenido algun problema cualquiera de esos muchacos hubiese dado todo por darle la mano gente como usted es la q le hace dano a nuetra isla en los viajes la ignorancia es un problema brega con esa . att TRAFICANTES DE HATILLO por si acaso grupo de mascaras traficantes

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  4. Melissa says:

    Are our kidding me? it was a parade! not a gang affiliation! you sound like a jerk and you are culturally insensitive. you got stuck in some traffic with loud music and people in costumes drinking and having a good time, Maybe you should stay home and not go anywhere EVER if that was the scariest experience of your life. LOL

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  5. Brooks says:

    My family and I were there in Hatillo the same day in 2008, in Hatillo, and posted a video on YouTube (#1 if you Google it). Wasn’t so scary in the town itself along the parade route. But it’s really not much of a festival; just a day long parade of decorated vehicles (“floats”), each one using sirens and car alarms trying to make more noise than the others. Not recommend for the sane (the YouTube covers it), but there are a few crafts booths in the center of town if you’re stuck there.

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