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Meet San Nicolas

By Debbie Kunder

In the past few years, the once-sleepy town of San Nicolas at the southern tip of the island has been waking up and developing into a vibrant art and cultural district, thanks in great part to the annual Aruba Art Fair (AAF). In fact, AAF is behind the over 40 murals that adorn the buildings, walls, and other structures of the area surrounding San Nicolas’ Main Street, all created by international and local street artists. Many of the murals live along the quaint Main Street Promenade, where two art galleries (Cosecha and ArtisA) and the San Nicolas Community Museum are also located.

San Nicolas is proud of its new identity as an art and cultural hub for the island, and the new Meet San Nicolas festival, which takes place on the first Thursday of every month, gives the town the chance to express this new identity, without forgetting to honor the more traditional aspects, like Carnival. Naturally, the festival is centered around the Main Street Promenade, with the resident murals adding pops of color to this evening event.

San Nicolas street art

I attended the fourth edition of this event last night, and found it to be a true island gem. The street was lined with arts & crafts tables and a variety of food vendors, most offering authentic local and Caribbean fare, including bullfoot soup (which is exactly what it sounds like), BBQ ribs and chicken from Chichi’s Snack Truck, smoked meats from Robert’s Smoke Pit, soups and funnel cake by Sopi di Dudu, the requisite assortment of pastechis, and Aruban-style cakes and sweets.

Meet San Nicolas event
Meet San Nicolas event
Meet San Nicolas event
Meet San Nicolas festival
Balashi Aruba

I don’t drink alcohol, so I skipped the Balashi bar (decorated with Carnival regalia) and headed over to Rootsman Juice. Here, I spoke to San Nicolas resident Celeste Richardson, who informed me that the Meet San Nicolas festival is the creation of the people of San Nicolas. She is the wife of Sonny Richardson, the maker of the juices as well as one of the main engines behind the event. Patrick Gumbs, Mike Petronia, Johnny Kock, Jose Martis, and Deninah Martina join Sonny on the event’s board. The intention behind Meet San Nicolas is all in the name: it aims to encourage island guests (and locals) to meet (or reaquaint themselves with) San Nicolas. “The event has a homey feel to it because it is organized and executed by the people who live here,” explained Celeste. After getting the lowdown on the event, I made sure to sample Sonny’s antioxidant-laden juices, including the sage & lime, sorrel, and even the sea moss (sounds dubious, but it takes just like a vanilla milkshake). They also had ginger juice and a tree bark-based drink called mauby.

Meet San Nicolas event
Celeste and her son, manning the juice bar.

The Cosecha gallery, which features locally made arts and crafts authenticated by the national seal of craftsmanship, had its doors open for the event, and so did the San Nicolas Community Museum at the end of the street.

Cosecha San Nicolas Aruba
Cosecha Aruba

Next to Nicolaas Store, Monochrome Pop-Up Gallery made its second-ever appearance, featuring the photography of local artists Armando Goedgedrag, Cado de Lannoy, and Anuar Habibe. I couldn’t resist one of Cado’s pieces, “Robertino the Goat,” which is now hanging on my wall at home.

Aruba Monochrome Pop-Up Gallery
Monochrome Pop-Up Gallery
Cado de Lannoy
Cado & Robertino

I tend to be a party pooper when it comes to nighttime events—I need my sleep!—so it was only when I was leaving did I notice the Carnival dancers and a steel band getting ready to perform. It’s ok…now I have an excuse to come again next month. See you then!

When: Every first Thursday of the month, 6:30 pm – 10 pm

Place: Promenade in San Nicolas (plenty of parking is available in surrounding streets and lots)

Facebook: @meetsannicolas

San Nicolas street Aruba Aruba