Island Festival Celebrates Endangered Leatherback Sea Turtle
At 10:00 am on April 26, a parade of children marched through the streets of Luquillo, Puerto Rico, dressed as sea turtles. Ushering in the Third Annual Festival del Tinglar (Leatherback Turtle Festival) the children were welcomed to the plaza by community members, local businesses, non-profits and artisans from all over of the island. Music and dancing soon filled the square as people sang along to new and familiar songs. “Move your hips like you are ready to dance and wave your arms like a leatherback turtle,” sang music group Son de Almendro.
This Leatherback Turtle Festival began in 2006 to raise awareness and support for the protection of the Northeast Ecological Corridor, one of this U.S. territory’s most precious natural treasures. The Corridor is a 3,200-acre stretch of eastern shoreline located between the towns of Luquillo and Fajardo and is made up of forests, wetlands, beaches, coral communities and a bioluminescent lagoon. Its beaches are one of the three most important nesting sites for the leatherback turtle in the U.S.
Drawing over 2,000 people, including Puerto Rico Sierra Club activists (above), the event included more than 50 artisan booths, 30 non-profit resource tables, a tent for corridor education, natural food vendors and more. Music and dancing lasted until well into the evening.
This year the festival celebrated a true conservation victory. Last October 4, Puerto Rican governor, Anibal Acevedo Vila, signed an executive order designating the Northeast Ecological Corridor as a Nature Reserve, limiting development in this region to eco-tourism. With this monumental win behind them, the Sierra Club Puerto Rico Chapter and its partners in the Coalición Pro Corredor Ecológico del Noreste are helping the towns of Luquillo and Fajardo design eco-tourism plans. This work will bring potential investment and employment to local residents and entrepreneurs who have historically not benefitted from the economic boom of island tourism. It will also provide visitors with direct access to the corridor.