Explore the colorful, working-class neighborhood of Santurce, which has recently evolved into an arts and design district. In 2010, a scrappy area gallery, C787studios, began hosting an annual cultural festival called Santurce es Ley, adding a shot of energy to San Juan’s alternative arts scene. Look out for the strikingly complex graffiti that covers many of the sidewalls on Cerra and Hoare Streets. Then head to Roberto Paradise, a two-year-old gallery exhibiting avant-garde contemporary artists like José Lerma and Tyson Reeder in a wood-walled residence from the early 1900s. A few blocks away, gallerist Agustina Ferreyra shows mixed-media and conceptual works by emerging artists from Puerto Rico and beyond.
Hear up-and-coming indie musicians at La Respuesta, a warehouse-like venue with a formidable roster of performances by irreverent, underground local acts like Campo Formio, a powerful post-punk trio, and the singer-songwriter Mima, who plays a mix of folk and Afrobeat. On weekends, catch internationally known music makers like Richard Dorfmeister (of Kruder & Dorfmeister) or Brooklyn Shanti (dubbed the “Indian Bambaataa”) at La Factoria in Old San Juan. Opened just a year ago, this specialty-cocktails bar could have been transplanted right from South Williamsburg, with tattered walls, vintage floor tiles, string globe lights, and a staff of knowledgeable mixologists crafting quaffs like the spiced Old-Fashioned ($10).
Check the calendar at Beta-Local, a nonprofit in Old San Juan that has become a harbor for progressive artistic thought and expression. The space hosts frequent film screenings, exhibits, and workshops about topics ranging from the use of technology to create art to the tenets of raw foodism, offered on the ground level of a grand residence from the early 1800s. The 9,000-square-foot building was fully renovated by Beta-Local founder Michy Marxuach, a respected curator who lives with her family on the top floors. Ask if you’re there in time for one of her donation-based Friday dinners, which support visiting artists like Venezuelan photographer Angela Bonadies; recent meals have included rustic classics, like chicken with spicy mole sauce served with jasmine rice.