In most other Spanish-speaking countries, when you ask for a piragua, you get a canoe. Not in Puerto Rico, though. If you order a piragua in Puerto Rico, you will be presented with a great antidote for the Puerto Rican sun. On the island, piragua is a snow cone similar to those illustrated at left.
Interestingly, I could not find the word piragua in any Spanish dictionary, just as I could not find a Spanish translation for "snow cone". It may be that piragua, meaning snow cone, is a strictly Puerto Rican meaning for that word. I have also seen it used in East Harlem (El Barrio), where piraguas are sold in street corners in carts much like those which were prevalent in Puerto Rico years ago.
Carrito de Piragua, Plaza de Ponce, Puerto Rico
Piraguas are shaved ice, in a cone or -more recently- plastic cup, doused liberally with snow cone syrups. There is a wide variety of flavors, mostly tropical in nature. Some of the favorites are strawberry (frambuesa), tamarind, lemon, coconut, vanilla, passion fruit (parcha).
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