Puerto Rican Bears Find a New Home at El Purgatorio with PR Bear Events

Miguel Matos is one of the cofounders of Puerto Rico Bear Events. Find out how he and the bar El Purgatorio are bringing bears back to the forefront of the San Juan nightlife scene.

Prior to the rebranding of El Purgatorio as a bear bar, the community had been without a home in San Juan since the closing of The Bear Tavern (which became an unfortunate victim of the pandemic). Through The Bear Tavern the Puerto Rican bears had found a place that welcomed them with open arms, something we all know the value of considering how we are not always made to feel welcome in other spaces. Its closure was devastating and it was a loss deeply felt throughout the community. That is why we were overjoyed by the news that El Purgatorio stepped up to be San Juan’s new bear bar and reassured to learn of Miguel Matos’ and PR Bear Events’ involvement. We knew the bears were in good hands.

To find out more we sat down with Miguel to get a bit more information about him, his work and El Purgatorio.

Miguel Matos and two loving pups at El Purgatorio

BWM: When did you start Puerto Rico Bear Events and why?

Miguel Matos (MM): Puerto Rico Bear Events started in 2010 with my husband Eliezer, a small group of friends, and me. The idea came from a desire to have bear representation at the different gay bars around the island. At that time the gay bars did not have special events or themed nights that were geared towards the bear community in Puerto Rico. We wanted to bring a different perspective to the bars, in the hope to eventually have a bar that could be used as a hub for the bear community.

BWM: What type of events do you put on?

MM: Currently we have themed nights, weekly, at EL Purgatorio. These range from leather, puppy, underwear, shirtless, and more. We run special nights with everything from camp, the Bear Drag Show, to some of the more risqué private parties. We also have bon voyage and welcome back parties for cruises. Outside of the bar we also have beach parties, camping, gatherings at Cabo Rojo Pride, and bear pool parties.

BWM: What are your upcoming events? Anything special planned for Pride?

MM: Upcoming events

May 17, 2024: 7-8pm – Lecture series at El Purgatorio

El Delito del Cuerpo – readings from various gay authors from their books.

Presented by Día Nacional Del Libro LGBTTQ – Puertorriqueño (Puerto Rican National Day of the LBGTQ Book)

May 26, 2024: 6pm to close – Bear T–Dance at El Purgatorio

with music by DJ Charlie (70s, 80s and 90s)

July 3, 2024: 7pm – close – Underwear party at El Purgatorio

Pride Events

June 7, 2024: We are sponsoring the Semáforo Party in Cabo Rajo for pride weekend at La Garita Bar and Restaurant

June 8, 2024: 10am Orgullo Boquerón – Bear Pride – Beach Bear Gathering 

BWM: Tell us about El Purgatorio. Where is it? What are the hours? Is it exclusively a bear bar or does it just have bear nights?

MM: El Purgatorio is located at 1199 Del Carmen Street in Santurce, Puerto Rico. It was reconceptualized and opened as an exclusively Bear bar in December of 2023. I am an associate/partner to the owner of the bar. Currently El Purgatorio is only open on Fridays, Saturdays, and on limited special occasions. However, there are plans to add Sundays and possibly some weekdays to the current schedule.

BWM: How has the gay community in Puerto Rico responded to your events and El Purgatorio?

MM: The bear and leather community have shown great appreciation to having a place that caters to them again, in El Purgatorio.

BWM: When did you personally find the bear community and why do you like it?

MM: We found the bear community in PR in 2008. I like the bear community because when my husband and I first discovered the bear community, it gave us a place to fit in. It gave us a sense of comfort and pride in ourselves and has shown us the beauty in our community outside of a stereotype. The bear community gave me a place to join in giving back, with the focus the community already had and still has on community service and awareness. It has also brought me life-long friends, many of which are now family.

BWM: Is there anything else you would like to mention?

MM: I would like to give special thanks to my husband Eliezer for the support & Deborah and Wilkin, from EL Purgatorio, for taking a chance on Puerto Rico Bear Events and allowing us to have found our home in PR. Many thanks to Max and Arnaldo from Communidad de Osos de Puerto Rico, LGBTQ Jeep Club, Charlie Rivera (DJ Del los Osos), DJ Fred Marin, DJ Xtasys, Kelly Gomez (Bar Manager), Siul (Bartender), Jose Rosado (Whooper), Amber Lynch our Bear Drag, Miguel Rodriguez and the great clients and family we have met, so far, along the way. 

Follow Puerto Rico Bear Events on Facebook and Instagram.

Follow El Purgatorio on Facebook and Instagram.

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John Hernandez

John Hernandez is the Editor in Chief of Bear World Magazine. In addition to bear culture, he specializes in entertainment writing with a special focus on horror and genre films. He resides in New York City with his husband.

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