A Piragua /pi’ra:gwe is a Puer­to Rican shaved ice dessert, shaped like a pyra­mid, con­sist­ing of shaved ice and cov­ered with fruit fla­vored syrup. Piraguas are sold by ven­dors, known as piragüeros, in small col­or­ful push­carts. Besides Puer­to Rico, Piraguas can be found in the Unit­ed States main­land areas, such as New York and Cen­tral Flori­da, which have large Puer­to Rican com­mu­ni­ties.

In most Span­ish-speak­ing coun­tries, the word piragua (pi·ra·gua) means pirogue, a small, flat-bot­tomed boat. In Puer­to Rico the word piragua refers to a frozen treat made of shaved ice and cov­ered with fruit fla­vored syrup. Unlike the Amer­i­can snow cone which is round and resem­bles a snow­ball, the piragua is pointy and shaped like a pyra­mid.

The piragua ven­dor is known as the “piragüero”. Most piragüeros sell their prod­uct from a col­or­ful wood­en push­cart that car­ries an umbrel­la, instead of from a fixed stand or kiosk. The piragüero makes the treats from the shav­ings off a block of sol­id ice which is locat­ed inside his cart  and mix­tures of fruit-fla­vored syrups.  The trop­i­cal syrup fla­vors vary from lemon and straw­ber­ry to pas­sion fruit and gua­va. Once the syrups are ready, the piragüero will go to his place of busi­ness, which in Puer­to Rico is usu­al­ly close to the town plaza, while in the Unit­ed States it is usu­al­ly close to the pub­lic parks near His­pan­ic neigh­bor­hoods, to sell his prod­uct.

In the process of prepar­ing a piragua, the piragüero shaves the ice from the block of ice with a Hand Ice Shaver.  He then puts the shaved ice into a cup and uses a fun­nel shaped tool, which resem­bles a cone-pyra­mid, to give it the dis­tinc­tive pyra­mid shape. The piragüero fin­ish­es mak­ing the piragua when he pours the desired fla­vored syrup. Unlike the typ­i­cal Amer­i­can snow cone, which is often eat­en with a spoon, the piragua is eat­en straight out of the cup or is sipped through a straw.   Piragüeros are only out on hot sun­ny days because those are the only days when they can expect good busi­ness.

 The word “piragua” is com­posed of two words: “pira” from pyra­mid which explains the con­i­cal pyra­mid shape paper cup used most­ly in Puer­to Rico and “agua” Span­ish for water, the sol­id water ice that it is made from.

The more com­mon fla­vored syrups used in the “piraguas” are the following:

Ajon­jolí (Sesame seed)
Anis (Anise)
Cereza (Cher­ry)
Chi­na (Orange)
Coco (Coconut)
Cre­ma (Cream)
Fram­bue­sa (Red rasp­ber­ry)
Fre­sa (Straw­ber­ry)
Limón (Lemon)
Melao (syrup from the Sug­ar cane)
Melón (Hon­ey­dew)
Par­cha (Pas­sion fruit)
Piña (Pineap­ple)
Tamarindo (Tamarind)
Uva (Grape)

type of Hand Ice Shaver used by the Piragüero

Piragua Cart with Block of ice and syrups