Mask of the "Vejigante"
25th of July marks the beginning of the "Fiestas
de Santiago Apostol" (Santiago Apostol Feasts) in
Loiza, a town located east of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The Apostol "Santiago Matamoros"
Santiago Slayer of Moors"), symbol of the Christian
faith during Spain's "Reconquista" (Spain's
quest to free it self from arab rule), appears early
in the days of the
spanish conquest of the Caribbean, as he was frequently
invoked by the spaniards for strength and protection
during their fights against the Carib indians anf foreign
Loiza, a predominantly african community, Santiago was
identified with "Chango", god of thunder and war, from
Nigerian Yoruba folklore. Its traditional colors, red and
black, distinguish him.
(veh . hee . gan . tehs). Their masks are grotesque and
crowned with horns, and are usually made out of coconuts.
In their hand, they carry a long stick with an air-filled
cow "vejiga" (bladder) at the end, hence the name "Vejigantes".
They run aroynd the streets, rhyming in deep and distorted
voices while children rhyme and dance along with them.
is said that in colonial times, during pirate invasion
landlord would dress their slaves as "vejigantes", to scare
the intruders away and to keep them from attacking their
Vejigante (bay-he-GAHN-tay) is a fantastic, colorful
character introduced into carnival celebrations hundreds
of years ago. He is a classic example of the blending of African,
Spanish, and Caribbean influences in Puerto Rican culture.
The name Vejigante comes from the Spanish word for bladder, vejiga.
The Vejigante inflates a dried cow's bladder and paints it to
resemble a balloon. The Vejigante's costume is made from scraps
of fabric and looks like a clown suit with a cape and bat wings
under the arms.
During the carnival celebrations in Loíza Aldea and
Ponce, the Vejigantes roam the streets in groups and chase
with their vejigas. The Vejigante is such an old character
that he is even mentioned in the classic novel Don Quixote