Vejigante: The Masked Reveler
The folkloric character of Vejigante is mentioned as far back as 1605, when mention to Vejigante was made in a novel called “Don Quixote”. Vejigante and the making of Vejigante masks is a firm part of the history of Puerto Rico and of the culture of the island. This amazingly colorful character appears in various festivals and carnivals that are held in the cities of Puerto Rico, and making Vejigante masks has become a tradition that every child and adult can indulge in.
Most Vejigante masks are made from paper mache, which is also used in other countries such as Mexico, Venezuela and Ecuador. They represent a mixture of cultures from different destinations around the world, including the Caribbean and Spain. The paper mache figures that are created to represent Vejigante are left to the creators’ imaginations when it comes to color and style, but there are a few features that distinguish Vejigante masks from others.
The Vejigante character takes the shape of a dragon, and even though sometimes a little scary looking, he is a friendly character. The masks have hollow eyes, with large mouths from which protrude big frightening teeth. Complete with massive horns, the Vejigante masks are then decorated with a variety of colors and are usually finished off with polka-dots. These masks can also be seen as a form of art in Puerto Rico, as quite a number of artists specialize in the creating of Vejigante masks. Visitors to the island will be able to see Vejigante in action during the festivals such as the Fiestas de Hatillo, the Loiza Carnavals and the Carnaval de Ponce.
Vejigante is a historical character that has survived for centuries through the festivals and culture of the island. Its significance to these celebrations is evident through the craft of mask making, where artists acknowledge his importance through their work and locals do not attend a celebration without him. Exploring the Vejigante character and his role in festivals takes visitors into the past of Puerto Rico and a part of his heritage that remains alive and dancing today.