Vejigante Mascara

El Vejigante is a folkloric figure who’s origins trace back to medieval Spain. The legend goes that the Vejigante represented the infidel Moors who were defeated in a battle led by Saint James. To honor the saint, the people dressed as demons took to the street in an annual procession. Over time, the Vejigante became a kind of folkloric demon. In Puerto Rico, it took on a new dimension with the introduction of African and native Taíno cultural influence. The Africans supplied the drum-heavy music of bomba y plena.

El Vejigante masks of Puerto Rico are a cultural celebration and symbolism of pride. I took on the responsibility of creating these playful looking masks as a part of my senior thesis to exhibit my pride of being Puerto Rican. It was important to me that I kept Los Vejigantes pure in essence, and not necessarily use a contemporary art approach when designing their layouts. I wanted my audience to experience the culture from the island brought to the city, and witness something that is not often seen here. The various decorations of Los Vejigantes consists of many painted dots and not too pleasing facial designs.

They are usually made of paper mache, or natural resources such as coconut. Representing the island’s, as well as my ancestors culture in a respectful way, was the main thing I kept noted in the back of my mind. I had thoughts of adding contemporary elements to Los Vejigantes, and after discussing it with other Puerto Ricans familiar with the masks, we both agreed keeping them traditional was best. When creating things of such rich cultural history, I assemble others who represent the culture, taking their views into consideration. It is more important that I create my artwork representing us all in a beautiful, respectful way, rather than just making something that I like. One of my main goals was to make the others in my community proud that our cultures are continuing to be remembered, no matter if we are on the island of Puerto Rico or a great distance way.

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