TITLE: Vejigante Mask and Costume
TYPE: face mask; costume
GENERAL REGION: Caribbean
COUNTRY: Puerto Rico
SUBREGION: Ponce
ETHNICITY: Mestizo
DESCRIPTION: Vejigante Mask and Costume in Puerto Rico Flag Colors
MAKER (Mask): Unknown
MAKER (Costume): Gloria E. Cruz Guevara (Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA / Vieques, Puerto Rico, 1977- )
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE (Mask): 1980s
AGE (Costume): 2021
MAIN MATERIAL (Mask): paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS (Mask): gesso; paint
MATERIALS (Costume): dyed poly poplin cloth; dyed satin polyester cloth; stitching; elastic bands

The Carnival paraders of Ponce, Puerto Rico traditionally use paper maché masks with multiple horns and sharp teeth, accompanied by colorful and frilly costumes, to represent fantastic devils. Most consider that the more horns a mask has, the better.  Formerly, participants carried an inflated goat or cow bladder (vejiga) on a string with which to bop passers-by on the posterior.  This is how the character got its name, vejigante (bladder-carrier). Today, goat bladders are in short supply, and this practice is rare. Vejigantes nonetheless remain an indispensable part of the Ponce Carnival.

A unique feature of the Ponce carnival is that it includes the burial of a giant symbolic sardine, carried by a parader dressed as a friar and another dressed as a hooked sardine.  The sardine symbolizes the Carnival itself, and the burial marks its end.

This specific mask was worn in the parade of Ponce during the 1980s; the costume was specially made for the Museum by a seamstress on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico.

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TITLE: Kanaval Tiger
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Caribbean
COUNTRY: Haiti
ETHNICITY: Afro-Haitian
DESCRIPTION: Tiger Mask
MAKER: Didier Civile, Jacmel
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: late 1990s
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; rubber strap; string

In Haiti, the French-speaking descendants of African slaves celebrate Carnival (Kanaval) with parades and parties. Due to the extreme poverty of the great majority of Haitian people, masks and costumes are mostly handmade from recycled or easily available materials. There are stock characters that appear at most celebrations, such as Chaloska and the horned Lanse Kòds, but participants are free to invent their own costumes.  A few expert artisans, such as the one who made this mask, create more professional masks, but even these tend to be made of inexpensive materials, such as paper maché or wire mesh.

For more on Haitian Carnival, see Leah Gordon et al., Kanaval: Vodou, Politics and Revolution on the Streets of Haiti (London: Soul Jazz Pub., 2010).

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TITLE: Dominican Carnival Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Caribbean
COUNTRY: Dominican Republic
SUBREGION: Santiago
ETHNICITY: Afro-Latino
DESCRIPTION: Lechón
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: 1970s-1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: gesso; paint

During the Carnival of the Dominican Republic, which actually falls on the Dominican Independence Day rather than the Catholic Mardi Gras, paraders don elaborate masks and costumes to represent devils, monsters, clowns, and other characters.  Different towns have different traditional masks.  In Santiago, a very large parade involving hundreds of masked marchers takes place every year, prominently featuring characters known as the lechón, or “piglet.”  Notwithstanding their name, they nearly always look like a cross between a duck and a bull. The lechón is one of two traditional masks, the other being the pepín, which looks similar but with horns covered in spikes. Modern pepín masks often substitute elaborate collections of fruit, flowers, geometric shapes, or other creative decorations on the horns.

These diabolical creatures carry rope whips and inflated bladders on a rope (formerly goat bladders, but today mostly rubber) that they use to strike audience members, preferably young women, on the buttocks.  The ritual thereby serves the dual function of providing a release for young male testosterone and reminding the audience of the torments awaiting in Hell.

Traditionally, such masks were made of paper maché like this one, but in modern times they have been increasingly made of fiberglass molded around a sculpted model.  This allows crews of paraders to wear similar masks as a group without the need sculpt each mask individually.  Even so, tremendous work goes into the molding, preparation, painting, and adornment of each mask. Frequently the costumes require months of hand-stitching as well.

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TITLE: Dominican Carnival Mask
TYPE: face mask; costume; accessory
GENERAL REGION: Caribbean
COUNTRY: Dominican Republic
SUBREGION: La Vega
ETHNICITY: Afro-Latino
DESCRIPTION: Diablo Cojuelo
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: 2013
MAIN MATERIAL: fiberglass
OTHER MATERIALS: gesso; paint; synthetic hair; metal accessories; glue; glitter; wire mesh; foam rubber padding; elastic straps; plastic rhinestones; plastic ornaments

During the carnival of the Dominican Republic, which actually falls on the Dominican Independence Day rather than the Catholic Mardi Gras, paraders don elaborate masks and costumes to represent devils, monsters, clowns, and other characters.  Different towns have different traditional masks.  In La Vega, a very large parade involving hundreds of masked marchers takes place every year, prominently featuring characters known as the diablo cojuelo, or “tormenting devil.”  These devils carry inflated bladders on a rope (formerly goat bladders, but today mostly rubber) that they use to strike audience members, preferably young women, on the buttocks.  The ritual thereby serves the dual function of providing a release for young male testosterone and reminding the audience of the torments awaiting in Hell.

Traditionally, such masks were made of paper maché, but in modern times they have been increasingly made of fiberglass molded around a sculpted model.  This allows crews of paraders to wear similar masks as a group without the need sculpt each mask individually.  Even so, tremendous work goes into the molding, preparation, painting, and adornment of each mask. Frequently the costumes require months of hand-stitching as well.

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TITLE: Vejigante
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Caribbean
COUNTRY: Puerto Rico
SUBREGION: Loiza
ETHNICITY: Afro-Latino
DESCRIPTION: Vejigante Mask
MAKER: Wilfredo Vázquez
CEREMONY: Carnival; Fiesta de Santiago el Apostól
AGE: 2008
MAIN MATERIAL: coconut husk
OTHER MATERIALS: wood; paint

Loiza, Puerto Rico, is an enclave of Afro-Latino culture in otherwise mestizo Puerto Rico.  Unlike in other parts of Puerto Rico, masks of Loiza are carved from abundantly available coconut husks rather than paper maché. Like the masqueraders of Ponce on the other side of the island, Loizan masks sport multiple horns and sharp teeth, accompanied by colorful and frilly costumes, to represent fantastic devils.  Formerly, participants carried an inflated goat or cow bladder (vejiga) on a string with which to bop passers-by on the posterior.  This is how the character got its name, vejigante (bladder-carrier). Today, goat bladders are in short supply, and this practice is rare. Vejigantes nonetheless remain an indispensable part of the Loiza Carnival. In addition, the masqueraders appear at the Fiesta de Santiago el Apostól, the patron saint of Spain, whose holiday is celebrated equally in Loiza on July 25th.

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TITLE: Kanaval Tiger
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Caribbean
COUNTRY: Haiti
ETHNICITY: Afro-Haitian
DESCRIPTION: Tiger Mask
MAKER: Didier Civile, Jacmel
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: 2007
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint

In Haiti, the French-speaking descendants of African slaves celebrate Carnival (Kanaval) with parades and parties. Due to the extreme poverty of the great majority of Haitian people, masks and costumes are mostly handmade from recycled or easily available materials. There are stock characters that appear at most celebrations, such as Chaloska and the horned Lanse Kòds, but participants are free to invent their own costumes.  A few expert artisans, such as the one who made this mask, create more professional masks, but even these tend to be made of inexpensive materials, such as paper maché or wire mesh.

For more on Haitian Carnival, see Leah Gordon et al., Kanaval: Vodou, Politics and Revolution on the Streets of Haiti (London: Soul Jazz Pub., 2010).

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TITLE: Dominican Carnival Mask
TYPE: mask; costume; accessory
GENERAL REGION: Caribbean
COUNTRY: Dominican Republic
SUBREGION: La Vega
ETHNICITY: Afro-Latino
DESCRIPTION: Diablo Cojuelo
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: 2012
MAIN MATERIAL (mask): fiberglass
OTHER MATERIALS (mask): paint; synthetic feathers; metal accessories; silicon glue; glitter; wire mesh; foam rubber padding; elastic straps; rhinestones; plastic beads; foam rubber padding; synthetic feathers; polyester fabric
MATERIALS (costume): polyester fabric; stitching; elastic bands; steel bells; foam rubber padding

During the carnival of the Dominican Republic, which actually falls on the Dominican Independence Day rather than the Catholic Mardi Gras, paraders don elaborate masks and costumes to represent devils, monsters, clowns, and other characters.  Different towns have different traditional masks.  In La Vega, a very large parade involving hundreds of masked marchers takes place every year, prominently featuring characters known as the diablo cojuelo, or “tormenting devil.”  These devils carry inflated bladders on a rope (formerly goat bladders, but today mostly rubber) that they use to strike audience members, preferably young women, on the buttocks.  The ritual thereby serves the dual function of providing a release for young male testosterone and reminding the audience of the torments awaiting in Hell.

Traditionally, such masks were made of paper maché, but in modern times they have been increasingly made of fiberglass molded around a sculpted model.  This allows crews of paraders to wear similar masks as a group without the need sculpt each mask individually.  Even so, tremendous work goes into the molding, preparation, painting, and adornment of each mask. Frequently the costumes require months of hand-stitching as well.

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TITLE: Vejigante
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Caribbean
COUNTRY: Puerto Rico
SUBREGION: Ponce
ETHNICITY: Mestizo
DESCRIPTION: Vejigante Mask
MAKER: Miguel Caraballo Jr., Ponce
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: 2015
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: gesso; paint

The Carnival paraders of Ponce, Puerto Rico traditionally use paper maché masks with multiple horns and sharp teeth, accompanied by colorful and frilly costumes, to represent fantastic devils. Most consider that the more horns a mask has, the better.  Formerly, participants carried an inflated goat or cow bladder (vejiga) on a string with which to bop passers-by on the posterior.  This is how the character got its name, vejigante (bladder-carrier). Today, goat bladders are in short supply, and this practice is rare. Vejigantes nonetheless remain an indispensable part of the Ponce Carnival.

A unique feature of the Ponce carnival is that it includes the burial of a giant symbolic sardine, carried by a parader dressed as a friar and another dressed as a hooked sardine.  The sardine symbolizes the Carnival itself, and the burial marks its end.

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TITLE: Dominican Carnival Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Caribbean
COUNTRY: Dominican Republic
SUBREGION: La Vega
ETHNICITY: Afro-Latino
DESCRIPTION: Diablo Cojuelo
MAKER: Unknown maker in La Vega
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: 1990s
MAIN MATERIAL: fiberglass
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; synthetic hair; metal accessories; glue; glitter; wire mesh; foam rubber padding; elastic straps

During the carnival of the Dominican Republic, which actually falls on the Dominican Independence Day rather than the Catholic Mardi Gras, paraders don elaborate masks and costumes to represent devils, monsters, clowns, and other characters.  Different towns have different traditional masks.  In La Vega, a very large parade involving hundreds of masked marchers takes place every year, prominently featuring characters known as the diablo cojuelo, or “tormenting devil.”  These devils carry inflated bladders on a rope (formerly goat bladders, but today mostly rubber) that they use to strike audience members, preferably young women, on the buttocks.  The ritual thereby serves the dual function of providing a release for young male testosterone and reminding the audience of the torments awaiting in Hell.

Traditionally, such masks were made of paper maché, but in modern times they have been increasingly made of fiberglass molded around a sculpted model.  This allows crews of paraders to wear similar masks as a group without the need sculpt each mask individually.  Even so, tremendous work goes into the molding, preparation, painting, and adornment of each mask. Frequently the costumes require months of hand-stitching as well.

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