TITLE: Lechón Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Caribbean
COUNTRY: Dominican Republic
DESCRIPTION: Pepinera-type Lechón Carnival Mask
MAKER: Manuel de Jesús Jiménez (Santiago, 1954- ) & Yovanny de Jesús Jiménez Santos (Santiago, 1979-)
CEREMONY: Carnival; Dominican Independence Day
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: yucca sap; paint; clear spray enamel; foam rubber; 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 Santiago de los Caballeros, 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 comes in various forms. The traditional mask is the pepinera, with smooth horns or horns covered in spikes. Other masks include jolla masks, whose horns are covered in spikes; flores masks covered in flowers; and fantasía masks, which can take almost any form. This mask is a pepinera-type mask.
Lechones 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.