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.