TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Caribbean
COUNTRY: Puerto Rico
DESCRIPTION: Vejigante Mask
MAKER: Miguel Caraballo Jr., Ponce
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.