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American, Caribbean, Puerto Rico

Vejigante Mask, Late 20th Century

Papier-mâché, paint

Gift of Peter Gould and Robin Potter

Collection of La Salle University Art Museum, 17-LA-107

Vejigantes is a festival that takes place every July in Loiza and Ponce, Puerto Rico. This holiday originated from the somber traditions of the 11th-century Iberian Peninsula and the celebration of the Apostle James, the patron saint of Spain. When this tradition was brought to the new world, the festivity changed in character. In the Americas, due to the African and Indigenous cultures, the celebration adopted a lively and vibrant tone with the incorporation of music and dance. The figure of the Vejigante is that of a devil-clown, who dresses in colorful clothing accessorized with a cape and a mask. The masks are made from either papier-mâché or coconut shell depending on the region. Ornamented with horns, fangs and beaks, the masks are painted with primary colors often in a polka-dot pattern.

In SPN 480: Special Topics - Hispanic Traditions and Culture offered in spring 2017, the class studied the original Spanish festival and learned how the African and Indigenous cultures mutated this festival once it arrived in the Caribbean. Students visited the Art Museum and were able to view many of the ceremonial masks in the collection. They learned how different cultures use the concept of the “mask.” After doing so, the class was then invited to create their own Vejigante masks. One of the interesting discussions that arose from this activity was that students realized the amount of time and skill required to produce a mask. They reflected on the fact that the artistic product was later devalued when tourists haggled over the price of the artifact.

Victoria Ketz, Ph.D.

Professor and Chair, Department of Global Languages, Literatures, and Perspectives

Broader Identity

  • 1. Understanding Diverse Perspectives

Effective Expression

  • 9. Creative and Artistic Expression

Active Responsibility

  • 11. Cultural and Global Awareness and Sensitivity

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Collection of La Salle University Art Museum;