The Vejigante (bay-he-GAHN-tay) is a fantastic, colorful character introduced into carnival celebrations in Puerto Rico hundreds of years ago. He is a classic example of the blending of African, Spanish, and Caribbean influences in Puerto Rican culture.
- The name Vejigante comes from the Spanish word for bladder, vejiga. The Vejigante inflates a dried cow’s bladder and paints it to resemble a balloon. During the carnival celebrations in Loíza Aldea and Ponce, the Vejigantes roam the streets in groups and chase children with their vejigas.
- The Vejigante’s costume is made from scraps of fabric and looks like a clown suit with a cape and batwings under the arms.
- The Vejigante is such an old character that he is even mentioned in the classic novel Don Quixote written in 1605.
- Different towns in Puerto Rico have variations on the characters. In the southern town of Ponce, the masks are made of papier-maché with many curved horns and fangs. In the northern town of Loíza, the African influence is evident in the masks made from coconut shells and carved wooden horns. The town of Hatillo commemorates the “Slaughter of the Holy Innocents” by dressing up as King Herod’s soldiers in colorfully beribboned costumes.
The Vejigante and the Folk Festivals of Puerto Rico Activity Book tells the legend of the Vejigante and how he still appears today in carnival celebrations in three cities in Puerto Rico. The book gives insight into the differences in style and symbolism in these three festivals and is illustrated with beautiful drawings to color. The Legend of the Vejigante Make-a-Mask Video contains actual footage of the carnival celebrations plus detailed instructions on making the papier-maché mask the Ponce Vejigante wears. A pattern sheet is included.