I recently saw a fabulous multicultural art project made by a Spanish class. The teacher is graciously sharing her project her today!
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A vejigante is a common folkloric character seen in Puerto Rico during Carnaval, Santiago (St James) saint day, and other festival celebrations. The characters march in parades wearing colorful and ornate masks and costumes with bat wings. The word vejigante comes from 2 words that mean giant bladder (vejiga gigante) because they originally held a “weapon” of a large, blown up, painted cow bladder!
Later, in the 12th century, Catholics in Spain were trying to push the Moors out of Spain. Santiago, (St James the Apostle) the patron saint of Spain, was believed to help the Spanish in battle. On July 25th, his Saint’s day, people celebrated the victory and made vejigante characters to represent the defeated Moors.
500 years later, in the 1600s, the vejigantes represented demons, and were used in religious festivals and processions to try to scare people to go back to church. When the tradition came to Puerto Rico with the Spanish, it was influenced by the Taínos, who were excellent mask makers. The Africans also influenced the procession with their drum-heavy music of bomba y plena.
The vibrant vejigantes masks (called caretas) are green, yellow, and red, or red and black, and always look “scary.” Today, these whimsical masks are a cultural expression unique to Puerto Rico! They can be made from papier-mâché or coconut husks. The caretas are hand-painted and include horns, fangs, and beaks, and polka-dots.
The 4th graders at Undermountain Elementary in Sheffield, MA and New Marlboro Central made these amazing masks from Puerto Rico during their Spanish class with Señora Mapstone. Like we said, the masks are a staple of the Boricua carnival during the February festivities.
Making Puerto Rican Masks
flour/water (see this papier-mâché recipe)
washable tempura paint
- First, each child should get a mask. They can roll up newspaper like ice cream cones and glue it to the mask to make horns, fangs, beaks, etc.
- Next, make the papier-mâché glue recipe. Rip the newspaper into small strips. Dip the newspaper into the paste and cover the entire mask, including the additional horns.
- Leave to dry overnight (in humid weather they might take longer).
- Finally, paint them with the tempura paint!
Señora Mapstone says “The results are beautiful. One of our favorite projects, inexpensive and fun!”
Vejigante Masquerader by Lulu Delacre. This book is a great introduction for kids to learn about Carnaval, and the tradition of the vejigantes in Puerto Rico.
Learn all about Puerto Rico with this bilingual coloring book.
Here is a great video to show kids about the parade for Carnaval in Ponce:
This is a slideshow of photos:
Learn more about masks and Puerto Rican celebrations here!
What an amazing project! Thank you Señora Mapstone for sharing! Your school and your students are very lucky to have you as a teacher!
Maren Goebert says
So cool! Thanks for teaching the kids about the Puerto Rico masks and culture. We just went on a trip to PR and loved learning about them right then and there. Your kids did an incredible job. I would have never thought that these were made by 4th graders. Wow. You must have allowed them lots of time and inspired them to go “deep”. They are all so different and detailed. Simply stunning art.