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TRUE STORY

This collection of artwork
The music by Bebe Bambu was inspired
by the story of El Vejigante.

This emblematic character was created for the religious procession of Santiago Apostol Matamoros on the island of Puerto Rico, and it has its roots in the beginnings of the Spanish colonization. During the indoctrination process of the indigenous people and newly enslaved Africans, the Spanish colonizers began performing their rituals and religious ceremonies in adoration of the Catholics Saints to support the assimilation of these beliefs into the local population. One of these celebrations is dedicated explicitly to Santiago Apostol Matamoros, the patron saint of Spain.

This celebration originates in the conquest of the catholic kings over the Islamic occupation of Spain.

 

In the context of Puerto Rico, the celebration of Santiago Apostol played a role in the process of social integration and forced indoctrination of a multicultural population. These festivities included a parade showcasing the Apostle's story and the catholic conquest over the Islamic occupation in Spain. The ceremony dressed the catholic heroes as brave and victorious knights triumphing over the forces of evil.

The antagonist in this battle is the Vejigante character, who represents the Islamic influence, African spirituality, paganism, and other malignant forces portrayed as colorful demons in masks. During the carnival, the playful Vejigante character would try to scare the younger children and later embrace his defeat to the catholic knights.

 

The Vejigante soon became a fan favorite, and the artistic work to decorate these masks became increasingly important across the island, creating different styles by region. The Vejigante with a coconut mask is more characteristic of the town of Loíza, which held the most significant African population and influence on the island. Here is where the first Coconut Mask was crafted; this quickly became a popular figure in the parade for its peculiar form, long horns, bright colors, and mischievous personality.

 

The coconut is carved and cut in a way that forms a face, later to be decorated with paint as a complete work of art. The coconut mask symbolizes our African roots and descendants; it is also an essential and sacred object of our history and traditions. Ironically enough, the coconut was regarded as “The Devil’s Fruit” because It baffled the enslavers who didn't know of its incredible health and nutritious benefits, plus its sacred role in traditional African spirituality. 

It is very interesting to see this representation of  "Demons" or "Devils" across South America and other parts of the Caribbean during similar carnivals or celebrations attributed to some catholic saint, being associated with or referred to our prehispanic spirituality. The purpose of all of these religious processions across the Americas was to antagonize and demonize anything that went against the catholic church and Eurocentric ideology.

This character has gained a new meaning for this new generation of Puertoricans and Caribbeans, representing a forgotten history kept from us. 

It represents the rebellions that came before us.

A figure intended to be monstrous and evil has become a symbol of resistance in the repressed collective identity of the Americas. The villain in the story that we all came to love, the underdog, the antagonist, and the connection to our ancestors.

This collection of music and artwork explores how the spirit of the Vejigante has transcended and manifested itself through the centuries—making a tribute to Puerto Rican and Caribbean culture, its oppressed identity, and its rebellious spirit.

- bebe bambu

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