Vejigante: Creator of Carnival Masks Brings Puerto Rican Tradition to Hartford

Repeating Islands

Angel Sánchez Ortíz, 57, has been making “la vejigante” since he was a boy in Ponce, Puerto Rico. In Spanish, the word “vejigante” (literally, “giant bladder”) refers to a colorful papier-mâché mask that is used during pre-Lenten festivals in February. A retired factory worker, Ortíz found his vocation in the 1990s when he began teaching this Puerto Rican tradition in Springfield. Ortíz, of Holyoke, Mass., recently exhibited his masks at the Park Branch of the Hartford Public Library.

Ortíz shared his story in a recent interview with Patrick Raycraft of The Fartford Courant, which has been translated from Spanish. Here is his story:

When I came to Springfield in 1988 there was a lot of gang activity. I introduced the vejigante as a way kids could create artwork.

I started at the Puerto Rican Cultural Center. They loved it. It relieves stress. It brings joyfulness. For others, their sadness…

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Author: Camara Dia Holloway

I am an art historian specializing in early twentieth century American art with particular focus on the history of photography, race and representation, and transatlantic modernist networks. I earned my PhD at Yale University in the History of Art Department. Besides my leadership role as the Founding Co-Director of the Association for Critical Race Art History (ACRAH), I am recognized for my expertise on African American Art, particularly African American Photography, and as a seasoned consultant for exhibitions, museum collections, and symposia/lectures planning.

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