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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