here - Taller Puertorriqueño

Paola Nogueras, born in Puerto Rico and living in
Pennsylvania, is a photojournalist and author who
has worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Nogueras
is the photographer and publisher of Fiesta en
Puerto Rico, ABC de Puerto Rico and Manos del
Pueblo, Artesanos de Puerto Rico (Hands of the
People, Artisans of Puerto Rico).
Taller Puertorriqueño was founded in
1974 by Puerto Rican and Latino artists
and activists in the North Kensington
area of Philadelphia. In its evolution from
a community based graphics workshop,
it has been showcasing Puerto Rican
and Latino artists in its Lorenzo Homar
Gallery from the local community, and
nationally. It also promotes the work of
Latino artists through collaborations,
satellite exhibitions.
Taller elevates and preserves Latino
culture through children's cultural
education programs, youth art
programs, community and cultural
tours, and by bringing writers and
scholars to speak in the community at
its Meet the Author Series. Through
Visítenos, its outreach program, Taller
engages children and adults from the
tri-state area in cultural enrichment
workshops to foster greater awareness
and understanding of Latino culture.
Miguélàngel Ruíz, born in Río Piedras, Puerto Rico
and working out of New York City, is an artist who
creates a contemporary mythology based around
the vejigante character and his cultural heritage.
Ruíz is currently working in video and performance.
In his paintings and comic books, he portrays his
protagonist “Awutok-Thon, El Vejigante - Luchador,” Miguélàngel Ruíz
as a man transformed into a demon who uses his Mythography #5 Cover Art, power to fight for justice, truth and freedom. 2013
Through fusing mythology and graphic novels, he
has created a universe where he can comment on
the power’s corruptive qualities and bring historical events to light in a way
that is easily digested by popular culture. (
Artist Danny Torres, who resides in North Philadelphia, was born in
Adjuntas, Puerto Rico. He is an art teacher,
political activist, and self-taught artist who
is known for his paintings and murals. In his
work, Torres’ vejigante assumes the role of
a “freedom fighter” reflecting his political
aspiration for an independent Puerto Rico.
Torres’s vejigantes are strong, masculine
creatures that embody his culture’s African
and indigenous roots and will for survival.
Danny Torres
San Vejigante, 2000
Exhibition curated by Rafael Damast
& Become a Member
Curatorial interns: Jazmin Gutierrez, Moore
College of the Arts; Jiefang Zhang,
University of Pennsylvania
2721 N. 5th Street Philadelphia, PA 19133
Student interns: Nestor A. Tamayo and
Joshua Díaz
Mon-Fri: 9am-Noon, and 1pm-5pm Saturday: 10am-Noon and 1pm-6pm
Special installation assistance by:
Henry Bermudez
Taller Puertorriqueño’s Education Program
2557 N. 5th Street Philadelphia, PA 19133
Gabriela Raczka, Marketing
Contact Dora Viacava or Rafael Damast to make
appointments for group tours.
T. 215-426-3311
Carmen Febo San Miguel, Executive
Director; Katherine M. Heilman;
Development Associate; Dora
Viacava,Outreach Coordinator; Aida
Devine, Office Manager
Vejigantes of
Puerto Rico:
Origins, Myths &
From a figure of
mystery and mischief, to a symbol of cultural
identity, resilience, and resistance.
Raúl Ayala
Loíza Style, Vejigante Masks, 2013
The artists and artisans:
Raúl Ayala, from the town of Loíza in Puerto Rico, is an authority on the traditional Loíza style vejigante mask,
characterized by caretas made from coconut shells and commonly seen with buckteeth and three horns. Ayala
comes from a multi-generational family committed to maintaining the dance and music festival traditions of this
region as well as its mask making art form. In Loíza, the vejigante not only participates in carnivals but also in the
Feast of St. James the Apostle (Fiestas de Santiago Apóstol) in the third week of July. In this festival, the
vejigantes are accompanied by people dressed as caballeros (knights) in recognition to the Spanish origins of the
festival where they celebrate the Christian Castilians’ ouster of the Muslim Moors from Spain. Some interpret the
festival as a metaphor for the eternal battle between good and evil. The majority of Loíza’s population is of African
descent and views the vejigantes not as evil, but as a link to their African heritage. Ayala’s masks are famed for
their beauty, construction, design and the large number of horns.
Maria Dominguez
El Pueblo Cantor, 1994
La Buruquena, (which is the Taíno word for the sweet water crab that lives in Puerto
Rico) was born in Abington, Pennsylvania and currently works out of New York City.
He is a self-taught artist and uses the vejigante as a relatable cultural icon. Through its
colors and sensibilities, the vejigante helps him connect to his Puerto Rican heritageyet its distinctive appropriations of religious and foreign motifs also bring him into
conversation with the world around him. He describes his art-making process as a
search for understanding through the exploration of our differences and similarities in
all senses: individually, communally, religiously, symbolically and otherwise. His papiermâché masks are often painted in muddied colors and incorporate surprising materials
such as feathers, barbed wire, and chains. In his manifesto, he describes his process
as Surreformationism and aims to challenge perceptions and religious absolutism
while confronting intolerance and ignorance. With his methodology, he hopes to
create a platform that can be uplifting to a person’s sense of self worth.
A Brief History of the
Puerto Rico’s vejigantes (bay-he-GAHN-tay) are known for
their colorful costumes with bat-like wings, the inflated
animal bladders they carry, and by their masks with three or
more horns. There are two distinct vejigante styles coming
from two regions and two differing celebrations. One is from
the city of Ponce in the South of Puerto Rico with masks
made of papier-mâché, associated with the celebrations of
Carnival. The second style is from the town of Loíza, far to
the North, with masks made from coconuts and identified
Puerto Rico
with the Feast of Santiago in late July. Both though are
mysterious, mischievous characters that have become symbols of cultural identity, resilience, and
Ponce’s vejigantes have a connection with Carnival, a festival that begins in early February, just before Lent.
In Carnival, the vejigantes just like in Loíza, are reveling characters that interact with the crowds and cause
mischief with the inflated bladders they carry. With their characteristic snouts, sharp teeth, and multitudes of
horns, Ponce’s vejigantes cast a distinctive silhouette to this internationally-celebrated festival.
In Loíza, the vejigantes represent the Muslim Moors in the Catholic festival of the Feast of Santiago. This
festival, also known as the Festival of Saint James, celebrates the ouster of the
Moors from Spain. In Loíza, the festival lasts three days, and its roots can be traced
back to a legend of the discovery of the statue of Saint James outside of the town.
Some explain their inclusion in the religious festival as a symbol of the ongoing battle
of good over evil. No matter the history, Loíza’s population (primarily of African
descent) views the vejigante as a strong, and unapologetic character with a history
of survival and a connection to Africa that they can relate to.
Mask by Leonardo Pagán, date unknown
Photo, Paola Nogueras
This exhibition of craftsmen and contemporary artists shows how this figure that is
such an integral character in these festivals has become an iconic symbol that
unifies and identifies the people of Puerto Rico. These artists perceive the vejigantes
from many different perspectives: as a nationalist hero; a character that brings into
focus issues of Latino identity; a creature that is used as a surragate to discuss the
life and death struggle of living with AIDS; a symbol that brings a community
together with its visage or captures the imagination with its mystery. For these
artists, the vejigante has evolved into something much more than a playful festival
figure - it has become the living incarnation of the Puerto Rican spirit with all its vigor,
resilience and jubilant ferocity.
La Buruquena Detail:Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse/ Four Symptoms of HIV AIDS -­‐ 2007
Miguel Caraballo, from Ponce, Puerto Rico, is
considered a traditional master and teacher in this
region’s mask making art form. He works in the
traditional Ponce-style careta (mask) papier-mâché
construction with long snouts and a multitude of horns.
Caraballo played an important role in resuscitating the
vejigante mask making tradition when the popularity of latex and plastic masks in
the 1970’s & 80’s threatened to extinguish the craft and traditional inclusion in the
island’s carnivals and festivals. His masks are admired for both their aesthetics
and the high quality of their craftsmanship.
Maria Dominguez was born in Puerto Rico and moved to New York City when she
was four years old. After graduating with a BFA from the School of the Visual Arts
in 1985, she began working as a teacher, arts administrator, artist and muralist. In
response to community changes and the increasing cost of living pushing out the
Puerto Rican and Latino communities in Spanish Harlem and the Lower East Side
of Manhattan, her murals with vejigante
masks were placeholders and identifiers of
the people living in the neighborhoods.
Marina Gu=érrez
La Vejigante – (Body Mask Series) 1994
Papier-­‐mâché, aluminum screen, reverse appliqué
Miguel Caraballo
Ponce Style, Vejigante Mask, 2011
Marina Gutiérrez, born in and working out of New York City, creates art
that blends studio, community and installation practices. In the use of
cultural iconography from her father’s native Puerto Rico, she
acknowledges syncretism and its effects of displacing, hiding, forgetting,
and reinventing of identity. Her work is often comprised of commonly
used materials, such as cans, textiles, and wire mesh. In this exhibition,
Gutiérrez introduces La Vejigante, a work that is part of her “Body Mask”
series, which investigates the dualities of concealment and display
associated with historical narratives and constructions of identity.