Monday, February 18, 2008

Vejigantes - Evil Spirit Chasers - in Ponce's Carnival

Yes, you are reading the numbers correctly - 150th year of the Ponce Carnival. This is Puerto Rico and there is history here! This is Puerto Rico and like everything else here there is a slight bit of disorganization...when does the parade start? Who knows, not Ponce Chamber of Commerce. Where does it start? Where does it end? What's going on? Festivities go on and on for a week and who knows if it actually culminates in a big parade or if it repeats each night? We know some folks who always go the night before ash Wednesday, but it sounds like we had a better parade showing on Sunday. This parade was around 4 hours and went into dark. There is a website, but it only has a brief sentence for the current days' events. Something like - "Ponce Carnival all day." Our friends go at night when it is cooler, but I wanted to photograph and have light so we popped into the car around 1 figuring we would catch part of it anyway. As we drove around trying to find the Ponce square (most things happen at city plazas) we crossed over the parade so we then tried to get ahead of it. Hard to do with police blocking roads and stuff but we did it! It started at around 3:30 with every high school and city and town represented by bands, costumed people, cows, etc.

This is a traditional Hatillo costume from the Northern town. The blue costume is one of hundreds of vejigantes who roam the parade route banging the bladders to chase evil spirits away. Groups of them run around in packs snarling and banging the bladders in between the horned masks and city groups.

I don't know if this guy represented a town or not but he was a crowd pleaser! He and his bizarre pony whinied and trotted around mingling with the crowds. Everyone in Puerto Rico joins everything - the parade had little pee wees and older folks and everyone in between riding on floats, dancing in masks, chasing the spirits or in this case riding the pony.

It's hard to show the scale of these floats, but here you can see the massive "outfit" this little girl is wearing and another little girl was riding on the same float down below. The building in the background gives you an idea how big it is. Such wonderful colors! The littlest girl on the bottom sometimes threw candy out to the crowd. Masks masks and more masks- the traditional Ponce horned masks and many modifications of it on top with vibrant colors on the bottom. Everyone is swirling and bopping around together. I really liked the bat head - don't know who was in it, but it was a cool costume and it looked great when s/he swirled and tilted the head!
These are just creepy...there was a whole float of characters like this all slightly moving like bobble-heads only creepy. You could see human eyes in there, and human hands on the outside, but the scale is off and they were just plain creepy. On the flatbed I think it was representing a baseball player, a business man, a farmer, rancher, slave, and who knows what else.

And of course you have to have a chicken! This is the land of chickens and horses: they are in truck beds, they show up in your yard, they are along the highways, the calles and caminos. They are even at the gas stations. Not a day goes by without seeing and hearing chickens and horses! What kind of parade would it be without one?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jeff and Katrina,

Glad you enjoyed the carnival. I think the "bat head guy" looks more like the Chupacabra to me, LOL!

Take care,

H Jr.