So meeting people here takes quite a bit of planning and working with their schedules. Unfortunately not everyone I need to speak with has weekly meetings I can conveniently attend. Basically a combination of calls, texts, emails and facebook messages have been utilized to try to organize individual get-togethers. I went to Loiza for the Santiago Festival on Saturday, which I heard would be the first day of the parade. As we were going around the town I realized nothing was happening so I asked a couple locals and a cop and they explained the first day of the parade was Monday and it would last until Wednesday. I go back to the car where a few friends were waiting for me and explained the lady at the travel office must have gotten the dates wrong. Anyway we decided to make the best of the situation and went to a store that sold vejigante masks which I soon realized was home to the Hermanos Ayala, a famous local bomba group. I found out they would be performing the next day at 4pm so we made plans to return.
We decided to leave a little late considering nothing starts on time here. However, we did not account for the traffic and ended up missing the concert completely. We found out another band would be performing at 9pm so we figured we would wait and I could talk to a few people about the festival and the significance of the vejigantes. Time passed and once 11pm rolled around with still no concert we decided to leave, excited about coming to see the parade the next day.
Monday we left very early to avoid the traffic so we would not miss the parade and made it early enough to enjoy lunch beforehand. I was excited when I heard the booming music meaning the parade was approaching. But just as soon as it came, it was done. It was incredibly short (keeping in mind I am comparing it to the Puerto Rican Day Parade in NYC). The significance of the parade is based in tradition, and I wondered if the act itself or the meaning behind it is more important.
The lady at the Hermanos Ayala store explained to me the vejigantes represent the Moors of Spain defeated by Saint Iago (Santiago Apostol). When I asked many of the people in Loiza what the vejigantes represented I heard a mixture of “tradition” and “bad spirits” some even saying they could not tell me since they were unsure themselves. Also when I asked some of my contacts during their interviews, none realized the vejigantes represent the Moors. Before I told them, they said they do not participate in the celebration and see it as something unrelated to their religious beliefs. After I explained what the vejigantes represent, it just reaffirmed what they felt about them.
Posted by Omar Ramadan — MA Candidate at CLACS at NYU