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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Apóstol Santiago Festival celebrated in Loíza

Because of his presence on the Iberian Peninsula, spreading faith there, Santiago is recognized as the Patron Saint of Spain.

By John McPhaul

On Monday, the morning of Puerto Rico Constitution Day, the municipality of Loíza staged activities related to the traditional festivals in honor of Apóstol Santiago, with the Mass and Procession of Santiago de los Hombres.

Every July 25, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Saint James the Greater, also known as Santiago, of Zebedee, one of the 12 apostles chosen by Christ.

Several New Testament texts mention Saint James, and he is usually called “the greater” to differentiate him from another of the apostles, James the Lesser. The Apostle James occupies a special place in the history of the early Church thanks to his evangelizing drive and courageous character.

It was James who brought the Word of God to lands completely removed from his native Galilee, such as the Iberian Peninsula.

Precisely because of his presence there, sowing faith, Santiago is recognized as the Patron Saint of Spain.

One of the most celebrated demonstrations by residents and visitors are the masks used during the Fiestas de Santiago Apóstol, such as that of the gentleman.

The figure of the knight represents the Christian who fights against the Moors and wears a mask made of wire mesh on which a masculine face is painted. The “vejigante” mask is the most elaborate and striking of those used in the festivals.

Encyclopedia PR, a publication of the Puerto Rican Foundation, points out regarding the character of the vejigante that “it is theorized that he is based on the characters of the ‘mojiganga,’ a public festival in Spain in which they used devil or animal costumes.”

“The vejigantes represent the devils, the Moors, and they do mischief and frighten people,” says the online publication. “Its name derives from the bladder, since these characters carried bladders inflated with the ones that scared the public.”

The vejigante masks are made of coconut shells and are painted in various bright colors. African influence is present in the masks, since the factions present facial features of Africans.

In addition to being used in festivals and carnivals, the masks have become one of the most popular creations of Puerto Rican artisans. They are not only created in the traditional three-dimensional way, but are reproduced in other media, such as ceramics, serigraphs and paintings.

On Monday, Loiceños performed the long-awaited Caravan of the Absent Loiceños, which starts at the Boca de Cangrejos Bridge in Torrecilla Baja.

The festival continued into the evening with musical performances by the Belelé Children’s Bomba Group, Tambores Calientes, Son de Loíza, La Sonora Ponceña and others, culminating with Manny Manuel.

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