Vejiga (Sp.: ‘bladder’)
- J. Richard Haefer
Inflated animal bladder used as a percussion instrument in Panama and Puerto Rico. The bladder, usually that of a pig or cow, about 20 to 30 cm in diameter, is struck with a stick to provide rhythmic accompaniment to the music and movements of the ‘little devil’ street dancers. It may be worn as part of a dancer’s costume. In the gran diablos (’big devils’) ceremony the sound of the instrument symbolically mimics the fight between good and evil.
In Loiza, Puerto Rico, at the Fiestas de Santiago Apostol (‘St James festival’), a popular street character is called the Vejigante, named for the vejiga made from an inflated cow’s bladder that he carries. He represents the Moors in the battle between good and evil. While the primary purpose of the bladder is as a rhythmic instrument, the character will sometimes chase children and hit them with it to knock off evil spirits....