This lesson is an adaptation of activities that appear on two websites produced by the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History (Our Story in History: A Puerto Rican Carnival and A Vision of Puerto Rico: the Teodoro Vidal Collection ).
These standards are achieved through guided work with the teacher.
Visual Arts (from the National Arts Education Association)
- N-VA.4. Visual Arts: Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures.
- N-VA.6. Visual Arts: Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines.
Foreign Language Learning (from the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages)
- Cultures: Gain knowledge and understanding of other cultureso
- Standard 2.1: Students demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the practices and perspectives of the culture studied.
- Standard 2.2: Students demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the products and perspectives of the culture studied.
- Connections: Connect with other disciplines and acquire informationo
- Standard 3.2: Students acquire information and recognize the distinctive viewpoints that are only available through the foreign language and its cultures.
Students explore the Carnival traditions of Puerto Rico and compare them to other Carnival traditions in the United States and Latin America.
- "Ponce Costume and Masks Images" (mask 1 , mask 2 , mask 3 , mask 4 , mask 5 , costume )
- "Carnival Celebrations " graphic organizer
- "Ponce Carnival Images and Information" document
- Carnival masks
SET UP AND PREPARE
Background Information (for the teacher)
Carnivals are of ancient origin and virtually all peoples in all eras have organized carnivals to mark or celebrate different events. Carnivals can be magical, political, satirical, or purely entertaining; some even poke fun at death. In much of Puerto Rico, and other parts of the world with a strong Roman Catholic presence, Carnival has a special meaning. It refers to the last days before the beginning of Lent. In Puerto Rico, Carnival begins on February 2 and lasts until Ash Wednesday, which is forty days before Easter.
In many carnivals, masks are key ingredients of the public spectacle. The prominence of masquerading devils during Carnival is understood by many as an ancient reference to the contest between good and evil. Although introduced by Spanish settlers, the customs of the island’s carnival, like mask making, music, and public performance, have developed into uniquely Puerto Rican traditions that also reflect the customs and sensibilities of Puerto Ricans' African ancestors.
Many masks and costumes come from the carnival in Ponce, a town in southern Puerto Rico. The carnival dates from the mid-1700s and involves revelry, music, masks and costumes. The masks are made of papier-mâché in scary and devilish shapes, with brilliant colors, horns, and playful designs. Costumes are one-piece coveralls made of bright cloth. Yellow and red, the colors of the Spanish flag, and black and red, the colors of the town of Ponce, are most common. A person in full regalia is called a vejigante (bay-he-GAHN-tay). His role is to scare people, especially children, by swatting them with a vejiga (bay-HE-gah), a dried and inflated cow bladder.
Carnival has been popularized and preserved, partly through the efforts of Teodoro Vidal. Teodoro Vidal Santoni was born in Condado, Puerto Rico, in a prominent and well-known family. From an early age, he was interested in Puerto Rican history and in collecting objects that spoke about that history. After graduating from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania with an MBA in 1954, Teodoro Vidal went back to Puerto Rico and became an aide to its first elected governor, Luis Muñoz Marín. In 1955, he became part of the first Board of Directors of the newly formed Institute of Puerto Rican Culture. Many Ponceños consider Vidal a hero for publicizing the Ponce carnival and documenting the tradition of mask making in his book, The Papier Mâché Masks of the Ponce Carnival.
Part One: Accessing prior knowledge
Lead a class discussion on Carnival traditions. Ask if any of the students know about or have participated in a carnival. Possible questions:
• What is included in the celebrations? (Parading, costumes, revelry, music, food.)
• Who participates in the parades? Who watches?
• What special characters have the students seen? (Queen, float characters, etc.)
• At what time of year is it celebrated?
• Most importantly, why do people hold Carnival? (To mark a holiday, to celebrate with family and community, to set off weeks of Lent, etc.)
Part Two: Examining Ponce costumes and masks
1. Divide the class into groups and distribute the printouts of the "Ponce Costume and Masks Images" (mask 1 , mask 2 , mask 3 , mask 4 , mask 5 , costume ). Ask students to examine the objects, to describe what they see and to speculate on what the various masks might represent. To enhance the discussion, you might also explore the various masks in the Carnival section of the Latino History and Culture Virtual Heritage Tour (http://heritagetours.si.edu/hhm.html).
2. Distribute the "Ponce Carnival Images and Information" document and lead the class in a discussion of Carnival celebrations in Puerto Rico.
3. Ask students to record their responses in the first column of the "Carnival Celebrations" graphic organizer.
Part Three: Research and comparison activity
1. Have students research another Carnival tradition in the United States — perhaps in Mobile, Alabama (http://lcweb2.loc.gov/diglib/legacies/AL/200002665.html and http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/face/Article.jsp?id=h-1437 ). Students might stay in their same small groups and research the festivals of different cities.
2. Ask students to record their responses in the second column of the "Carnival Celebrations" graphic organizer.
3. Lead a group discussion in which students present their findings and compare the different traditions. Explore with them any regional variations they can detect, and ask them to record their responses in the bottom row of the graphic organizer.
Web Resources for further reading
Smithsonian Global Sounds: http://www.smithsonianglobalsound.org/searchresults.aspx?sPhrase=carnival&sType='phrase'
For additional teaching resources visit www.SmithsonianEducation.org