Alejandro Escalante is a PhD candidate in UNC-Chapel Hill‘s Department of Religious Studies. His principal research focuses on the relationship between gender, race, and religion in la fiesta de Santiago in Loíza, Puerto Rico.


Each July, people from all over the world converge on the small, coastal town to celebrate la fiesta de Santiago Apóstol, the festival of St. James. And each year, festival goers and religious celebrants alike take part in a ten-day celebration, which includes Catholic masses, novenas, food, music, and dance. During the celebrations, images of Santiago are processed through the city main road, calle 187. Along the way, festival goers will dress up in various traditional and modern costumes. Pictured here on the left is el vejigante and on the right is el caballero inside la Parroquia Santiago Apóstol. Other costumes include la loca, men in drag who paint their faces black. La loca is the principal character through which Alejandro analyzes la fiesta. She forms the basis for both his methodological and theoretical framework in his dissertation. Through her, he investigates the relationship between gender performance, race and racialization, and religion.