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David Peñaflor and Marilia Carrasquillo

2017 Florida Folk Heritage Award

Marilia (Lilly) Carrasquillo was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. At age 18, she began making and selling art. She received a certification from the Puerto Rican Institute of Culture, a degree from the School of Plastic Arts in San Juan and has been a folk artist and arts educator for over 40 years. As a product of cultural synthesis, the vejigante tradition is a colorful representation of a folk figure with origins in medieval Spain, influenced by Puerto Rico’s African and native Taino cultures. Originally made from cow bladders, vejigante masks are now created around a variety of objects that are used as molds. Carrasquillo’s masks, which have been featured in several exhibits and as part of the interactive website Folkvine, embody respect for both tradition and innovation.

Since 1987, Carrasquillo has worked with Orange County Public Schools Migrant Education Program and the Farmworker Association of Florida where she employs creative strategies to build traditional arts into curriculum and use folk arts to engage children with their own cultural heritage. She participated in the 2005 Folklife Apprenticeship Program to teach mask making, and is dedicated to creating, teaching and inspiring others.

Rey David Peñaflor Valdez grew up in Cuernavaca Morelos, Mexico, where he received a degree in Business Administration from University of Morelos State and a Master’s Degree in Culture and Identity. With a passion for pre-Columbian cultures and Mexican heritage traditions, he began his artistic career as the director of Huitzilin, a group that presented regional folk music and dances. He was contracted by Epcot Center at Walt Disney World in 1996, and Huitzilin performed at Epcot’s Mexican Pavilion until 2001.

From 2002 through 2008, he served as Coordinator of Cultural and Educational Programs at the Mexican Consulate, where he met Carrasquillo. The couple married, and together have presented at festivals, coordinated ethnic celebrations, led workshops and created folk arts curriculum as part of the Viva Florida 500 initiative. Peñaflor has also taught folk music and dance for the Migrant Education Program of the Panhandle Area Education Consortium, and hosted a series of radio shows and videos focused on Mexico’s cultural diversity. In 2015, he was hired by the Redlands Christian Migrant Association as a Statewide Coordinator, specializing in adult education and artistic professional development for teachers.

Both Peñaflor and Carrasquillo have made tremendous contributions to promoting and preserving traditional culture from Pre-Hispanic Mexico to Puerto Rico. Through passion, persistence and dedication, they exhibit the importance of Latin American culture, and provide valuable educational opportunities for children and families throughout Florida.