TITLE: Caporal / Negrito Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Sacatepéquez
ETHNICITY: Mayan (Kaqchikel)
DESCRIPTION: Caporal (Foreman) Mask in the form of a Negrito (black man)
CATALOG #: LAGT022
MAKER: Guadalupe Sinay (San Antonio Aguas Calientes, 1913-2005)
CEREMONY: Baile del Torito
AGE: ca. 1950
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; plastic straps

The Baile del Torito (Dance of the Little Bull), also called the Danza del Torito, is an annual ceremony in several cities of central and southern Guatemala, usually during a holiday in honor of the town’s patron saint. The dance is accompanied by music from a marimba band.

The dance dates back to the 17th century. It tells the story of a cattle ranch in which the caporal or mayordomo (foreman) prohibits the vaqueros (cowboys) to interact with a bull like this one. The cowboys get the foreman drunk and perform bullfights. Eventually, a bull kills the foreman and the dance ends.

The dance frequently begins before sunrise and lasts for up to 12 hours. It may be performed for many days, sometimes over a week. Depending on the size of the town, there may be only one or several bulls and caporales, and up to 50 vaqueros. In some towns, such as Chichicastenango, there is both a white caporal and a black one. In other towns, such as San Antonio Aguas Calientes, there is only one caporal, who is black.

The costume of the vaquero is brightly colored and elaborate, with a hat sporting thick clusters of dyed ostrich feathers. In some towns, the vaquero carries a cape and maraca (rattle). The players of each character are chosen through Mayan rituals and are blessed by an Ai-lj (Mayan priest) before the dance.

For more on Guatemalan masks, see Jim Pieper, Guatemala’s Masks and Drama (University of New Mexico Press, 2006).

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TITLE: Bärentreiber (?) Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Germany
ETHNICITY: German (Bavarian)
DESCRIPTION: Mask of an older man, possibly a Bärentreiber (Bear Tamer)
CATALOG #: EUDE017
MAKER: Hans Guggemoos (Garmisch-Partenkirchen)
CEREMONY: Fasnacht (Carnival)
AGE: ca. 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: cedar wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

Fasching or Fasnacht is the Tyrolean carnival.  In many towns in Austria, southern Germany, Switzerland, and northern Italy, local folk don elaborate masks and costumes to parade through the town. Different towns have variations on the parade, such as the Schemenlaufen of Imst, the Schellerlaufen of Nassereith, and the Muller and Matschgerer of Innsbruck, Austria.

The characters include young and old personalities alike. This mask might represent the Bärentreiber, a mature man who tames a bear (which he keeps on a chain or rope in the Carnival parade). This character is sometimes seen in the Fasnacht parades. It is signed with the initials of the maker on the back, CH.

Regrettably, the best texts on Carnival in Bavaria and Swabia are still available in German only: Heinz Wintermantel’s Hoorig, hoorig isch die Katz (Würzburg: Konrad Theiss, 1978) and Dick Eckert’s Die Werdenfelser Fasnacht und ihre Larven (Volk Verlag München, 2015).

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TITLE: Halloween Astronaut Mask & Costume
TYPE: face mask; costume
GENERAL REGION: North America
COUNTRY: United States of America
ETHNICITY: Mixed
DESCRIPTION: Vacuform Plastic Astronaut Mask and Costume
CATALOG #: NAUS010
MAKER: Collegeville Costumes (Collegeville, Pennsylvania)
CEREMONY: Halloween
AGE: 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: styrene plastic
OTHER MATERIALS: elastic string; hardware

Halloween is one of the major secular festivals in the United States, celebrated on October 31st each year.  It originated in pre-Christian times, possibly among the ancient Celts, who practiced Samhain in late fall by wearing frightening costumes and lighting bonfires in mid-autumn to scare away ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III declared November 1st as a day to honor all the saints collectively. The celebration prior to this All Saints Day became known as All Hallows’ Eve (hence the shortened name, All Hallowe’en, eventually elided to Halloween), and involved many of the same traditions practiced by the Celts.

Halloween formerly had many traditions that varied by region.  In modern and relatively homogenized practice, Halloween generally has three main components: costumed parties, “trick-or-treating,” and haunted houses.  Costumed parties are the modern descendant of social activities designed to honor the saints and create solidarity in the community. Children’s parties typically involved games with prizes, such as bobbing for apples and carving pumpkins and other relatively dry squash into frightening “jack-o-lanterns” with candles inside for illumination.  Adult parties commonly involve less innocent games and elaborate decorations to create a scary mood.

Trick-or-treating is the children’s practice of wearing scary costumes to extort candy and other sweets from neighbors. Like roaming goblins, the monsters visiting the house would demand a treat or threaten to play a nasty trick on the neighbor. The threat is of course a formality, as sharing candy with trick-or-treaters is considered a mandatory practice for friendly and community-spirited neighbors. In modern practice, many children have abandoned the tradition of wearing frightening costumes and have leaned toward fantasy characters such as superheroes, princesses, and fairies.

Haunted houses are a relatively modern innovation.  They may be designed and staffed by volunteers or for profit, and generally take the form of a decrepit mansion haunted by ghosts, mad scientists, monsters, the walking dead, etc. The idea is to inspire terror and wonder in a factually safe environment.

In addition, many Americans celebrate by watching horror movies (the release of which Hollywood times to coincide with the Halloween season), and in some regions, most notably Greenwich Village, Manhattan in New York and Salem, Massachusetts, major costumed parades are organized each year.  In many cities, “zombie walks” composed of masses of costumed zombies have been organized as well.

Popular masks and costumes include devils, zombies, skeletons, vampires, werewolves, mummies, witches, pirates, political figures, and characters from popular culture, such as Frankenstein’s monster. However, Halloween costumes can include almost anything, including inanimate objects and abstractions.  The choice is limited only by the imagination of the masquerader.  Masks and costumes depicting offensive racial stereotypes, popular prior to the 1980s, are no longer widely used.

This specific mask was mass produced by a process known as vacuform molding. Sheets of heated styrene plastic are placed over a three-dimensional mold and a vacuum sucks out the air, forming the plastic to the mold. The mask is then cut out, machine painted, and an elastic band is stapled to the mask. The process is exceedingly fast and inexpensive, making the mask very popular with the overwhelming majority of Americans from the late 1950s to today.

For more on 20th century American Halloween costumes, see Phyllis Galembo, Dressed for Thrills: 100 Years of Halloween Costumes and Masquerade (New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc., 2002).

Click above to watch a documentary about Halloween in the United States.

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TITLE: Cojó Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Tenosique, Tabasco
ETHNICITY: Mayan (Yokot’anob / Chontal)
DESCRIPTION: Cojó Mask with Extended Tongue
CATALOG #: LAMX135
MAKER: José Rafael Pérez (Tenosique, 1949- )
CEREMONY: Danza Correr del Pochó
AGE: 2015
MAIN MATERIAL: cedar wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint

During Carnival and the saint’s holiday of Tenosique, local Mayan people perform La Danza Correr del Pochó, or less formally, El Pochó.  El Pochó is a pre-Christian god that the missionaries tried to characterize as evil.  As a result, modern festivals end in the defeat and burning of Pochó. The Danze del Pochó has three main characters: cojóes, the pochoveras, and the tigres.  They dance to the music of native flutes and drums.

Cojóes are men who represent the first Chontal people, created from the pulp of maize. They are the only participants to wear masks. The cojó masks, such as this one, are always made of wood and, in the original style (like this one), appear like fierce men. The reason for the mask is said to be that Pochó immediately considered human beings his enemy, and so the Mayans wore masks so that Pochó could not recognize them. The costume consists of a coarse coat, a cloth mantle, a skirt of leaves, and a straw hat decorated with large leaves, flowers, and chewing gum boxes. They carry a long rattle shaped like a thick stick filled with changala seeds.

The pochoveras are priestesses of the god Pochó and keep a fire burning on his alter. Pochoveras also wear a hat with leaves and flowers.

The tigres, called balandes in the Chontal language, are masked characters who paint their body with white clay and black spots made of coal to simulate the jaguar pelt. They may also wear an animal skin. The role of the tigres is to attack the cojóes with the help of the pochoveras, on behalf of Pochó. However, the cojóes inevitably win, defeating the tigres and extinguishing Pochó’s fire.

This specific mask was worn by the maker’s son, José Rafael Pérez Pérez (Tenosique, 1986- ), from 2015-2017 in successive Carnivals of Tenosique.

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TITLE: Goliath Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Cunduacán, Tabasco
ETHNICITY: Nahuatl
DESCRIPTION: Goliat (Goliath) Mask
CATALOG #: LAMX133
MAKER: Unknown maker in Cúlico
CEREMONY: Danza del David y Goliat
AGE: 2021
MAIN MATERIAL: cedar wood
OTHER MATERIALS: jolocin tree bark strips; cotton string; oil-based paint

The Dance of David and Goliath was taught to the Nahuatl people of Cunduacán by Spanish missionaries as part of their proselytization efforts, and it has been danced there probably since the sixteenth century. It tells the Biblical story of David’s victory of Goliath with the help of Archangel Michael. It is danced on December 7 and 8 in honor of the Celebración de la Virgen de la Concepción. Other masked characters include Goliath, Capitán Luzbel, a dragon, two black clowns, and three soldiers. David, represented by a child, wears no mask.

The first act presents all of the characters on a platform in front of the church.  In the second, David slays the dragon with the help of the blacks, and in the third, David slays Goliath. The characters make speeches before the combat, and the entire play is accompanied by live music.

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TITLE: Archangel Michael Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Cunduacán, Tabasco
ETHNICITY: Nahuatl
DESCRIPTION: San Miguel Arcángel (Archangel Michael) Mask
CATALOG ID: LAMX137
MAKER: Unknown maker in Cúlico
CEREMONY: Danza del David y Goliat
AGE: 2021
MAIN MATERIAL: cedar wood
OTHER MATERIALS: jolocin tree bark strips; cotton string; oil-based paint

The Dance of David and Goliath was taught to the Nahuatl people of Cunduacán by Spanish missionaries as part of their proselytization efforts, and it has been danced there probably since the sixteenth century. It tells the Biblical story of David’s victory of Goliath with the help of Archangel Michael. It is danced on December 7 and 8 in honor of the Celebración de la Virgen de la Concepción. Other masked characters include Goliath, Capitán Luzbel, a dragon, two black clowns, and three soldiers. David, represented by a child, wears no mask.

The first act presents all of the characters on a platform in front of the church.  In the second, David slays the dragon with the help of the blacks, and in the third, David slays Goliath. The characters make speeches before the combat, and the entire play is accompanied by live music.

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TITLE: Parachico Mask
TYPE: face mask; accessory
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Chiapas
ETHNICITY: Mayan
DESCRIPTION: Parachico Mask
CATALOG ID: LAMX008
MAKER: José Francisco Rosáles Abadía (Chiapa de Corzo, 1991- )
CEREMONY: Fiesta de San Sebastián
AGE: 2015
MAIN MATERIAL: cedar wood
OTHER MATERIALS: blanco de españa; oil paint; glass eyes; adhesive; animal hair eyelashes

The Baile de los Parachicos is unique to Chiapas, the southernmost region of Mexico, and is most commonly performed in Chiapa de Corzo and Suchiapa.  It may have pre-Columbian origins, but its modern version is believed to originate in the myth of a wealthy Spanish noblewoman whose sick child could not be cured by doctors in Guatemala. She eventually brought him north to Chiapas, and a Mayan priest recommended she bathe in the healing waters of Cumbujuyú for nine days.  After the child recovered, the woman held a feast of thanksgiving and her servants danced for the children. Hence the name, parachico, meaning “for the little boy.”  In modern times, the parade is held during the holiday of St. Sebastian, the patron saint of Chiapa de Corzo.

The dance begins with a parade of the parachicos through the streets led by a patrón, or boss, whose mask is somewhat more elaborate than usual. All parachicos wear black pants with colorful embroidered designs, white shirt, a bright sarape, black leather boots, and they carry a tin rattle (chinchin).  As they parade, they echo phrases shouted by the leader, such as:

¡Vivan los que ya no pueden, muchachos!” (“Long live those who can’t do it any longer, boys!” or “Long live the elders!”)

¡Viva el gusto de nosotros, muchachos!” (“Long live our shared tastes, boys!” or “Long live our traditions!”)

¡Viva la mano poderosa, muchachos!” (“Long live the powerful hand, boys!” or “Long live God’s will!”)

¡Viva la pandilla rica, muchachos!” (“Long live the rich gang, boys!” or “Long live the parachicos!”)

They may also shout out more or less improvised verses, devout or comical, such as “Little mermaid, little mermaid, sea mermaid, Praise the Holy One and señor St. Sebastián” or “Passing by your window, you threw me a lemon, the lemon hit my face, and went straight to my heart.”

They then perform a group dance to the sound of drums and marimba, guitar, or other instruments. Women in brightly colored floral dresses may accompany them in less formal dances.

This specific mask was rented out to participants in the festival from 2015 until 2023.

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TITLE: Halloween Pony Mask & Costume
TYPE: face mask; costume
GENERAL REGION: North America
COUNTRY: United States of America
ETHNICITY: Mixed
DESCRIPTION: Cloth Pony Mask and Costume
CATALOG #: NAUS015
MAKER: Collegeville Costumes (Collegeville, Pennsylvania)
CEREMONY: Halloween
AGE: 1950s
MAIN MATERIAL: dyed and painted cloth
OTHER MATERIALS: elastic string; hardware; stitching

Halloween is one of the major secular festivals in the United States, celebrated on October 31st each year.  It originated in pre-Christian times, possibly among the ancient Celts, who practiced Samhain in late fall by wearing frightening costumes and lighting bonfires in mid-autumn to scare away ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III declared November 1st as a day to honor all the saints collectively. The celebration prior to this All Saints Day became known as All Hallows’ Eve (hence the shortened name, All Hallowe’en, eventually elided to Halloween), and involved many of the same traditions practiced by the Celts.

Halloween formerly had many traditions that varied by region.  In modern and relatively homogenized practice, Halloween generally has three main components: costumed parties, “trick-or-treating,” and haunted houses.  Costumed parties are the modern descendant of social activities designed to honor the saints and create solidarity in the community. Children’s parties typically involved games with prizes, such as bobbing for apples and carving pumpkins and other relatively dry squash into frightening “jack-o-lanterns” with candles inside for illumination.  Adult parties commonly involve less innocent games and elaborate decorations to create a scary mood.

Trick-or-treating is the children’s practice of wearing scary costumes to extort candy and other sweets from neighbors. Like roaming goblins, the monsters visiting the house would demand a treat or threaten to play a nasty trick on the neighbor. The threat is of course a formality, as sharing candy with trick-or-treaters is considered a mandatory practice for friendly and community-spirited neighbors. In modern practice, many children have abandoned the tradition of wearing frightening costumes and have leaned toward fantasy characters such as superheroes, princesses, and fairies.

Haunted houses are a relatively modern innovation.  They may be designed and staffed by volunteers or for profit, and generally take the form of a decrepit mansion haunted by ghosts, mad scientists, monsters, the walking dead, etc. The idea is to inspire terror and wonder in a factually safe environment.

In addition, many Americans celebrate by watching horror movies (the release of which Hollywood times to coincide with the Halloween season), and in some regions, most notably Greenwich Village, Manhattan in New York and Salem, Massachusetts, major costumed parades are organized each year.  In many cities, “zombie walks” composed of masses of costumed zombies have been organized as well.

Popular masks and costumes include devils, zombies, skeletons, vampires, werewolves, mummies, witches, pirates, political figures, and characters from popular culture, such as Frankenstein’s monster. However, Halloween costumes can include almost anything, including inanimate objects and abstractions.  The choice is limited only by the imagination of the masquerader.  Masks and costumes depicting offensive racial stereotypes, popular prior to the 1980s, are no longer widely used.

This specific mask was mass produced by placing a cloth soaked in starch over a mold, then allowing it to dry and painting it. The process is fast and inexpensive, making the process very popular with the majority of Americans from the late 1930s to the 1960s.

For more on 20th century American Halloween costumes, see Phyllis Galembo, Dressed for Thrills: 100 Years of Halloween Costumes and Masquerade (New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc., 2002).

Click above to watch a documentary about Halloween in the United States.

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TITLE: Cojó Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Tenosique, Tabasco
ETHNICITY: Mayan (Yokot’anob / Chontal)
DESCRIPTION: Traditional Cojó mask with beard
CATALOG ID: LAMX138
MAKER: José Rafael Pérez (Tenosique, 1949- )
CEREMONY: Danza Correr del Pochó
AGE: 2007
MAIN MATERIAL: cedar wood
OTHER MATERIALS: sealant

During Carnival and the saint’s holiday of Tenosique, local Mayan people perform La Danza Correr del Pochó, or less formally, El Pochó.  El Pochó is a pre-Christian god that the missionaries tried to characterize as evil.  As a result, modern festivals end in the defeat and burning of Pochó. The Danze del Pochó has three main characters: cojóes, the pochoveras, and the tigres.  They dance to the music of native flutes and drums.

Cojóes are men who represent the first Chontal people, created from the pulp of maize. They are the only participants to wear masks. The cojó masks, such as this one, are always made of wood and, in the original style (like this one), appear like fierce men. The reason for the mask is said to be that Pochó immediately considered human beings his enemy, and so the Mayans wore masks so that Pochó could not recognize them. The costume consists of a coarse coat, a cloth mantle, a skirt of leaves, and a straw hat decorated with large leaves, flowers, and chewing gum boxes. They carry a long rattle shaped like a thick stick filled with changala seeds.

The pochoveras are priestesses of the god Pochó and keep a fire burning on his alter. Pochoveras also wear a hat with leaves and flowers.

The tigres, called balandes in the Chontal language, are masked characters who paint their body with white clay and black spots made of coal to simulate the jaguar pelt. They may also wear an animal skin. The role of the tigres is to attack the cojóes with the help of the pochoveras, on behalf of Pochó. However, the cojóes inevitably win, defeating the tigres and extinguishing Pochó’s fire.

This specific mask was loaned or rented out for use by various townsfolk from 2007 until 2023.

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TITLE: Halloween Witch Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: North America
COUNTRY: United States of America
ETHNICITY: Mixed
DESCRIPTION: Die-Cut Paper Witch Mask
CATALOG #: NAUS012
MAKER: The Beistle Co. (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1900- )
CEREMONY: Halloween
AGE: 1920s
MAIN MATERIAL: card paper
OTHER MATERIALS: dyed crepe paper; ink; metal staples

Halloween is one of the major secular festivals in the United States, celebrated on October 31st each year.  It originated in pre-Christian times, possibly among the ancient Celts, who practiced Samhain in late fall by wearing frightening costumes and lighting bonfires in mid-autumn to scare away ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III declared November 1st as a day to honor all the saints collectively. The celebration prior to this All Saints Day became known as All Hallows’ Eve (hence the shortened name, All Hallowe’en, eventually elided to Halloween), and involved many of the same traditions practiced by the Celts.

Halloween formerly had many traditions that varied by region.  In modern and relatively homogenized practice, Halloween generally has three main components: costumed parties, “trick-or-treating,” and haunted houses.  Costumed parties are the modern descendant of social activities designed to honor the saints and create solidarity in the community. Children’s parties typically involved games with prizes, such as bobbing for apples and carving pumpkins and other relatively dry squash into frightening “jack-o-lanterns” with candles inside for illumination.  Adult parties commonly involve less innocent games and elaborate decorations to create a scary mood.

Trick-or-treating is the children’s practice of wearing scary costumes to extort candy and other sweets from neighbors. Like roaming goblins, the monsters visiting the house would demand a treat or threaten to play a nasty trick on the neighbor. The threat is of course a formality, as sharing candy with trick-or-treaters is considered a mandatory practice for friendly and community-spirited neighbors. In modern practice, many children have abandoned the tradition of wearing frightening costumes and have leaned toward fantasy characters such as superheroes, princesses, and fairies.

Haunted houses are a relatively modern innovation.  They may be designed and staffed by volunteers or for profit, and generally take the form of a decrepit mansion haunted by ghosts, mad scientists, monsters, the walking dead, etc. The idea is to inspire terror and wonder in a factually safe environment.

In addition, many Americans celebrate by watching horror movies (the release of which Hollywood times to coincide with the Halloween season), and in some regions, most notably Greenwich Village, Manhattan in New York and Salem, Massachusetts, major costumed parades are organized each year.  In many cities, “zombie walks” composed of masses of costumed zombies have been organized as well.

Popular masks and costumes include devils, zombies, skeletons, vampires, werewolves, mummies, witches, pirates, political figures, and characters from popular culture, such as Frankenstein’s monster. However, Halloween costumes can include almost anything, including inanimate objects and abstractions.  The choice is limited only by the imagination of the masquerader.  Masks and costumes depicting offensive racial stereotypes, popular prior to the 1980s, are no longer widely used.

This specific mask was mass produced by cutting the shape from card paper and printing the design on it, then stapling a headband made of foldable crepe paper made by a process invented in Germany. Such mass-produced masks were inexpensive enough to be used by all Halloween celebrants regardless of social position and wealth. Because they were made to be disposable, few survive in their original condition.

For more on 20th century American Halloween costumes, see Phyllis Galembo, Dressed for Thrills: 100 Years of Halloween Costumes and Masquerade (New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc., 2002).

Click above to watch a documentary about Halloween in the United States.

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