TITLE: Chinelo Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Morelos
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Chinelo Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: metal wire mesh
OTHER MATERIALS: metal strips; dyed ixtle fiber; oil-based paint

The Carnival of Morelos typically features the popular figure of fun, the chinelo, a Spanish version of the Nahuatl word zineloquie, or “disguised.” As occurred in many parts of Mexico, dances developed during Carnival as a means of expressing indigenous resentment of the European colonists.  In Morelos, the primary object of frustration was the sugar cane plantation, in which native labor was exploited while Spanish colonists enriched themselves. The chinelos represent a grotesque caricature of the invaders, with their fancy clothing, fair skin, elaborate facial hair, and arrogant mannerisms. Chinelo costumes are especially elaborate, often made to resemble velvet or satin, with bright and intricate designs in beads, sequins, fur, and feathers covering the robe and hat.  The dance of the chinelos, called the brincón (“hop”), is a series of repetitive, energetic hops to the fast-paced blare of drums, and of brass and woodwind instruments.

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TITLE: Monkey Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Ecuador
SUBREGION: Cotopaxi
ETHNICITY: Mestizo
DESCRIPTION: Mono (Monkey) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Fiesta de la Mama Negra
AGE: ca. 1960s-1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint

The Fiesta de la Mama Negra (Festival of the Black Mama) is a celebration held in September and again in early November in Latacunga, Ecuador. The event originates in pre-colonial indigenous practices and was adapted to honor the Virgin of Mercy (Virgen de la Merced) after Catholic conversion, in thanks for her supposed  intervention to protect the population from eruptions from the nearby Cotopaxi volcano.  The festival has become one of the most important in Latacunga, and includes a parade (comparsa) featuring the Mama Negra prominently as an African version of Mary, mother of Jesus.

Other important masks include animals such as this dog, cats, or jaguars; the Rey Moro (King Moor, showing the influence of the Conquistadors); angels; clowns (payasos abanderados); and miscellaneous other characters. This festival opens with the huacos, representing precolonial Aymara shamans who parade to cure the diseases of the crowd. This mask represents a monkey, several species of which inhabit Ecuador, including the Mangled Howler Monkey, the Ecuadorian Capuchin, the Squirrel Monkey, the Black-Headed Spider Monkey, and the Brown-Mantled Tamarin.

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TITLE: Viejito Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Michoacan
ETHNICITY: Purépecha
DESCRIPTION: Viejito (Little Old Man) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Danza de los Viejitos
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: plaster; maque; cotton thread; ixtle fiber; shoelaces

The Danza de los Viejitos is one of the oldest ceremonies in the Purépecha regions of Michoacán. In it, four dancers dressed as old men, with white suits, a colorful sarape, beribboned straw hat, wooden clogs, and a wooden cane, dance to the music of violins, clarinets, and guitars. The purpose of the dance is to pray for a good harvest. Normally, four dancers appear, representing the four primordial elements (earth, fire, water, and air) and the four colors of maize (yellow, red, blue, white). Masks may be made of wood, paste, or terra cotta.

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TITLE: Captain (?) Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Ecuador
SUBREGION: Cotopaxi
ETHNICITY: Mestizo
DESCRIPTION: Unknown mask, probably representing the Capitán (Captain)
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Fiesta de la Mama Negra
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint

The Fiesta de la Mama Negra (Festival of the Black Mama) is a celebration held in September and again in early November in Latacunga, Ecuador. The event originates in pre-colonial indigenous practices and was adapted to honor the Virgin of Mercy (Virgen de la Merced) after Catholic conversion, in thanks for her supposed  intervention to protect the population from eruptions from the nearby Cotopaxi volcano.  The festival has become one of the most important in Latacunga, and includes a parade (comparsa) featuring the Mama Negra prominently as an African version of Mary, mother of Jesus.

Other important masks include animals such as this dog, cats, or jaguars; the Rey Moro (King Moor, showing the influence of the Conquistadors); angels; clowns (payasos abanderados); and miscellaneous other characters. This festival opens with the huacos, representing precolonial Aymara shamans who parade to cure the diseases of the crowd. This mask probably represents the Captain (capitán), the Spanish viceroy appointed by the King of Spain. He leads a parade with an unsheathed sword, dancing comically to the rhythm of a band.

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TITLE: Chilolo Pilato Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Oaxaca
ETHNICITY: Mixtec
DESCRIPTION: Pilato Mask
MAKER: Luís Morales Ortíz, San Miguel Tlacotepec (1974- )
CEREMONY: Carnival (Danza de los Chilolos)
AGE: 2021
MAIN MATERIAL: avocado wood
OTHER MATERIALS: acrylic paint

The Danza de los Chilolos is performed by the Mixtec people of Juxtlahuaca district and surrounding towns during Carnival or on special occasions, such as the inauguration of a church. The word “chilolo” is a Spanish version of the Mixtec term Lolo Nchicaa, meaning Ritual of the Jaguar. As the name suggests, this dance originates before the Spanish invasion and is one of the oldest still danced in Oaxaca.

It is based on a legend of a great chief of Yosocuia who had amassed a large fortune, but who decided the leave the village in the care of his sons. He went to Tututepec, married a noblewoman, and started a new family, but he longed for his old kingdom. His wife wished him to remain and, on the advice of a priest, sought the help of a mystical creature, the Nahual. The Nahual transformed itself into a jaguar and slaughtered all the cattle of the chief’s sons, so that when he arrived back in Yosocuia, he saw nothing but poverty. He decides to hunt the jaguar, taking with him his best guerreros del sol (Warriors of the Sun), also called Pilatos, who wear this mask. The chief is represented by a character known as Santiaguito.

The Danza de los Chilolos is accompanied by a small orchestra of a Mixtec small, square drum and stick (tamborcito) made from goat hide, and a simple reed flute. The chilolos perform choreographed steps, wearing elaborate costumes and colorful feathered crowns made of wood and adorned with mirrors. They wear bells on their boots that shake as they dance, and carry a sword in one hand and a flag in the other. Much of the symbolism of the dance relates to Catholicism, because Spanish missionaries did not tolerate pre-Christian traditions and compelled the Mixtecs to corrupt their culture with Catholic doctrines.

Normally, masks of this region are made of sabino wood (Mexican cypress), but other woods (such as avocado, in this case) may substitute when the sabino is unavailable.

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TITLE: Mixtec Rubio Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Oaxaca
ETHNICITY: Mixtec
DESCRIPTION: Rubio (Blond One) Mask
MAKER: Luís Morales Ortíz, San Miguel Tlacotepec (1974- )
CEREMONY: Danza de los Diablos
AGE: 2021
MAIN MATERIAL: avocado wood
OTHER MATERIALS: plastic eyes; adhesive; false eyelashes; acrylic paint

The Danza de los Rubios (Dance of the Blond Ones) is performed by the Mixtec people of Juxtlahuaca district on patron saint holidays, such the Festival of St. James (Fiesta de Santiago el Apostól) in Santiago Juxtlahuaca in late July. The dance is performed in pairs to the music a violin and guitar and tells a story of cow herders (vaqueros) and their women, who dance in a double line. The male mask, the rubio, was probably originally intended to mock the Spaniards, with their blue eyes, mustaches, and squint at the harsh Mexican sun. Over time, the fun of ridiculing the disappearing Spaniards must have paled, and the characters came to represent the indigenous cow herders and their wives (called marialenchas).

Normally, masks of this region are made of sabino wood (Mexican cypress), but other woods (such as avocado, in this case) may substitute when the sabino is unavailable.

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TITLE: Topeng Bondres
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Indonesia
SUBREGION: Bali
ETHNICITY: Balinese
DESCRIPTION: Bondres Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Topeng Dance Drama; Barong Performance
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: pule wood
OTHER MATERIALS: human hair; adhesive; paint

The Topeng dance drama is an important traditional entertainment and education on the island of Bali, Indonesia. Its origin can be traced to the oral history of the Balinese people and venerable palm-leaf written histories, influenced by Hinduism imported from India. The dance may have originated as early as 840 CE. The stories depicted in this drama, called Babad Dalem, tell a political history of the islands of Bali and Java as written by the court poets of the regional kings.

This specific mask represents a class of clownish characters known as bondres. Unlike this mask, the bondres character typically wears a half mask or an articulated full mask strapped to the head to allow for speaking or singing.  Unlike most Balinese masks, which portray stock characters, many bondres characters are unique representations of village types portrayed by the actor who owns the mask.

For more on Balinese masks, see Judy Slattum, Masks of Bali: Spirits of an Ancient Drama (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1992).

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TITLE: The Devil Inside Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Oaxaca
ETHNICITY: Mixtec
DESCRIPTION: Mask of a Devil Regurgitating Another Devil
MAKER: Luís Morales Ortíz, San Miguel Tlacotepec (1974- )
CEREMONY: Danza de los Diablos
AGE: 2021
MAIN MATERIAL: avocado wood
OTHER MATERIALS: goat horns; metal screws; adhesive; plastic eyes; false eyelashes; acrylic paint

The Danza de los Diablos (Dance of the Devils) is performed by the Mixtec people of Juxtlahuaca district on patron saint holidays, such the Festival of St. James (Fiesta de Santiago el Apostól) in Santiago Juxtlahuaca in late July. The dance involves a group of devils (no specific number) in coats and ties, with chivarras (goatskin chaps) and carrying whips, dancing in a group to the music of drums and trumpets.  Unlike other masked dances of the district, such as the Danza de los Rubios, which is performed in pairs to the music a violin and guitar and tells a story of cowboys and their women, or the Danza de los Chareos, which tells the story of the battle of the Catholics and Moors for the reconquest of Spain, the Dance of the Devils tells no story and there are no specific dance steps.  Every dancer capers and jumps according to his own style.

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TITLE: Vejigante Mask and Costume
TYPE: face mask; costume
GENERAL REGION: Caribbean
COUNTRY: Puerto Rico
SUBREGION: Ponce
ETHNICITY: Mestizo
DESCRIPTION: Vejigante Mask and Costume in Puerto Rico Flag Colors
MAKER (Mask): Unknown
MAKER (Costume): Gloria E. Cruz Guevara (Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA / Vieques, Puerto Rico, 1977- )
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE (Mask): 1980s
AGE (Costume): 2021
MAIN MATERIAL (Mask): paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS (Mask): gesso; paint
MATERIALS (Costume): dyed poly poplin cloth; dyed satin polyester cloth; stitching; elastic bands

The Carnival paraders of Ponce, Puerto Rico traditionally use paper maché masks with multiple horns and sharp teeth, accompanied by colorful and frilly costumes, to represent fantastic devils. Most consider that the more horns a mask has, the better.  Formerly, participants carried an inflated goat or cow bladder (vejiga) on a string with which to bop passers-by on the posterior.  This is how the character got its name, vejigante (bladder-carrier). Today, goat bladders are in short supply, and this practice is rare. Vejigantes nonetheless remain an indispensable part of the Ponce Carnival.

A unique feature of the Ponce carnival is that it includes the burial of a giant symbolic sardine, carried by a parader dressed as a friar and another dressed as a hooked sardine.  The sardine symbolizes the Carnival itself, and the burial marks its end.

This specific mask was worn in the parade of Ponce during the 1980s; the costume was specially made for the Museum by a seamstress on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico.

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TITLE: Halloween Owl Mask and Costume
TYPE: face mask; costume
GENERAL REGION: North America
COUNTRY: United States of America
ETHNICITY: Mixed
DESCRIPTION: Paper Owl Mask and Handmade Costume
MAKER (MASK): The Beistle Co. (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1900- )
MAKER (COSTUME): Unknown
CEREMONY: Halloween
AGE (MASK): 1930s
AGE (COSTUME): 1920s
MAIN MATERIAL (MASK): card paper
OTHER MATERIALS (MASK): dyed crepe paper; ink; metal staples
MAIN MATERIAL (COSTUME): dyed  and printed cotton cloth
OTHER MATERIALS (COSTUME): stitching; brass bells; steel snaps

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. The costume was hand-sewn in the 1920s from dyed and printed cloth. It was made for a small child, approximately four to five years old. The seamstress sewed small brass bells on the arms and legs to make light noise whenever the wearer moved, an innovation not only festive but helpful in finding the child in the dark while trick-or-treating.

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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