TITLE: Vaquero Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Solalá
ETHNICITY: Mayan (K’ich’e)
DESCRIPTION: Vaquero (Cowboy) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Baile del Torito
AGE: 1940s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; glass eyes

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) like this one to interact with a bull. 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. 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: Pee Ta Khon
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Asia
COUNTRY: Thailand
SUBREGION: Dan Sai
ETHNICITY: Thai
DESCRIPTION: Pee Ta Khon (Ghost) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Pee Ta Khon (Ghost Festival)
AGE: 2012
MAIN MATERIAL: palm spathe
OTHER MATERIALS: oil paint; wood; sawdust paste; rattan rice strainer; dyed polyester fabric

The Pee Ta Khon, also spelled Phi Ta Khon, is an annual ceremony held solely in Dan Sai, Thailand, over a three-day period between March and July. The precise date of the festival is determined by the town’s spiritual mediums. It is part of a larger Buddhist celebration known as Bun Luang or Bun Phawet, intended to earn spiritual merit for its participants.

On wan ruam (assembly day), the ghosts congregate and invite protection from the spirit of the Mun River on which Dan Sai sits. The ghosts then hold a series of games and a procession, symbolizing the festivities that followed the return of the Buddha after a long absence during which he was presumed dead.

In addition to the elaborate masks, which mingle the ferocious with the comedic, the ghosts where patchwork costumes, belts with bells, and carry a palad khik (giant wooden phallus), which they wave at females in the audience in token of fertility.

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