TITLE: Xantolo Viejo Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: San Luís Potosí
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Viejo (Old Man) Mask
MAKER: Herman Chávez Guerrero (1963- , San Martín Chalchicuautla)
CEREMONY: Day of the Dead (Xantolo)
AGE: 2022
MAIN MATERIAL: paperboard
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; glue; cotton cloth; elastic straps

Day of the Dead is celebrated in many parts of Mexico. In San Luís Potosí, the celebration is called Xantolo and differs from region to region.  In the Huasteca region, some villages are primarily Nahua in ethnicity, and others are primarily Tenek. The village of San Martín Chalchicuautla is mainly Nahua. Xantolo in the Nahua language is called Miijkailjuitl, and it is celebrated with decorations of the graves of ancestors using flowers (primarily marigolds and coxcombs) and representations of the Catrina, an elaborate female skeleton figure. In San Martín, the celebration also includes masked dances to the music of guitars and violin.

The dance is fairly elaborate, with an outer ring of viejos (old men), viejas (old women), and two paired characters known as El Cole and La Mamanina. The middle ring is populated with diablos (devils) with varied appearances, but primarily having long ears, horns, and a long tongue. There is also a character called El Caminito, who resembles a horseman riding a toy wooden horse (and possibly intended to represent St. James the Apostle). The inner ring has at least one Catrina representing death, and male and female “Comanches,” meant to represent North American indigenous warriors, who carry whips. They dance in a circle, and at some point the Cole may flirt with the Mamanina or a vieja, satirizing a drunken and lecherous old man to the amusement of onlookers. The dances are repeated throughout the day, and the dancers are thought to lend their bodies to dead ancestors to participate in the celebration.

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TITLE: Xantolo Vieja Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: San Luís Potosí
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Vieja (Old Woman) Mask
MAKER: Herman Chávez Guerrero (1963- , San Martín Chalchicuautla)
CEREMONY: Day of the Dead (Xantolo)
AGE: 2022
MAIN MATERIAL: paperboard
OTHER MATERIALS: plastic eyelashes; oil-based paint; glue; cotton cloth; elastic straps

Day of the Dead is celebrated in many parts of Mexico. In San Luís Potosí, the celebration is called Xantolo and differs from region to region.  In the Huasteca region, some villages are primarily Nahua in ethnicity, and others are primarily Tenek. The village of San Martín Chalchicuautla is mainly Nahua. Xantolo in the Nahua language is called Miijkailjuitl, and it is celebrated with decorations of the graves of ancestors using flowers (primarily marigolds and coxcombs) and representations of the Catrina, an elaborate female skeleton figure. In San Martín, the celebration also includes masked dances to the music of guitars and violin.

The dance is fairly elaborate, with an outer ring of viejos (old men), viejas (old women), and two paired characters known as El Cole and La Mamanina. The middle ring is populated with diablos (devils) with varied appearances, but primarily having long ears, horns, and a long tongue. There is also a character called El Caminito, who resembles a horseman riding a toy wooden horse (and possibly intended to represent St. James the Apostle). The inner ring has at least one Catrina representing death, and male and female “Comanches,” meant to represent North American indigenous warriors, who carry whips. They dance in a circle, and at some point the Cole may flirt with the Mamanina or a vieja, satirizing a drunken and lecherous old man to the amusement of onlookers. The dances are repeated throughout the day, and the dancers are thought to lend their bodies to dead ancestors to participate in the celebration.

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TITLE: Xantolo Soldier Calavera Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: San Luís Potosí
ETHNICITY: Nahua; Tenek
DESCRIPTION: Mexican Soldier Calavera (Skull) Mask
MAKER: Candelario Manuel Santos (1996- , Tampamolón Corona)
CEREMONY: Day of the Dead (Xantolo)
AGE: 2022
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint

Day of the Dead is celebrated in many parts of Mexico. In San Luís Potosí, the celebration is called Xantolo and differs from region to region.  In the Huasteca region, some villages are primarily Nahua in ethnicity, and others are primarily Tenek. The population of the village of Tampamolón Corona is of mixed Tenek and Nahua ethnicity. Xantolo in the Nahua language is called Miijkailjuitl, and in Tenek is called Tsamnek ajib. It is celebrated with decorations of the graves of ancestors using flowers (primarily marigolds and coxcombs) and representations of the Catrina, an elaborate female skeleton figure. In Tampamolón, the celebration also includes masked dances (comparsas) to music.

The dance involves varied masked figures representing different aspects of life and death, including catrinas, devils, skulls (calaveras), clowns, pregnant women, prositutes, old men and women, and indigenous persons. It begins and ends as a danced parade with a period spent in the central plaza dancing as a group.

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TITLE: Xantolo Devil Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: San Luís Potosí
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Diablo (Devil) Mask
MAKER: Hector Saúl Orta Fernández (1985- , San Martín Chalchicuautla)
CEREMONY: Day of the Dead (Xantolo)
AGE: 2021
MAIN MATERIAL: calfskin
OTHER MATERIALS: bull horns; javelina teeth; glue; cotton cloth; oi-based paint; foam rubber; polyester straps; recycled truck tire ears and tongue; twine; plastic cloth; metal hardware

Day of the Dead is celebrated in many parts of Mexico. In San Luís Potosí, the celebration is called Xantolo and differs from region to region.  In the Huasteca region, some villages are primarily Nahua in ethnicity, and others are primarily Tenek. The village of San Martín Chalchicuautla is mainly Nahua. Xantolo in the Nahua language is called Miijkailjuitl, and it is celebrated with decorations of the graves of ancestors using flowers (primarily marigolds and coxcombs) and representations of the Catrina, an elaborate female skeleton figure. In San Martín, the celebration also includes masked dances to the music of guitars and violin.

The dance is fairly elaborate, with an outer ring of viejos (old men), viejas (old women), and two paired characters known as El Cole and La Mamanina. The middle ring is populated with diablos (devils) with varied appearances, but primarily having long ears, horns, and a long tongue. There is also a character called El Caminito, who resembles a horseman riding a toy wooden horse (and possibly intended to represent St. James the Apostle). The inner ring has at least one Catrina representing death, and male and female “Comanches,” meant to represent North American indigenous warriors, who carry whips. They dance in a circle, and at some point the Cole may flirt with the Mamanina or a vieja, satirizing a drunken and lecherous old man to the amusement of onlookers. The dances are repeated throughout the day, and the dancers are thought to lend their bodies to dead ancestors to participate in the celebration.

This devil mask was danced by its maker, Hector Orta, in the Xantolo celebration of San Martín Chalchicuautla of 2021.

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TITLE: Xantolo La Comanche Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: San Luís Potosí
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: La Comanche (Female Comanche) Mask
MAKER: José Hernández (1992- , San Martín Chalchicuautla)
CEREMONY: Day of the Dead (Xantolo)
AGE: 2022
MAIN MATERIAL: calfskin
OTHER MATERIALS: aluminum sheet; stitching; glue; foam rubber; oil-based paint; shoelaces

Day of the Dead is celebrated in many parts of Mexico. In San Luís Potosí, the celebration is called Xantolo and differs from region to region.  In the Huasteca region, some villages are primarily Nahua in ethnicity, and others are primarily Tenek. The village of San Martín Chalchicuautla is mainly Nahua. Xantolo in the Nahua language is called Miijkailjuitl, and it is celebrated with decorations of the graves of ancestors using flowers (primarily marigolds and coxcombs) and representations of the Catrina, an elaborate female skeleton figure. In San Martín, the celebration also includes masked dances to the music of guitars and violin.

The dance is fairly elaborate, with an outer ring of viejos (old men), viejas (old women), and two paired characters known as El Cole and La Mamanina. The middle ring is populated with diablos (devils) with varied appearances, but primarily having long ears, horns, and a long tongue. There is also a character called El Caminito, who resembles a horseman riding a toy wooden horse (and possibly intended to represent St. James the Apostle). The inner ring has at least one Catrina representing death, and male and female “Comanches,” meant to represent North American indigenous warriors, who carry whips. They dance in a circle, and at some point the Cole may flirt with the Mamanina or a vieja, satirizing a drunken and lecherous old man to the amusement of onlookers. The dances are repeated throughout the day, and the dancers are thought to lend their bodies to dead ancestors to participate in the celebration.

Comanches can be male or female. The metal crown is intended to represent a feathered headdress and on some masks includes actual feathers (usually of a peacock). Males tend to have painted mustaches and wear masculine clothing, while females wear dresses and have pink circles on their cheeks and bright pink or red lips.

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TITLE: Xantolo El Cole Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: San Luís Potosí
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: El Cole (The School) Mask
MAKER: Herman Chávez Guerrero (1963- , San Martín Chalchicuautla)
CEREMONY: Day of the Dead (Xantolo)
AGE: 2022
MAIN MATERIAL: goat leather & fur
OTHER MATERIALS: stitching; cotton cloth; cow tail beard; glue; oil-based paint; elastic straps

Day of the Dead is celebrated in many parts of Mexico. In San Luís Potosí, the celebration is called Xantolo and differs from region to region.  In the Huasteca region, some villages are primarily Nahua in ethnicity, and others are primarily Tenek. The village of San Martín Chalchicuautla is mainly Nahua. Xantolo in the Nahua language is called Miijkailjuitl, and it is celebrated with decorations of the graves of ancestors using flowers (primarily marigolds and coxcombs) and representations of the Catrina, an elaborate female skeleton figure. In San Martín, the celebration also includes masked dances to the music of guitars and violin.

The dance is fairly elaborate, with an outer ring of viejos (old men), viejas (old women), and two paired characters known as El Cole and La Mamanina. The middle ring is populated with diablos (devils) with varied appearances, but primarily having long ears, horns, and a long tongue. There is also a character called El Caminito, who resembles a horseman riding a toy wooden horse (and possibly intended to represent St. James the Apostle). The inner ring has at least one Catrina representing death, and male and female “Comanches,” meant to represent North American indigenous warriors, who carry whips. They dance in a circle, and at some point the Cole may flirt with the Mamanina or a vieja, satirizing a drunken and lecherous old man to the amusement of onlookers. The dances are repeated throughout the day, and the dancers are thought to lend their bodies to dead ancestors to participate in the celebration.

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TITLE: Xantolo Catrina Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: San Luís Potosí
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Catrina (Female Skull) Mask
MAKER: Herman Chávez Guerrero (1963- , San Martín Chalchicuautla)
CEREMONY: Day of the Dead (Xantolo)
AGE: 2022
MAIN MATERIAL: pemoches wood (Erythrina americana)
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; plastic flowers; plastic rhinestones; cotton cloth; plastic tuile screen; glue

Day of the Dead is celebrated in many parts of Mexico. In San Luís Potosí, the celebration is called Xantolo and differs from region to region.  In the Huasteca region, some villages are primarily Nahua in ethnicity, and others are primarily Tenek. The village of San Martín Chalchicuautla is mainly Nahua. Xantolo in the Nahua language is called Miijkailjuitl, and it is celebrated with decorations of the graves of ancestors using flowers (primarily marigolds and coxcombs) and representations of the Catrina, an elaborate female skeleton figure. In San Martín, the celebration also includes masked dances to the music of guitars and violin.

The dance is fairly elaborate, with an outer ring of viejos (old men), viejas (old women), and two paired characters known as El Cole and La Mamanina. The middle ring is populated with diablos (devils) with varied appearances, but primarily having long ears, horns, and a long tongue. There is also a character called El Caminito, who resembles a horseman riding a toy wooden horse (and possibly intended to represent St. James the Apostle). The inner ring has at least one Catrina representing death, and male and female “Comanches,” meant to represent North American indigenous warriors, who carry whips. They dance in a circle, and at some point the Cole may flirt with the Mamanina or a vieja, satirizing a drunken and lecherous old man to the amusement of onlookers. The dances are repeated throughout the day, and the dancers are thought to lend their bodies to dead ancestors to participate in the celebration.

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TITLE: Baining Anguangi Mask
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Oceania
COUNTRY: Papua New Guinea
SUBREGION: East New Britain Islands
ETHNICITY: Melanesian (Baining)
DESCRIPTION: Uramot Anguangi Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Night (Atut) Fire Dance
FUNCTION: Adult Initiation; Agriculture; Celebration; Funeral; Spirit Invocation
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: tapa cloth
OTHER MATERIALS: bamboo; vines; pigment from chewed roots and coconut husk ash

The Baining people live in eastern New Britain Island area known as the Gazelle Peninsula, in a mountainous tropical forest.  They are a Melanesian people closely akin to other groups in Papua New Guinea.  They traditionally live in small villages with dispersed political authority.  The Baining use their masks to unify the otherwise dispersed villagers, usually in celebrations of major events such as yam harvest, births, deaths, or adult initiation for both boys and girls.  Some dances are for the day time, mostly those centered around female tasks such as sowing, harvesting, and births.  Atut dances, also called fire dances because they’re performed around a bonfire, are held at night and center around male activities such as hunting.

The masks are mostly made of mulberry or breadfruit tree bark mashed and pounded into a cloth (“tapa cloth”) over bamboo frames.   This specific mask, the anguangi or atutki, is used in night dances by the Uramot group of Baining people. Unlike other Baining masks, the anguangi is usually retained in the house and not discarded after the ceremony.

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TITLE: Pende Giphogo (Kipoko) Mask
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Democratic Republic of the Congo
ETHNICITY: Eastern Pende
DESCRIPTION: Giphogo (Kipoko) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Mukanda Ritual
FUNCTION: Adult Initiation; Protection; Purification; Social Control; Spirit Invocation; Status
AGE: ca. 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: cloth; string; pigment

The Pende people have many different kinds of masks they wear, especially at adult initiation rituals and funerals. The word giphogo (or kipoko) means “sword wielder” and is a symbol of power among the Eastern Pende. The mask is kept in the chief’s home, and only chiefs are allowed to authorize dance with this type of mask on the occasion of initiations and rituals of the ancestor cult of the Eastern Pende. It represent the village chief as intermediary between the living and the dead, and its uses include protection from evil spirits; prayers or thanks for successful harvests and tribal fertility; to identify and punish sorcerers; and adult initiation during mukanda rituals. As he dances, the kipoko dancer makes semicircular kicks to protect the village against evil spirits or sorcerers and to purify their illnesses.

The masquerader carries one or two flywhisks made of animal hair, which are used to mimic agricultural work or to purify the village grounds.

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TITLE: Iroquois Corn Husk Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: North American
COUNTRY: Canada
SUBREGION: Québec
ETHNICITY: Iroquois
DESCRIPTION: Corn Husk (Bushy Head) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Agriculture; Healing; Secret Society; Spirit Invocation
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: braided corn husks
OTHER MATERIALS: N/A

The Iroquois League (Haudenosaunee) historically inhabited the northeastern regions of the United States and eastern Canada, before being displaced by Dutch and British settlers.  They maintain tribal lands in Ontario and Quebec today, reserved by treaty.

Most Iroquois nations had three medicine societies, one of which was the Society of Husk Faces.  Among the important rituals of the Society are celebration of the Midwinter Festival using the “Bushy Heads” or corn husk masks. They represent earthbound spirits from the other side of the world, where the seasons are reversed (which, in fact, they are south of the Equator). The beings taught the Iroquois the skills of hunting and agriculture. They perform predominantly two dances, known as the Fish Dance and the Women’s Dance. Unlike the False Face dancers, Husk Face dancers are mute. Like the False Face dancers, they can cure the ill by blowing hot ash or sprinkling water on their patients.

The Bushy Heads can be male or female, young or old.  Either men or women may dance in the Husk Face Society, and sometimes they choose masks of the opposite gender to the amusement of the audience.

For more on Iroquois masking traditions, see William N. Fenton, The False Faces of the Iroquois (University of Oklahoma Press, 1987).

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