TITLE: Mono (Monkey) Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Nahualá
ETHNICITY: Mayan (Kaqchikel)
DESCRIPTION: Mono Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Baile de los Animalitos; Baile del Venado
AGE: 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint

The Baile de los Animalitos (Dance of the Little Animals), also called the Baile de los Animales, 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 involves an angel, a hunter, and many different kinds of animals, including the mono (monkey).  The dance probably predates the Spanish conquest, and involves many speeches by the animals relating to their characteristics, their role in the ecosystem, and (since colonization) their anomalous praise of the Virgin Mary. The hunter no longer hunts the animals in the modern rendition. After the speeches, they all dance to a marimba band.

The mono mask is also used in the Baile del Venado (Dance of the Deer).  This specific mono was made by a skilled carver in the Nahualá, Sololá Department, and used for many years there.

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

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TITLE: Diablo Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Peru
SUBREGION: Puno
ETHNICITY: Quechua; Aymara
DESCRIPTION: Diablo (Devil) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Carnival (Diablada)
AGE: 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: recycled metal gas can
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint

The Diablada of Peru is a Carnival parade of dancing devils similar to ones held in Bolivia and northern Chile.  The dance represents the forces of evil struggling with the forces of good, represented by the Archangel Michael.  There is probably some connection between the diablos (devils) and the Tío Supay, the traditional god/demon of the underworld in pre-Christian Altiplano culture.

This specific mask was made in the 1970s in Puno, or possibly Cuzco, and used in Puno for many years.

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TITLE: Achachi Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Bolivia
SUBREGION: Oruro
ETHNICITY: Quechua and Aymara
DESCRIPTION: Achachi (Old Foreman) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Carnival (La Diablada)
AGE: 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: linen covered with plaster
OTHER MATERIALS: plant fibers; mirrors; polyester fringe; oil-based paint

The Morenada (Dance of the Moors) is an annual ceremony in several towns in the Altiplano region of Bolivia, Peru, and northern Chile, usually incorporated into Carnival.  The dance includes both male and female Moors dancing in a group with whips, rattles, or scepters. A King of the Moors (Rey de Morenos) presides and coordinates the dance. The dance typically occurs in the course of a parade, with marching bands playing musical scores for the dancers.  The precise origins of the Morenada are the subject of debate, with most specialists concluding that the dance was inspired by African slaves brought to Bolivia to work the mines or the subsequent integration of Africans into the Yungas community near La Paz.  The morena wears a fancy version of the traditional Bolivian costume with the classic bowler hat.

This mask represents an achachi, an old, bald man who previously worked as a captain or slave-driver under a colonial landowner.  The achachi may be represented as a black or white man (as here), but in either case he has a long, aquiline nose, bushy beard, cruel expression, and elaborate costume.  The mirror teeth exaggerate his prosperity as a lackey to the colonizers.

This specific mask was fashioned by a skilled mask-maker (caretero) in Oruro in the 1970s. At this time, mask makers were still frequently using linen soaked in plaster for their masks and hand painting them from start to finish.

For more on Bolivian masquerade, see Peter McFarren ed., Masks of the Bolivian Andes (La Paz: Editorial Quipus/Banco Mercantil SA, 1993).

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TITLE: Negrito Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Oaxaca
ETHNICITY: Mixtec
DESCRIPTION: Negrito (Little Black Man) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Danza de los Tejorones
AGE: 1960s-1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint

The Danza de los Tejorones is a group dance drama performed in various towns in Oaxaca at Carnival and a few other major holidays. All dancers wear masks and elaborate costumes, and many different characters are represented, including animals, Maria Candelaria (the female Tejorón), the Negritos (little blacks), devils, Viejos (old men), and Feos (uglies). This mask probably came from the small town of Pinotepa Nacional.

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TITLE: Conquista Malinche
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Guerrero
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Malinche
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Danza de la Conquista
AGE: 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: brass earrings; oil paint

The Danza de la Conquista (Dance of the Conquest) is a ceremony performed in many parts of Mexico, as well as Central and South America. It has two stories, one European and one indigenous. The European relates to the reconquest of Spain from the Islamic Moors by the Spanish monarchy. The indigenous relates to the conquest of the Americas by the Spaniards. This mask is from the second kind, and represents Malinche (properly, Malinalli), a noble Aztec maiden sold into slavery by her mother to the Mayans, then resold to the conquistador Hernán Cortés along with other girls. When he discovered Malinche spoke Nahuatl as well as Mayan, he used her as an interpreter in making the alliances with local peoples that ultimately led to the subjugation of all of Mexico. She and Cortés eventually became lovers, and she bore a son for him, but when Cortés’ wife arrived in Mexico, he married her off to another Spaniard.

The indigenous view of Malinche is mixed. Some view her as a heroine who helped turn Mexico to Catholicism, while others view her as a betrayer.  Either way, she plays an important role in the dance retelling the conquest of Mexico.

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TITLE: Tigre Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Guerrero
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Tigre
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Batalla de los Tigres (Tecuanis)
AGE: 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: canvas cloth
OTHER MATERIALS: leather ears; mirrors; wood nose; animal teeth; adhesive; paint

In Guerrero, Mexico, the Batalla de los Tigres (Tiger Battles) are today part of the Catholic feast day of the Holy Cross, but its origins probably reach back into the pre-conquest era worship of a jaguar god (notwithstanding the name and appearance of the mask, there are no tigers in any part of the Americas). Indeed, in many parts of Guerrero, the dancers are referred to as tecuani, the Nahuatl word for jaguar (literally, “man-eater”).  The modern dance is used to summon rain for the spring planting season.  The jaguars engage in a fierce battle, striking each other with knotted ropes.

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TITLE: Torito Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Chichicastenango
ETHNICITY: Mayan (K’ich’e)
DESCRIPTION: Torito (Little Bull) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Baile del Torito
AGE: 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint

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. 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: Lion Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Panajachel
ETHNICITY: Mayan (Kaqchikel)
DESCRIPTION: Lion Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Baile del Venado (Dance of the Deer)
AGE: 1940s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

The Baile del Venado, also called the Danza del Venado, is an annual ceremony in several cities of central and southern Guatemala, usually during a holiday in honor of the town’s patron saint. Frequently it takes place over a week or more.  The dance dates back to the pre-colonization and undoubtedly originates in Mayan rituals of respect for nature and prayer for a good hunt.  In its modern incarnation, the Baile del Venado typically involves several masked characters, including a steward or mayordomo (in Kaqchikel, cachucha), Margarita (his wife), and el Moro (the Moor, who is actually Caucasian in this region and has a quetzal bird on his forehead).  With them are several animals, depending on the village, and they may include a mono (monkey), mico (small monkey), león (lion), tigre (tiger), tigrillo (little tiger), jaguar, perro (dog), a guacamaya roja (Scarlet Macaw), and sometimes others.  In some places, the mono and mico are the same character.  The number of each animal character depends on the size of the village and the number of participants.

While originally this dance simulated a hunt, in modern times the animals dance and the mayordomo and Margarita feed them. The moro enters last, with a quetzal on his head as punishment from the gods for having worn sacred quetzal feathers.  The moro does not hunt the animals, but rather acts as their guardian and caretaker.

This mask was made in the 1940s and danced extensively in Panajachel by Evaristo Rosales. It may come from a moreria (mask and costume maker and renter) in Solalá or Chichicastenango.

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

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TITLE: Boruca Traditional Warrior Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Costa Rica
SUBREGION: Reserva Rey Curré, Puntarenas
ETHNICITY: Boruca
DESCRIPTION: Traditional Warrior Mask
MAKER: Ismael González Lázaro (Puntarenas, 1928-2016) (carver); Melvin González Rojas (Puntarenas, 1978- ) (painter)
CEREMONY: Cagrúv Rójc (Fiesta de los Diablitos)
AGE: 2013
MAIN MATERIAL: balsa wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

The Boruca people mostly inhabit two reservations in the Puntarenas Province of Costa Rica. Technically, many persons classified as Boruca are members of neighboring indigenous peoples, such as the Coto and Quepo people, who have banded with the Boruca to preserve their traditions and relative independence. Their best known holiday is the Fiesta de los Diablitos (Festival of the Little Devils), properly called Cagrúv Rójc in the Boruca langauge, and held from December 30th to January 2nd each year. The ceremony represents a major community event and a retelling of the Spanish conquest of the Boruca people (represented by masked forest spirits known as diablos, but actually representing indigenous warriors).  All masqueraders are men. The diablos begin parading in the morning at the direction of an elder devil, el Diablo Mayor, representing the glory of the Boruca culture before the conquest.  On January 1st, a masquerader in a toro (bull) mask enters the festivities to represent the invading Spanish. The toro chases the diablos about the village. Although the diablos resist, the toro ultimately knocks down all the diablos, representing the Spanish victory.  Afterward, the diablos return to life, sending the toro into hiding while they hunt him with the help of a masquerader posing as a dog. Ultimately they find, capture, and symbolically burn the toro, signifying the end of the festival. The toro mask is not burned, but saved for the subsequent year’s ritual.

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TITLE: Wayana-Aparai Tamok
TYPE: face and body mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Brazil
SUBREGION: Guiana Highlands
ETHNICITY: Wayana; Aparai
DESCRIPTION: Tamok (Tamoko) Mask and Costume
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Pono Dance (Cumeeira)
AGE: 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: split-cane basketry
OTHER MATERIALS: bark cloth; beeswax; kaolin clay; pigment; palm-frond fibers

The Wayana and Aparai are two distinct peoples that live in close proximity in northeastern Brazil, on the border of Suriname and French Guiana. Due to their small numbers (less than 3000 persons between the two groups), they have joined to a degree and have converged in their cultural rituals. Among these is the Pono dance, sometimes called in Portuguese the Cumeeira ceremony, a celebration of the dedication of a new community roundhouse (the cumeeira being the highest point of the roof). Participants in this celebration must refrain from alcohol and maintain purity. Only then are they allowed to wear the tamok (or tamoko) mask and suit.

Tamok represents an evil spirit, a powerful man-eating forest monster associated with illness and death. The Pono dance placates Tamok and purifies the village.  It is performed with a large, two-handed whip to make loud cracking sounds.  The Tamok mask’s geometrical pattern are reminiscent of the face painting applied to Wayana girls.

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