TITLE: Payaso Abanderado
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Ecuador
SUBREGION: Cotopaxi
ETHNICITY: Mestizo
DESCRIPTION: Payaso Abanderado (Flag-Bearing Clown)
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Fiesta de la Mama Negra
AGE: ca. 1960s-1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: hardwood
OTHER MATERIALS: plaster; 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, 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 is a payaso abanderado, marked with crucifixes (as is traditional) and carrying the flag of Ecuador.

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TITLE: Yaqui Chapayeka Mask
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Sonora
ETHNICITY: Yaqui
DESCRIPTION: Chapayeka Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker in Potam, Sonora
CEREMONY: Holy Week (Fariseo Dance-Drama)
FUNCTION: celebration; purification; social control
AGE: 2008
MAIN MATERIAL: goat leather and fur
OTHER MATERIALS: plastic sheet; paint

The Yaqui and related Mayo people inhabit the desert in the Mexican state of Sonora and southern Arizona. Their religious beliefs are a syncretic version of traditional animist practices and Jesuitical Catholicism. The fariseos (Mayo) or chapayekas (Yaqui) are an important society in both communities and are mainly active during the three months surrounding Holy Week. The fariseos in theory represent Pharisees, or the Jews (judios) who supposedly condemned Jesus (it was actually the Romans), and are always represented by leather helmets with wood or painted faces.

Fariseos are organized by a society, with each celebration having a fariseo cabo (head Pharisee) who goes unmasked and organizes the dancers. To join the fariseo society, an applicant must be endorsed by a godfather (padrino) who is already a fariseo, and a godmother (padrina) who is a singer.

Fariseos usually begin dancing for several hours at the houses where idols of saints are kept, and then they come to dance in the town ramadas in the plaza, where the pasko’olas, deer dancer, and coyote dancers have been dancing.

In some village ceremonies, the fariseos, representing evil, repeatedly attack the church and are repelled by Christians throwing flowers. In others, unmasked fariseos represent the Roman persecutors of Christ bearing wooden swords and have battles with masked Christian caballeros (cavalry). Ultimately, the fariseos are defeated and convert to Christianity.  In still other villages, the fariseos follow the procession of the icons of the church and mimic searching for Jesus. Dancing as a fariseo is believed to put the dancer in the good graces of Jesus. When the masked fariseos dance, the dancer holds a rosary with a cross in his mouth during the ceremony to ward off evil.

Normally, all fariseo masks except two are burned after Holy Week. More are made in preparation for the following year. The two that are preserved are kept to be buried with any member of the fariseo society who happens to die during that year. Once worn, the masks are considered sacred objects, because the fariseos pray while dancing.

During Holy Week, the fariseo society takes over most of the legal, police, and religious ceremonies of the Yaqui and Mayo villages. For example, working was traditionally prohibited on Ash Wednesday, and anyone caught working would be brought before the fariseo cabo and fined or, if he or she had no money, forced to drag a heavy mesquite cross along the procession route. At Lent, the fariseos go from house to house, collecting donations for the Fiesta de la Gloria and other religious celebrations.

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TITLE: Mayo Fariseo
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Sonora
ETHNICITY: Mayo
DESCRIPTION: Fariseo (Chapayeka) Mask
MAKER: Jose Valenzuela (El Once, Las Nachuquis, Navajoa, Sonora)
CEREMONY: Holy Week (Fariseo Dance-Drama)
FUNCTION: celebration; purification; social control
AGE: 2007
MAIN MATERIAL: goat leather and fur
OTHER MATERIALS: cotton hat; stitching; paint

The Yaqui and related Mayo people inhabit the desert in the Mexican state of Sonora and southern Arizona. Their religious beliefs are a syncretic version of traditional animist practices and Jesuitical Catholicism. The fariseos (Mayo) or chapayekas (Yaqui) are an important society in both communities and are mainly active during the three months surrounding Holy Week. The fariseos in theory represent Pharisees, or the Jews (judios) who supposedly condemned Jesus (it was actually the Romans), and are always represented by leather helmets with wood or painted faces.

Fariseos are organized by a society, with each celebration having a fariseo cabo (head Pharisee) who goes unmasked and organizes the dancers. To join the fariseo society, an applicant must be endorsed by a godfather (padrino) who is already a fariseo, and a godmother (padrina) who is a singer.

Fariseos usually begin dancing for several hours at the houses where idols of saints are kept, and then they come to dance in the town ramadas in the plaza, where the pasko’olas, deer dancer, and coyote dancers have been dancing.

In some village ceremonies, the fariseos, representing evil, repeatedly attack the church and are repelled by Christians throwing flowers. In others, unmasked fariseos represent the Roman persecutors of Christ bearing wooden swords and have battles with masked Christian caballeros (cavalry). Ultimately, the fariseos are defeated and convert to Christianity.  In still other villages, the fariseos follow the procession of the icons of the church and mimic searching for Jesus. Dancing as a fariseo is believed to put the dancer in the good graces of Jesus. When the masked fariseos dance, the dancer holds a rosary with a cross in his mouth during the ceremony to ward off evil.

Normally, all fariseo masks except two are burned after Holy Week. More are made in preparation for the following year. The two that are preserved are kept to be buried with any member of the fariseo society who happens to die during that year. Once worn, the masks are considered sacred objects, because the fariseos pray while dancing.

During Holy Week, the fariseo society takes over most of the legal, police, and religious ceremonies of the Yaqui and Mayo villages. For example, working was traditionally prohibited on Ash Wednesday, and anyone caught working would be brought before the fariseo cabo and fined or, if he or she had no money, forced to drag a heavy mesquite cross along the procession route. At Lent, the fariseos go from house to house, collecting donations for the Fiesta de la Gloria and other religious celebrations.

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TITLE: Mayo Fariseo
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Sonora
ETHNICITY: Mayo
DESCRIPTION: Fariseo (Chapayeka) Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker in Etchojoa, Sonora
CEREMONY: Holy Week (Fariseo Dance-Drama)
FUNCTION: celebration; purification; social control
AGE: late 1990s
MAIN MATERIAL: goat leather and fur
OTHER MATERIALS: wood; plastic ears; paint

The Yaqui and related Mayo people inhabit the desert in the Mexican state of Sonora and southern Arizona. Their religious beliefs are a syncretic version of traditional animist practices and Jesuitical Catholicism. The fariseos (Mayo) or chapayekas (Yaqui) are an important society in both communities and are mainly active during the three months surrounding Holy Week. The fariseos in theory represent Pharisees, or the Jews (judios) who supposedly condemned Jesus (it was actually the Romans), and are always represented by leather helmets with wood or painted faces.

Fariseos are organized by a society, with each celebration having a fariseo cabo (head Pharisee) who goes unmasked and organizes the dancers. To join the fariseo society, an applicant must be endorsed by a godfather (padrino) who is already a fariseo, and a godmother (padrina) who is a singer.

Fariseos usually begin dancing for several hours at the houses where idols of saints are kept, and then they come to dance in the town ramadas in the plaza, where the pasko’olas, deer dancer, and coyote dancers have been dancing.

In some village ceremonies, the fariseos, representing evil, repeatedly attack the church and are repelled by Christians throwing flowers. In others, unmasked fariseos represent the Roman persecutors of Christ bearing wooden swords and have battles with masked Christian caballeros (cavalry). Ultimately, the fariseos are defeated and convert to Christianity.  In still other villages, the fariseos follow the procession of the icons of the church and mimic searching for Jesus. Dancing as a fariseo is believed to put the dancer in the good graces of Jesus. When the masked fariseos dance, the dancer holds a rosary with a cross in his mouth during the ceremony to ward off evil.

Normally, all fariseo masks except two are burned after Holy Week. More are made in preparation for the following year. The two that are preserved are kept to be buried with any member of the fariseo society who happens to die during that year. Once worn, the masks are considered sacred objects, because the fariseos pray while dancing.

During Holy Week, the fariseo society takes over most of the legal, police, and religious ceremonies of the Yaqui and Mayo villages. For example, working was traditionally prohibited on Ash Wednesday, and anyone caught working would be brought before the fariseo cabo and fined or, if he or she had no money, forced to drag a heavy mesquite cross along the procession route. At Lent, the fariseos go from house to house, collecting donations for the Fiesta de la Gloria and other religious celebrations.

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TITLE: Emberá Monkey Mask (Child’s)
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Panama
SUBREGION: Darien
ETHNICITY: Emberá
DESCRIPTION: Capuchin Monkey Mask for Child
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Healing; Purification
AGE: 2018
MAIN MATERIAL: dyed palm fibers
OTHER MATERIALS: N/A

The Emberá people belong to the Chocó ethnic group along with the Wounaan people inhabit parts of southern Panama and northern Colombia.  They weave remarkable animal spirit masks from the dyed fibers of the black chunga plant (black palm, Astrocaryum standleyanum). Shamans (jaibaná) use these masks in healing and village purification rituals, during which they will be hung from the house posts or worn.

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TITLE: Perro Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Panama
SUBREGION: Azuero Peninsula
ETHNICITY: Afro-Latino
DESCRIPTION: Perro (Dog) Mask
MAKER: José del Carmen González Santana (Chitré, 1959- )
CEREMONY: Danza de los Diablicos Sucios (Corpus Christi)
FUNCTION: celebration; entertainment
AGE: 2019
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: wood teeth; airbrush paint; plastic eyes; cotton shoelaces

In the Azuero Peninsula and other parts of Panama, villagers perform several group dances before and during the celebration of Corpus Christi.  The best known of these is the dance of the Diablicos Sucios (dirty little devils), men and boys dressed in striped costumes, wearing large, paper maché masks with bright headdresses of macaw feathers attached to a leather cone strapped to the back of the head.  Other dances popular on Corpus Christi in the peninsula include the Diablicos Limpios (clean little devils), who wear flowers instead of feathers and dance with a waistband of colorful handkerchiefs to an orchestra of flute, accordion and triangle, and Diablicos Espejos (little devils with mirrors).

This mask is used in the Danza del Venado (Dance of the Deer), an old dance that has recently been revived in Azuero. It tells the story of a hunter with his two dogs that try (and fail) to catch a deer. Firecrackers may be used to simulate the sounds of a rifle. This mask was danced by Hector Quintero in the 2019 Corpus Christi celebration of Chitré.

For more on the folk masks of Panama, see Julio Arosemena Moreno, Danzas Folklóricas de la Villa de los Santos (Instituto Nacional de Cultura de Panamá 1994).

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TITLE: Diablico Sucio Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Panama
SUBREGION: Azuero Peninsula
ETHNICITY: Afro-Latino
DESCRIPTION: Traditional Diablico Sucio Mask
MAKER: Dario López (Parita, 1950- )
CEREMONY: Danza de los Diablicos Sucios (Corpus Christi)
FUNCTION: celebration; entertainment
AGE: 1976
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; feather rachises; adhesive; cotton shoelaces

In the Azuero Peninsula and other parts of Panama, villagers perform several group dances before and during the celebration of Corpus Christi.  The best known of these is the dance of the Diablicos Sucios (dirty little devils), men and boys dressed in striped costumes, wearing large, paper maché masks with bright headdresses of macaw feathers attached to a leather cone strapped to the back of the head. The costume is traditionally colored red and black, made from alternating stripes of achiote (annatto) and charcoal. The devils dance to the music of a guitar and they always carry castanets, a dried cow bladder, and a whip for striking the bladder (and fending off drunken revelers who might interfere with the dance). Generally, the dance first takes place in the street, from the church around the plaza, after which the dancers might appear in specific homes at the request of the resident for a private dance in exchange for food or money.  The dancers sometimes chew on ginger to cleanse their bodies, but the appellation “dirty” comes from the foul smell of the cow bladder and the sweat from prolonged dancing in the tropical summer sun.

Other dances popular on Corpus Christi in the peninsula include the Diablicos Limpios (clean little devils), who wear flowers instead of feathers and dance with a waistband of colorful handkerchiefs to an orchestra of flute, accordion and triangle, and Diablicos Espejos (little devils with mirrors).

Modern masks tend to have a sculptured look; traditional masks like this one had a more abstract and stylized appearance.

For more on the folk masks of Panama, see Julio Arosemena Moreno, Danzas Folklóricas de la Villa de los Santos (Instituto Nacional de Cultura de Panamá 1994).


Click above to watch a short documentary film about the diablicos sucios of Panama.

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TITLE: Diablico Sucio Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Panama
SUBREGION: Azuero Peninsula
ETHNICITY: Afro-Latino
DESCRIPTION: Green Iguana Diablico Sucio Mask
MAKER: José del Carmen González Santana (Chitré, 1959- )
CEREMONY: Danza de los Diablicos Sucios (Corpus Christi)
FUNCTION: celebration; entertainment
AGE: 2019
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: wood spines; airbrush paint; cotton shoelaces

In the Azuero Peninsula and other parts of Panama, villagers perform several group dances before and during the celebration of Corpus Christi.  The best known of these is the dance of the Diablicos Sucios (dirty little devils), men and boys dressed in striped costumes, wearing large, paper maché masks with bright headdresses of macaw feathers attached to a leather cone strapped to the back of the head. The costume is traditionally colored red and black, made from alternating stripes of achiote (annatto) and charcoal. The devils dance to the music of a guitar and they always carry castanets, a dried cow bladder, and a whip for striking the bladder (and fending off drunken revelers who might interfere with the dance). Generally, the dance first takes place in the street, from the church around the plaza, after which the dancers might appear in specific homes at the request of the resident for a private dance in exchange for food or money.  The dancers sometimes chew on ginger to cleanse their bodies, but the appellation “dirty” comes from the foul smell of the cow bladder and the sweat from prolonged dancing in the tropical summer sun.

Other dances popular on Corpus Christi in the peninsula include the Diablicos Limpios (clean little devils), who wear flowers instead of feathers and dance with a waistband of colorful handkerchiefs to an orchestra of flute, accordion and triangle, and Diablicos Espejos (little devils with mirrors).

This specific mask represents the locally common green iguana and was danced by Hector Quintero in the 2019 Corpus Christi celebration of Chitré.

For more on the folk masks of Panama, see Julio Arosemena Moreno, Danzas Folklóricas de la Villa de los Santos (Instituto Nacional de Cultura de Panamá 1994).


Click above to watch a short documentary film about the diablicos sucios of Panama.

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TITLE: Diablico Sucio Mask (Child’s)
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Panama
SUBREGION: Azuero Peninsula
ETHNICITY: Afro-Latino
DESCRIPTION: Diablico Sucio Mask
MAKER: Jorge Luis López (Parita, 1978- )
CEREMONY: Danza de los Diablicos Sucios (Corpus Christi)
FUNCTION: celebration; entertainment
AGE: 2018
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: plaster; plastic balls; American crocodile teeth; oil-based paint; adhesive; cotton shoelaces

In the Azuero Peninsula and other parts of Panama, villagers perform several group dances before and during the celebration of Corpus Christi.  The best known of these is the dance of the Diablicos Sucios (dirty little devils), men and boys dressed in striped costumes, wearing large, paper maché masks with bright headdresses of macaw feathers attached to a leather cone strapped to the back of the head. The costume is traditionally colored red and black, made from alternating stripes of achiote (annatto) and charcoal. The devils dance to the music of a guitar and they always carry castanets, a dried cow bladder, and a whip for striking the bladder (and fending off drunken revelers who might interfere with the dance). Generally, the dance first takes place in the street, from the church around the plaza, after which the dancers might appear in specific homes at the request of the resident for a private dance in exchange for food or money.  The dancers sometimes chew on ginger to cleanse their bodies, but the appellation “dirty” comes from the foul smell of the cow bladder and the sweat from prolonged dancing in the tropical summer sun.

Other dances popular on Corpus Christi in the peninsula include the Diablicos Limpios (clean little devils), who wear flowers instead of feathers and dance with a waistband of colorful handkerchiefs to an orchestra of flute, accordion and triangle, and Diablicos Espejos (little devils with mirrors).

This specific mask was danced by the toddler son of the maker in the 2018 and 2019 Corpus Christi celebrations by the Parita group Danza Francisco López, led by the child’s grandfather, Dario López.

For more on the folk masks of Panama, see Julio Arosemena Moreno, Danzas Folklóricas de la Villa de los Santos (Instituto Nacional de Cultura de Panamá 1994).


Click above to watch a short documentary film about the diablicos sucios of Panama.

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TITLE: Emberá Toucan Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Panama
SUBREGION: Darien
ETHNICITY: Emberá
DESCRIPTION: Tucán (Toucan) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Healing; Purification
AGE: 2017
MAIN MATERIAL: dyed palm fibers
OTHER MATERIALS: N/A

The Emberá people belong to the Chocó ethnic group along with the Wounaan people inhabit parts of southern Panama and northern Colombia.  They weave remarkable animal spirit masks from the dyed fibers of the black chunga plant (black palm, Astrocaryum standleyanum). Shamans (jaibaná) use these masks in healing and village purification rituals, during which they will be hung from the house posts or worn.

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