TITLE: Chuto
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Peru
SUBREGION: Jauja
ETHNICITY: Quechua
DESCRIPTION: Chuto
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Tunantada; Chonginada
AGE: 1979
MAIN MATERIAL: leather
OTHER MATERIALS: wool; glass eyes; pigment

The Tunantada is a dance performed in the Jauja region of Peru during the January Festival of San Sebatián and San Fabián, patron saints of the town. Dancers in wire mesh masks represent the Spaniards, who oppress the chutos, or Amerindians.  The dance-drama satirizes all the groups of the colonial period.  It is a group dance, in which each character of the set performs different steps to the rhythm of a single melody.

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TITLE: Marimonda Mask
TYPE: hood mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Colombia
SUBREGION: Barranquila
ETHNICITY: Mestizo
DESCRIPTION: Marimonda Mask
MAKER: Adelaide Agámez, Barranquila
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: 2015
MAIN MATERIAL: polyester fabric
OTHER MATERIALS: sequins; stitching

In some parts of Colombia, Carnival is celebrated with a masquerade that both invokes the protection of forest spirits and ridicules high society. The Marimonda is a character that originated in the town of Barranquila to represent a cross between an elephant and monkey. The costume was created by the poor, who had little to spend on elaborate costumes.  The masquerader formerly wore his cheap clothing inside out with a tie, whistling loudly to insult the ruling class and lazy public officials. Today, gaudier costumes are more common, and the Marimonda mask and costume are commonly made with shiny and colorful fabrics and adorned with sequins.

Other popular Colombian Carnival characters (also shown here) are the jaguar, the little bull, and dog (not shown).  The negra puloy or palenquera represents a joyous black woman, descendant of the freed slaves brought to Colombia, who dances the fandango. Frequently, the negra puloy is not a masked character, but an Afro-Colombian girl wearing red, white and black costume with a short skirt and large necklace and earrings. The Congo is one of the oldest Colombian carnival characters and represents an indigenous war dancer. The dancers accordingly carry a wooden machete and dance in an organized group. The glasses are of course an anomaly, but non-masked Congo dancers frequently wear sunglasses.

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TITLE: Catrín Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Tlaxcala
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Catrín (Dandy) Mask
MAKER: Pedro Amador Reyes Juárez (1939-1999, Tlatempán, Tlaxcala)
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; glass eyes; cattle hair eyelashes; gold foil; metal hardware; cotton string; leather straps

Carnival in Tlaxcala, Mexico has traditions quite different from those in other parts of the country.  In the city of Tlaxcala, men dress in formal suits, gloves, and top hats, with extremely realistic and handsome Spanish-type masks, and in some towns carry umbrellas through the streets as parasols.  The catrín, or dandy, is a figure of ridicule dating back to colonization, when elaborately dressed Spaniards flaunted their wealth to the oppressed indigenous peoples. The catrín is the indigenous revenge, possible because the masks and costumes made it difficult to identify the culprits.  Frequently the masks have gold teeth and beauty marks, like this one, and include an ingenious spring mechanism attached to a string, which allows the masquerader to blink the dandy’s eyes by pulling on the string.  The masks of Tlaxcala are some of the only known mechnical masks in Latin America. Glass eyes were imported into Tlaxcala for mask-making around 1960.

In the past, the catrínes paired up with dancers known as nanas, who were male dancers dressed as elegant Spanish ladies and wearing a delicately-carved female mask.

Masks of this type are frequently delicately carved and hand-painted by master craftsmen in multiple layers.



A brief documentary about Carnival in the state of Tlaxcala, Mexico.

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TITLE: Maria Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Chichicastenango
ETHNICITY: Mayan
DESCRIPTION: Maria Típica
MAKER: Miguel Ángel Ignacio, Chichicastenango
CEREMONY: Baile Típico
AGE: late 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: cedar wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

The Baile Típico (Typical Dance), also known as the Baile Regional, of Chichicastenango is performed on major holidays by a large group of masked men, half of whom are dressed as women. Following leaders whose masks hold whistles to signal the group, they travel around the town, blocking the street wherever they go and dancing in weaving lines according to rehearsed choreography.   This mask is the female character, Maria (in effect, Jane Doe), that represents all the “female” dancers.  It was carved by the owner of a popular morería (mask and costume rental workshop), Miguel Ángel Ignacio, in the late 1960s.

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TITLE: Pastorela Asmodeo
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Michoacán
ETHNICITY: Purépecha
DESCRIPTION: Asmodeo Mask
MAKER: Victoriano Salgado Morales, Uruapan (1920-2012)
CEREMONY: Pastorela
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: gesso; maque; bull horns; sheep’s teeth

The Pastorela is the ceremonial dance drama performed in many parts of Mexico, including the state of Michoacán. Pastorelas, performed primarily at Christmas, or sometimes in February during the Shrovetide season, are primarily religious in significance. The main characters of the Dance of the Shepherds are the Devil and his minions, the Archangel Michael, shepherds, and a hermit (who paradoxically represents the ancestors of the performers).  The drama revolves around the attempts of Lucifer and his demon minions to steal the baby Jesus.  Other dramas performed on the occasion include the Dance of the Negritos (dance of the little blacks), relating to the importation of African slaves into Mexico by the Spaniards, and which includes an army of elegantly dressed “little Maries” (Maringuillas), and feos, or ugly clowns.

This mask represents one of three chief devils, specifically Asmodeo (Asmodeus). In Christian and Jewish mythologies, Asmodeus is one of the seven princes of Hell, and represents the vice lust.  It was carved by the master mask-maker of Uruapan, Victoriano Salgado.

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TITLE: Mazate
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Salama, Baja Verapaz
ETHNICITY: Mayan
DESCRIPTION: Mazate
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Danza de los Mazates
AGE: 1950s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint

The Danza de los Mazates in Baja Verapaz has many incarnations, but most go under the Spanish name Baile (or Danza) de los Viejitos (Dance of the Little Old Men). This is one of the oldest dances in this region of Guatemala and is performed to honor the patron saint of the village. Among the mazates are two distinguished ones: the Mazate Anciano (elder mazate) and the Mazate Joven (young mazate).  The dancers carry staves and rattles and wear coats and wide-brimmed hats.  In most regions, the mazate masks resembling old men with some degree of realism, but in the distant past, masks could be more abstract and wilder in appearance. Even today, the village of Salama, where this mask originated, tend to have a more exaggerated look.

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TITLE: Son de Diablos Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Peru
SUBREGION: Lima
ETHNICITY: Afro-Latino
DESCRIPTION: Diablo
MAKER: Unknown maker, probably in Cusco
CEREMONY: Son de (los) Diablos Dance, Corpus Christi
AGE: ca. 1910
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

The Son de Diablos (or Son de los Diablos), the “Song of the Devils,” is an Afro-Latino dance developed in Peru by the descendants of African slaves in Lima, possibly as early as 1800.  Despite its ties to Corpus Christi celebrations in the Andean region, the Catholic Church banned the dance in 1817.  Nonetheless, its practice continued abated, finally experiencing a revival in the 1950s.  Masqueraders typically emerge in a large group and do an energetic dance to special music for the occasion.

This mask was made around 1910 in Lima and was used there for many years.

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TITLE: Achachi Mask
TYPE: helmet mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Bolivia
SUBREGION: Oruro
ETHNICITY: Quechua and Aymara
DESCRIPTION: Achachi (Foreman) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Carnival (La Morenada)
AGE: 1980s-1990s
MAIN MATERIAL: tin sheet
OTHER MATERIALS: cotton cloth; plant fibers; wire; paint; dyed ostrich feathers

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.

This specific mask was fashioned by a skilled mask-maker (caretero) in Oruro in the 1980s or 1990s. By this time, mask makers had ceased using linen soaked in plaster for their masks and begun using shaped tin or steel sheet, often recycled from old oil drums.  Hand painting had also begun to give way to spray painting; both techniques were used on this mask.

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: China Morena
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Bolivia
SUBREGION: Oruro
ETHNICITY: Quechua and Aymara
DESCRIPTION: China Morena
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Carnival (La Morenada)
AGE: 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: linen covered with plaster
OTHER MATERIALS: mirrors; 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 a china morena, or female Moor, made in the 1960s by the then-dominant method of laying linen cloth over a clay form, then applying plaster and allowing it to set.  The mirrors used for teeth are intended to exaggerate the shininess of the morena‘s enamel and enhance her beauty.  The actual dancer wearing the mask may be male or female.

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: Negro Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Michoacán
ETHNICITY: Purépecha
DESCRIPTION: Negro
MAKER: Unknown carver from Sevina, Michoacán
CEREMONY: Danza de la Negrada
AGE: ca. 2000
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: gesso; paint

The Danza de la Negrada is performed in modern Michoacán among the Tarascan Indians (known as the Purépecha people) during the winter season to celebrate the Christmas holiday. The negros, as you see, are not necessarily “black men.” The masqueraders are actually known in the Purépecha language as turías or turíachas, who are spirits that control the air. “Black” refers not merely to color, but alludes to the idea of elegance and sophistication, and ultimately refers to anyone who is not an indigenous person.  It can therefore refer to European peoples as well, as this mask obviously does.

The best description of the dance is given by Janet Brody Esser in her excellent book, Behind the Mask in Mexico, with relation to a dance in Cherán, Michoacán:

“For the dance, the Blackmen arrange themselves in two files, leaving a clear area in between from four to twelve feet, depending on available space. The leaders, known as la letra and el segundo, recite stylized couplets recounting the birth of Jesus. . . . The leaders pace between the two files of dancers while reciting the verses, which are in Spanish. They delivered in a somewhat stilted manner with regularly recurring emphases and stylized gestures.  At intervals each Blackman joins his neighbor in the file and performs a slow waltz or sprightly polka. . . . The Blackmen begin dancing at the home of the carguero [the person charged with carrying the statue of the Holy Infant] at about nine p.m. on Christmas Eve and continue until after Midnight Mass, which they attend. They accompany the image of the Holy Child as it is carried through the streets to the church. . . . Beginning at ten or eleven on the morning of Christmas Day, the day after Christmas, and on January 1, Blackmen dance at homes of past and present cargueros. They also dance at the municipal building in honor of civic officials. Throughout the dancing, with the exception of Midnight Mass, they are accompanied by girls from ten to fourteen years of age wearing elaborately decorated sombreros. The dancers are given gifts of fruit and sugarcane by each host, which the townspeople explain are foods appropriate for children in a feast that is for the Holy Child.”

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