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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TITLE: Diablico Sucio Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Panama
SUBREGION: Azuero Peninsula
ETHNICITY: Afro-Latino
DESCRIPTION: 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: styrofoam; wood teeth; 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 was danced by José Cigarita 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
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: 2014
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: plaster; ping-pong balls; wood 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 its maker from 2014 until 2019 in the Parita group Danza Francisco López, led by his father, 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: Guaimíe Cucuá Devil Mask (Child’s)
TYPE: face mask with pañoleta; costume; whip
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Panama
SUBREGION: Coclé
ETHNICITY: Guaimíe (Ngobe-Buglé)
DESCRIPTION: Cucuá Devil Mask and Costume for Child
MAKER: María José Rodríguez (San Miguel Centro, 1955- ); Gabriel Morán (San Miguel Centro, 1966- ); Julio Ovalle (San Miguel Centro, 1990- )
CEREMONY: Danza de los Diablos (Dance of the Devils)
FUNCTION: Celebration; Entertainment
AGE: 2018
MAIN MATERIAL (mask): tapa cloth from white Cucuá tree bark
OTHER MATERIALS (mask): tapa cloth from red Cucuá tree bark; Vejuco Verde stick frame; Pita palm string; wild boar jaw; white-tailed deer antlers; vegetable dyes
MAIN MATERIAL (costume): tapa cloth from white Cucuá tree bark
OTHER MATERIALS (costume): Pita palm string; vegetable dyes; cacique seed buttons, leather sandals; cacique wood stick with leather strap; mounted on a balsa wood figure with vegetable dyes and hardware

The Guaimíe (today called Ngobe-Buglé) people inhabit the north-central region of Panama.  Although they have largely become mixed in race and ethnicity, those living in the Coclé region have recently revived their traditional dance, today known as the Danza de los Diablos (Dance of the Devils). The dance actually is a form of worship of traditional animist gods; the reference to “devils” was bestowed by Catholic missionaries, who equated all indigenous religions in Latin America as “devil worship.”

The dance is held every March and is performed in large groups of both adults and children, to the music of violin, drum, rattle, and guitar. Dancers wear full suits made of cloth made from pounded bark of the Cucuá tree, decorated with symbols and a triangular motif that represents the scales of the snake-god formerly worshiped by the indigenous people.  They carry a whip made of a sturdy cacique wood pole and leather straps, and as they dance they shout out invocations of the nature spirit they represent.  The masks and costumes are made entirely from natural materials found locally.  Even the paints are made from vegetable dyes, with guaymi leaves providing the red tint, turmeric the yellow, mucuna vine seeds (“deer-eye beans”) the black, and chile pepper leaves the green.  Buttons are made from seeds from the cacique tree.

This mask and full costume were made for a child dancer. A Guaimíe wood carver created the life-sized model for the Museum’s display.


Click above to watch a short documentary film about the Cucuá devils of Panama.

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TITLE: Parrampán Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Panama
SUBREGION: Azuero Peninsula
ETHNICITY: Afro-Latino
DESCRIPTION: Parrampán (Male) Mask
MAKER: José del Carmen González Santana (Chitré, 1959- )
CEREMONY: Danza de las Mojigangas y los Parrampanes (Corpus Christi)
FUNCTION: celebration; entertainment
AGE: 2019
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: plastic balls; paint; elastic bands

The Dance of the Mojigangas and Parrampanes is a Panamanian tradition in the Azuero Peninsula during Corpus Christi celebrations and sometimes during Carnival. Each group is composed of drag dancers.  The mojigangas are men dressed as women, and parrampanes are women dressed as men.  They typically dance to the music of a flute, drum and accordeon, and their role is to clown around and satirize local public figures, such as the mayor, curate, recently wedded couples, etc.  Unlike other dancers, the mojigangas and parrampanes never enter the church in masquerade, as they are considered profane.

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: Guaimíe Cucuá Devil Mask
TYPE: face mask with pañoleta
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Panama
SUBREGION: Coclé
ETHNICITY: Guaimíe (Ngobe-Buglé)
DESCRIPTION: Cucuá Devil Mask
MAKER: María José Rodríguez (San Miguel Centro, 1955- )
CEREMONY: Danza de los Diablos (Dance of the Devils)
FUNCTION: Celebration; Entertainment
AGE: 2006
MAIN MATERIAL: tapa cloth from white Cucuá tree bark
OTHER MATERIALS: tapa cloth from red Cucuá tree bark; Vejuco Verde stick frame; Pita palm string; wild boar jaw; white-tailed deer antlers; vegetable dyes

The Guaimíe (today called Ngobe-Buglé) people inhabit the north-central region of Panama.  Although they have largely become mixed in race and ethnicity, those living in the Coclé region have recently revived their traditional dance, today known as the Danza de los Diablos (Dance of the Devils). The dance actually is a form of worship of traditional animist gods; the reference to “devils” was bestowed by Catholic missionaries, who equated all indigenous religions in Latin America as “devil worship.”

The dance is held every March and is performed in large groups of both adults and children, to the music of violin, drum, rattle, and guitar. Dancers wear full suits made of cloth made from pounded bark of the Cucuá tree, decorated with symbols and a triangular motif that represents the scales of the snake-god formerly worshiped by the indigenous people.  They carry a whip made of a sturdy cacique wood pole and leather straps, and as they dance they shout out invocations of the nature spirit they represent.  The masks and costumes are made entirely from natural materials found locally.  Even the paints are made from vegetable dyes, with guaymi leaves providing the red tint, turmeric the yellow, mucuna vine seeds (“deer-eye beans”) the black, and chile pepper leaves the green.  Buttons are made from seeds from the cacique tree.

This mask was danced by Gabriel Morán, son of the mask maker, from 2006 until 2018.  The pañoleta (decorated scarf hanging from the back) was replaced in 2013 due to the previous one wearing out.


Click above to watch a short documentary film about the Cucuá devils of Panama.

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TITLE: Dancing Devil of Yare
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Venezuela
SUBREGION: Miranda
ETHNICITY: Mestizo
DESCRIPTION: Diablo Danzante
MAKER: Manuel “El Mocho” Salvador Sanoja, San Francisco de Yare (1937-2010)
CEREMONY: Corpus Christi; other Catholic holidays
AGE: 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

The dancing devils of Yare are a fraternal order that dances on Corpus Christi and other holidays. When the tradition of dancing in devil costumes first began in San Francisco de Yare, the masks were monochromatic, made from cloth, and came in many forms.  These may date back to the 18th century.  Over time, the drab cloth masks were replaced with cheaper paper maché, and they began to be painted more colorfully to resemble animals, such as bulls, pigs, dogs, or demons. Before dancing, each devil makes a promise to the Church, but devils never enter the church building itself.  Instead, they hear mass outside the church and receive the Bishop’s blessing without entering.

The Dancing Devils Society is organized in a definite hierarchy, with the number of horns (cachos) representing the rank of the dancer.  Each wears a red suit with a crucifix or image of a saint, with a rosary on the belt, and carries rattles (maracas) or, in the case of the lead devil, one rattle looking like a devil’s head and a whip (látigo).  The First Devil (primer capataz) is the leader and has four horns.  The second and third devils (segundo and tercero capataz) have three horns.  Lesser devils (promeseros) have two horns.  All are male; females can participate, but they cannot wear masks.  Instead, they wear the red suit with a red kerchief on their heads.

This mask was made by the well-known dancer “El Mocho,” known as such for having lost four fingers on his left hand while setting off fireworks as a child.

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TITLE: Devil Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Queretaro
ETHNICITY: Otomí
DESCRIPTION: Diablo (Devil) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Semana Santa (Holy Week)
AGE: 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: hardware; goat horns; oil-based paint

During Semana Santa (Holy Week) in the small mountain town of El Doctor, Queretaro, townspeople reenact the Passion of Jesus Christ in a unique manner. Participants wear stiff cloth animal masks, known as fariseos (Pharisees) or judios (Jews) and persecute a person who portrays the torture and crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. The fariseos make jokes and mock Jesus, but in the end are converted to Christianity when Jesus is portrayed as resurrected.  Fariseos tend to resemble animals, implying that the Pharisees are bestial.  This specific mask represents a devil (diablo), who encourages the fariseos.

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TITLE: Seri (Comcaac) Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Sonora
ETHNICITY: Seri (Comcáac)
DESCRIPTION: Shamanic Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker in Bahia de Kino
CEREMONY: Shamanic Rituals
FUNCTION: healing (?)
AGE: 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; animal bones; adhesive; string

The Seri people of Sonora, Mexico call themselves Comcáac. They live primarily on Shark Island (Isla Tiburón) in the Gulf of California, and the adjacent mainland of Sonora (Punta Chueca and El Desemboque). Despite invasive Spanish colonialism and periodic Mexican assimilation movements, they have maintained their traditions even today. Traditionally, they lived as preliterate hunter-gatherer bands of fifty individuals or fewer, with no tribal organization. They primarily engage in commercial fishing today.

Like many indigenous groups in the region, the Seri engaged in face painting and had shamans who played important roles in healing the sick and protecting the people. Very little is known of their masking traditions, but they were reported by R.W.H. Hardy in the early nineteenth century to have worn deer and mountain lion masks on some occasions, and to have carved wooden masks.  This specific mask may have been made by a shaman for use in healing the sick, and would have been worn with a fringe of ixtle fiber.

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TITLE: Fariseo Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Queretaro
ETHNICITY: Otomí
DESCRIPTION: Fariseo (Pharisee) Mask of a Raccoon
MAKER: Unknown maker in El Doctor
CEREMONY: Semana Santa (Holy Week)
AGE: late 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: linen
OTHER MATERIALS: glue; cotton cloth; ixtle fiber; paint

During Semana Santa (Holy Week) in the small mountain town of El Doctor, Queretaro, townspeople reenact the Passion of Jesus Christ in a unique manner. Participants wear stiff cloth animal masks, known as fariseos (Pharisees) or judios (Jews) and persecute a person who portrays the torture and crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. The fariseos make jokes and mock Jesus, but in the end are converted to Christianity when Jesus is portrayed as resurrected.  Fariseos tend to resemble animals, implying that the Pharisees are bestial.  This specific mask represents a raccoon (mapache).

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