TITLE: Fieros Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Escuintla
ETHNICITY: Mayan (Q’eqchi’)
DESCRIPTION: Fieros Mask of Grumpy the Dwarf
MAKER: Unknown maker in Palin
CEREMONY: Baile de los Fieros
AGE: 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

The Baile de los Fieros (Dance of the Wild Ones) is performed on Corpus Christi in the streets of some small towns in Guatemala in the course of a parade. The dancers precede the town priest and the image of the town’s patron saint beginning at the church and circulating around town. The dancers wear a wide variety of masks and costumes, including clowns, animals, and popular characters. The mask participants are continuously attacked by a man in a bull costume made of a wood frame covered with leather. The bull is violently swung at the participants who attempt to dodge the attacks and are occasionally injured. The heavy masks help protect the faces of the dancers.

This specific mask dates to the 1960s and represents the character Grumpy from the 1937 Disney movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

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

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TITLE: Gracejo (?) Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Mazatenango
ETHNICITY: Mayan (Q’eqchi’)
DESCRIPTION: Unknown mask, probably a gracejo (mox)
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Baile del Patzcar
AGE: Unknown
MAIN MATERIAL: hardwood
OTHER MATERIALS: N/A

This mysterious mask is unfinished and most probably a gracejo (joker) or mox (fool) from southern Guatemala. Such masks are used in the Baile del Patzcar (Boss’s Dance). The Baile del Patzcar (Plantation Boss’s Dance) is the oldest Guatemalan dance still practiced today and evolved from a Mayan purification ritual.  In it, a dancer representing a female known as Lola performs a Mayan ritual using a white handkerchief to heal other masqueraders wearing rags and disease masks with gigantic thyroid goiters. Then gracejos representing ranch hands and carrying whips dance, comically whipping each other in mock fight over the love of the boss’s wife (Patzcarina).

This mask seems to have been abandoned before the carver had finished, possibly due to the extreme heaviness of the wood, which makes it impractical to wear during 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: Ajitz
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Chichicastenango
ETHNICITY: Mayan (K’ich’e)
DESCRIPTION: Ajitz (Priest) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Baile de la Conquista
AGE: 2010
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

The Baile de la Conquista (Dance of the Conquest) retells the conquest of the Mayan Empire by the Spanish conquistadors.  The leader of the conquistadors in the area now known Guatemala was Pedro de Alvarado y Contreras (1485-1541), who participated in the subjugation of Cuba, Mexico, and most of central America, and eventually the governor of Guatemala. His viciousness made him especially hated by the indigenous population.

The dance began as early as the 16th century, and begins with the arrival of Spanish ambassadors to the K’ich’e king, along with princes and princesses (Malinches). The king seeks support for resistance from the governor of Xelajú, named Tecún Umán, who appears with his lieutenant, Huitzitzil Zunun (represented here), and priest, Ajitz (represented by this mask). This leads to a battle, in which Alvarado duels with Tecún Umán, who is killed, resulting in the conversion of the conquered K’ich’e people to Catholicism.

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

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TITLE: Convite Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Mazatenango
ETHNICITY: Mayan (Q’eqchi’)
DESCRIPTION: Convite Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker in Mazatenango
CEREMONY: Baile de los Convites
AGE: 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

The Baile de los Convites (Dance of the Invited) is a ceremony that dates to the Spanish colonial period, but is probably the most mutable of all Guatemalan dances. The dance is performed on the annual holiday in honor of a town’s patron saint, and its name probably derives from the fact that celebrants from surrounding villages were invited to participate in larger towns.  It is unclear why masks and costumes became part of the dance, but the characters began as crude, handmade masks, and rapidly evolved to mimic characters from popular culture, including television, motion pictures, and video games.  Today, both mass-produced costumes and handmade costumes are used, often involving a considerable investment.  In some places, these dances are thinly-veiled status rituals—the more impressive the costume, the greater the credit for the dancer.

In the dance, captains (capitanos) organize the dancers into rows, and they dance in various configurations to the music of a marimba band.  Unlike in other Guatemalan dances, there is no plot or story, nor is there a predetermined form to the mask.

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

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TITLE: Torito Mask (Child’s)
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Nahualá
ETHNICITY: Mayan
DESCRIPTION: Child’s Torito (Little Bull) Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker
CEREMONY: Baile del Torito
AGE: mid-twentieth century
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; dyed cotton cloth

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: Moro Mask
TYPE: face mask; costume
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Solalá
ETHNICITY: Mayan (K’ich’e)
DESCRIPTION: Moro (Moor) Mask
MAKER: Miguel Ignacio Calel, Chichicastenango
CEREMONY: Danza de la Historia de los Moros y Cristianos
AGE: 1950s
MAIN MATERIAL (mask): wood
OTHER MATERIALS (mask): oil-based paint; handpainted glass eyes; synthetic eyelashes; adhesive
MAIN MATERIAL (costume): cotton cloth
OTHER MATERIALS (costume): synthetic cloth; synthetic ornaments; mirrors; metal hardware; wicker

The Danza de la Historia de los Moros y Cristianos (Dance of the History of the Moors and Christians) reenacts the reconquest of Spain by the Christians from the Muslim Saracens.  The story was taught by missionaries as part of an effort to instill respect for and fear of the Spaniards in the indigenous peoples, and to convince them that the victory of Christianity over other faiths—by violence whenever necessary—was inevitable.

The dance is still performed in parts of Guatemala. Important characters include Spaniards, Moors, saints, angels, and devils. This moro takes a form typical in the region of Solalá, with white skin, golden hair, and a resplendent quetzal bird on the forehead.

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TITLE: Maximón Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Solalá
ETHNICITY: Mayan
DESCRIPTION: Maximón (St. Simon) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Protection; Spirit Invocation
AGE: 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; glass marbles; glue

Maximón, a common Mayan pronunciation of St. Simón, is a complex and somewhat obscure figure. He seems to be the descendant of the pre-conquest Mayan god Mam, a sacred trickster whom the Catholic invaders associated with the Devil (as they did with nearly all local gods). He was worshiped in shrines as a protector of the village, but with the advent of Catholicism, the missionaries sought to convert the practice to saint worship, in this case worship of Simon the Zealot, reputedly a cousin of Jesus of Nazareth. Nonetheless, the image of Mam remains, as the Mayan descendants of Guatemala propitiate Maximón with offerings of liquor and cigarettes, along with the more traditional Catholic offerings of candles and flowers.  The shrine typically moves from house to house annually in any given village, although some villages have more than one shrine.

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: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Sacatepéquez
ETHNICITY: Mayan
DESCRIPTION: Diablo (Devil) Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker in Antigua Sacatepéquez
CEREMONY: Baile de la Legion los 24 Diablos
AGE: ca. 1930s-1950s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: gesso; paint; nails; glue

Devil characters appear in several dance-dramas in Guatemala, mainly for entertainment or religious instruction.  In the Sacatepéquez Department, the Baile de la Legion de los 24 Diablos (Dance of the Legion of 24 Devils) serves this function, being an approximately three hour drama enacted in late November or early December. The story involves 19 devils, including Lucifer (who is distinguished by the crown he wears), Death, a monkey, angels, a maiden, an old man, and a soul. The devils, each representing a different theme or sin, seek out a soul to condemn, but one or more angels arrive to succor the sinner. In the end, the soul regresses and goes to Hell. The drama is accompanied by dance, songs and music on traditional Mayan instruments, principally the marimba and chirima flute.

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

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TITLE: Huitzizil Tzunum
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Chichicastenango
ETHNICITY: Mayan (K’ich’e)
DESCRIPTION: Huitzizil Tzunum Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Baile de la Conquista
AGE: 2010
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; glass marbles

The Baile de la Conquista (Dance of the Conquest) retells the conquest of the Mayan Empire by the Spanish conquistadors.  The leader of the conquistadors in the area now known Guatemala was Pedro de Alvarado y Contreras (1485-1541), who participated in the subjugation of Cuba, Mexico, and most of central America, and eventually the governor of Guatemala. His viciousness made him especially hated by the indigenous population.

The dance began as early as the 16th century, and begins with the arrival of Spanish ambassadors to the K’ich’e king, along with princes and princesses (Malinches). The king seeks support for resistance from the governor of Xelajú, named Tecún Umán, who appears with his lieutenant, Huitzitzil Zunun (represented here), and priest, Ajitz. This leads to a battle, in which Alvarado duels with Tecún Umán, who is killed, resulting in the conversion of the conquered K’ich’e people to Catholicism.

.

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

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TITLE: Convite Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Cobán
ETHNICITY: Mayan (Q’eqchi’)
DESCRIPTION: Convite Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Baile de los Convites
AGE: late 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: molded polyvinyl chloride
OTHER MATERIALS: cotton cloth; foam rubber; leather straps; human hair; glue; paint

The Baile de los Convites (Dance of the Invited) is a ceremony that dates to the Spanish colonial period, but is probably the most mutable of all Guatemalan dances. The dance is performed on the annual holiday in honor of a town’s patron saint, and its name probably derives from the fact that celebrants from surrounding villages were invited to participate in larger towns.  It is unclear why masks and costumes became part of the dance, but the characters began as crude, handmade masks, and rapidly evolved to mimic characters from popular culture, including television, motion pictures, and video games.  Today, both mass-produced costumes and handmade costumes are used, often involving a considerable investment.  In some places, these dances are thinly-veiled status rituals—the more impressive the costume, the greater the credit for the dancer.

In the dance, captains (capitanos) organize the dancers into rows, and they dance in various configurations to the music of a marimba band.  Unlike in other Guatemalan dances, there is no plot or story.  In Cobán by the late 1960s, PVC plastic had become a common building material and was easier to heat and shape over a simple mold than hand-carving a wooden mask. Because of the ease of making them and their relative novelty, such crude masks were briefly popular for convite dances during this period.

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

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