TITLE: Torito Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Nahualá
ETHNICITY: Mayan (K’ich’e)
DESCRIPTION: Torito (Little Bull) Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker in Nahualá
CEREMONY: Baile del Torito
AGE: 1990s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; glass eyes

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: Pedro de Alvarado Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Unknown
ETHNICITY: Mayan
DESCRIPTION: Pedro de Alvarado Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Baile de la Conquista
AGE: 1975
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; glass eyes; glue

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, 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: Viejo Verde
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Suchitepéquez
ETHNICITY: Mayan
DESCRIPTION: Viejo Verde (Dirty Old Man) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Danza de los Viejitos
AGE: ca. 1950s-1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

The Danza de los Viejitos in Guatemala has several incarnations. This is one of the oldest dances in this region of Guatemala and is usually performed to honor the patron saint of the village and to poke fun at the village elders. This specific mask originates in Suchitepéquez Department of coastal Guatemala and was danced for many years. It represents a viejo verde, or “dirty old man,” because of his slightly lewd expression. Notice the many darkened teeth, suggesting tooth loss or decay from advanced age.

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TITLE: Patrón Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Nahualá
ETHNICITY: Mayan
DESCRIPTION: Patrón (Patzcar) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Baile del Patzcar
AGE: 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; leather straps

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 represents the Patzcar, also called the Patrón.

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

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TITLE: Carnival Character
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Unknown
ETHNICITY: Mayan
DESCRIPTION: Character Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: 1950s
MAIN MATERIAL: hardwood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

The Carnival is celebrated throughout Guatemala with masks having religious, historical, and political themes, but masks representing animals or poking fun at prominent villagers are also common.  This mask, skillfully carved from hardwood in the 1950s to represent a furious bearded man, uses subtle paints in a style very uncommon in Guatemala. It is unknown whether the maker was targeting a specific individual or merely trying to provoke laughs by the contrast between the angry character and the merry atmosphere of Carnival.

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TITLE: Coyote Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Chichicastenango
ETHNICITY: Mayan (K’ich’e)
DESCRIPTION: Coyote Mask
MAKER: Ángel Ordoñez Ventura
CEREMONY: Baile de los Animalitos
AGE: ca. 1910
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 coyote.  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.

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

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TITLE: Mono (Monkey) Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Unknown
ETHNICITY: Mayan (K’ich’e)
DESCRIPTION: Mono Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Baile de los Animalitos; Baile del Venado
AGE: 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: painted glass eyes; adhesive; 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).

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

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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: 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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