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: 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: Vaquero Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Solalá
ETHNICITY: Mayan (K’ich’e)
DESCRIPTION: Vaquero (Cowboy) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Baile del Torito
AGE: 1940s
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) like this one to interact with a bull. 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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