TITLE: Archareo Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Mexico State
ETHNICITY: Mestizo
DESCRIPTION: Archareo (Archer) Mask
MAKER: Daniel Nuñez, San Martín de las Pirámides
CEREMONY: Fiesta de San Martín
AGE: 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: leather
OTHER MATERIALS: felt; goat fur; paint; stitching

The Danza de los Archareos (Dance of the Archers), also called the Danza de los Alchilelos, Archileos, Alchareos, and other variants, is performed on the Feast Day of San Martín (April 13th) every year in the village of San Martín de los Pirámides. Similar dances are performed elsewhere in Mexico State and Guerrero.  It is a form of Christians and Moors dance, with the masked archers representing the evil Moors.  The Moors dance to flute and drum music in a group wearing brightly colored outfits.  The Christians similarly dance in a group, mostly unmasked (except for the leader, who has a mock horse and represents St. James the Apostle) and wearing elaborate capes and feathered hats. Eventually, the groups engage in mock battles with swords, which the Christians inevitably win.

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TITLE: Azteca Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Veracruz
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Azteca
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Danza de la Conquista; Carnival
AGE: ca. 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; plant fiber

The Danza de la Conquista, or Dance of the Conquest, is a traditional celebration in many parts of Mexico.  The dance takes two forms. One retells the conquest of Spain by the Spanish monarchy from the Moors, finally achieved in 1492 and properly called the Reconquista. The other retells the conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards. This mask belongs to the second story. It represents a Spaniard coming into contact with his Aztec enemy.  The Azteca mask is also worn during Carnival.

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TITLE: Calaca Mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Puebla
ETHNICITY: Nahua & Mixtec
DESCRIPTION: Calaca (Skull) Mask
MAKER: Arturo Salazar, Xochitlán (1985- )
CEREMONY: Día de los Muertos; Danza de los Moros y Cristianos
AGE: ca. 1999
MAIN MATERIAL: hardwood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; string

The Day of the Dead is an important Mexican celebration of pre-Christian origin. In its modern incarnation, Day of the Dead (actually, two days in most places, November 1st for children and 2nd for adults) celebrates deceased family members with ofrendas (offerings) to the spirits who return to visit and night-long vigils at the graves of the departed. The graves are frequently decorated with flowers, candles, and sweets for children and alcohol for adults.

In parts of Mexico, Day of the Dead is also celebrated with desfiles (parades) or comparsas (appearances or performances) by masqueraders. Because Day of the Dead celebrates the departed, the calaca, or skull, remains an extremely popular image. The skull and skeleton are important symbols in pre-Christian Mexican culture and are found extensively in Aztec, Mixtec, Mayan, and other indigenous art.

This mask was also used in the the Danza de los Moros y Cristianos (Dance of the Moors and Christians), which reenacts a version of the conquest (properly, reconquest) of Spain from the Saracens by the European Christians. 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 widely in Mexico, including in Mexico State, Michoacán, Puebla, and Veracruz. Important characters include Spaniards, Moors, saints, angels, devils, and other characters.

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TITLE: Carnival Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Oaxaca
ETHNICITY: Mixtec
DESCRIPTION: Female Negro Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker in Silacayoapam
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: 2005
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; glass eyes; plaster; animal hair eyelashes; foam rubber

Carnival is celebrated throughout the Catholic world with parades and other festivities, often including masqueraders. It is the celebration before the fasting season of Lent. In Oaxaca, as in many other parts of Mexico, Carnival is celebrated with masked dances and parades.

Traditionally, masks were not used in the Carnival of Silacayoapam, a small town in the Mixteca region of Oaxaca. Dancers would instead paint their bodies and faces black with charcoal or ash and wear their most dilapidated clothing in imitation of the “negros” or mulattoes brought to coastal Oaxaca by the Spanish colonists. All dancers were adult males (though some dressed as women) and would dance to music of a violin and other local instruments. Some forty years ago, the negros began wearing simple masks made from fibers from the agave plant. They developed a variety of dances, such as the Danza de los Negros (Dance of the Black People), Danza del Panadero (Dance of the Baker), and Danza de los Apaches (Dance of the Indians). All but the first of these have disappeared.

In modern times, both the costumes and the music have become more sophisticated. Today, masqueraders wear assiduously carved and elaborately painted masks and fancy costumes that they borrow from a community storage room. The bands are larger, with a greater diversity of instruments including trumpets and saxophones, and they play a kind of music known as chilena mixteca.

Included in the festivities are games and other activities. Some masked characters carry dried chile peppers and, if the town children taunt them, they chase them through the streets. If the masqueraders catch a child, they stuff a chile in his mouth. Others characters throw talcum powder or small fruits at the crowd. The masked men traditionally buy perfume for the women they are courting, using the mask to heighten the mystery.

The negros today are rarely black, but their name has not changed. This mask represents a negra, or female black. It was used in Silacayoapam from 2005 until 2016.

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TITLE: Carnival Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Oaxaca
ETHNICITY: Mixtec
DESCRIPTION: Male Negro Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker in Silacayoapam
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: 1999
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; glass eyes; plaster; animal hair eyelashes

Carnival is celebrated throughout the Catholic world with parades and other festivities, often including masqueraders. It is the celebration before the fasting season of Lent. In Oaxaca, as in many other parts of Mexico, Carnival is celebrated with masked dances and parades.

Traditionally, masks were not used in the Carnival of Silacayoapam, a small town in the Mixteca region of Oaxaca. Dancers would instead paint their bodies and faces black with charcoal or ash and wear their most dilapidated clothing in imitation of the “negros” or mulattoes brought to coastal Oaxaca by the Spanish colonists. All dancers were adult males (though some dressed as women) and would dance to music of a violin and other local instruments. Some forty years ago, the negros began wearing simple masks made from fibers from the agave plant. They developed a variety of dances, such as the Danza de los Negros (Dance of the Black People), Danza del Panadero (Dance of the Baker), and Danza de los Apaches (Dance of the Indians). All but the first of these have disappeared.

In modern times, both the costumes and the music have become more sophisticated. Today, masqueraders wear assiduously carved and elaborately painted masks and fancy costumes that they borrow from a community storage room. The bands are larger, with a greater diversity of instruments including trumpets and saxophones, and they play a kind of music known as chilena mixteca.

Included in the festivities are games and other activities. Some masked characters carry dried chile peppers and, if the town children taunt them, they chase them through the streets. If the masqueraders catch a child, they stuff a chile in his mouth. Others characters throw talcum powder or small fruits at the crowd. The masked men traditionally buy perfume for the women they are courting, using the mask to heighten the mystery.

The negros today are rarely black, but their name has not changed. This mask represents one. It was used in Silacayoapam from 1999 until 2016.

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TITLE: Carnival Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Chiapas
ETHNICITY: Mayan
DESCRIPTION: Español (Spaniard) Carnival Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: 1988
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; glass eyes; animal hair eyelashes; hardware

Carnival is celebrated throughout the Catholic world with parades and other festivities, often including masqueraders. It is the celebration before the fasting season of Lent. In Chiapas, as in many other parts of Mexico, Carnival is celebrated with masked dances and parades. This character represents an Español, or Spaniard, whose light skin, green eyes, and golden blond beard was an innovation to the dark skinned, brown eyed, black haired Mayans.

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TITLE: Catrín (Huehue) Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Tlaxcala
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Catrín (Dandy) or Huehue (Elder) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: 1960s-1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; glass eyes; cattle hair eyelashes; metal hardware; cotton string

Carnival in Tlaxcala, Mexico has traditions quite different from those in other parts of the country.  The men dress in formal suits, gloves, and top hats, with extremely realistic and handsome Caucasian-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. When wearing a beard, they are sometimes called huehues, meaning “village elders.” 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.  Glass eyes were imported into Tlaxcala for mask-making around 1960. They may dance with men dressed as girls, real girls, or together in a parade format.

This catrín may also have served as a huehue del torito, one of several bullfighters who wear the outfit of a cowboy (charro) and mock battle a leather or paper maché bull fitted with fireworks and carried on the “bull’s” shoulders. Recently, the tradition of wearing such masks has given way to the wearing of mass-produced lucha libre (Mexican wrestler) masks in San Miguel Tenancingo and elsewhere.

Hand-made masks of this age were delicately carved and hand-painted by master craftsmen in multiple layers.  Today’s masks are airbrushed and rarely include mechanical eyelids.



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

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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: Character Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Michoacán
ETHNICITY: Purépecha
DESCRIPTION: Character Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Pastorela
AGE: ca. 2010
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

The Pastorela is the ceremonial dance drama of Michoacán state in Mexico. Pastorelas, performed 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.

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TITLE: Charro Mask and Cape
TYPE: face mask; costume
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Tlaxcala
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Charro (Cowboy) Mask with Cape
MAKER (Mask): Constantino Torres Pérez (1956- , Papalotla, Tlaxcala)
MAKER (Cape): Francisca Lara Guerrero (1936- , Papalotla, Tlaxcala)
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE (Mask): 2017
AGE (Cape): 2015
MAIN MATERIAL (Mask): wood
OTHER MATERIALS (Mask): resin; oil-based paint; glass eyes; cattle hair eyelashes; gold foil; cotton string; plastic beads; cotton straps
MATERIALS (Cape): cotton granité cloth; cotton skein yarn; cotton thread; sequins

Carnival in Tlaxcala, Mexico has traditions quite different from those in other parts of the country.  In the town of Papalotla, Tlaxcala, men dress in elaborate costumes with broad feathered hats and detailed capes to perform a dance called El Pedimento del Agua (The Petition for Water). The costume for the dance, probably originating as a Chichimeca rain dance, is elaborately symbolic. The feathers symbolize clouds, the band around the head the sky, a beribboned mirror behind the head (the rocetón) symbolizes the moon and stars with a rainbow, and the leg coverings symbolize the home, or protection. On the cape, the sequins symbolize rain and the cotton braids symbolize snow. The design includes roses, which evoke nature, and the Mexican eagle. In addition, the charro dancers carry a braided whip called a cuarta, traditionally made of ixtle fiber, which symbolizes both thunder (noise of the whip cracking) and the chirrionera, a coachwhip snake, which according to local myths represents a woman converted into a serpent by a curse.

The mask of the charro is similar to the catrín mask used in other parts of Tlaxcala and, like them, ridicules the gentrified Spanish colonizers, with beauty marks and a gold tooth.

In the dance, dancers are orgnized into two structures, an exterior and an interior. The exterior is composed entirely of charros. The inner structure revolves around a female figure, the Nana (a man dressed as a women, with a female mask), who is surrounded by young female dancers (doncellas) and male dancers in simpler suits known as vasarios.

This mask was danced by its maker from 2017 until 2020. The cape was hand sewn in 2015 and rented out by the Taller Silver Star to be danced in the Carnival of Papalotla until 2020.



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

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