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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TITLE: Mico (Monkey) Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Solalá
ETHNICITY: Mayan (Kaqchikel)
DESCRIPTION: Mico (Monkey) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Baile del Venado; Fiesta de Santo Tomás
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.

The mico is sometimes called mono in Guatemala, but both mean monkey. A mico is sometimes explained as specifically representing a spider monkey, which its coloration (dark head and white mouth and eye rings) suggests. Spider monkeys are endemic to the Solalá region of Guatemala. The mico is also one of several masks worn by the palo voladores (pole flyers) during the Fiesta de Santo Tomás in Chichicastenango. In this ritual, the masqueraders dance to marimba music for a half hour, then two at a time ascend a large pole erected in the town square, then swing on ropes around the pole while gradually descending to the ground. The process takes around six or seven minutes and requires exceptional courage.

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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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: ca. 1950s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

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: Mexicano Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Chichicastenango
ETHNICITY: Mayan (K’ich’e)
DESCRIPTION: Mexicano (Mexican) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Baile de los Mexicanos
AGE: 2010
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

The Baile de los Mexicanos (Dance of the Mexicans), 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.  It dates back to the nineteenth century and originates in Chiapas, Mexico. Over time, it spread to southern Guatemala. Like the Dance of the Little Bull, this dance satirizes the Spanish colonists, with their elaborate clothing, large hats, and prominent noses (relative to the Mayans). They may carry snakes, hearkening back to pre-conquest Mayan rituals. During the dance, the cowboys and bull appear as well, along with several other characters, in an elaborate drama incorporating various dances.

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

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TITLE: Payaso Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Chiapas
ETHNICITY: Mayan
DESCRIPTION: Payaso (Clown) Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker in Huistán
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: leather
OTHER MATERIALS: dyed cloth; metal grommets; ixtle fiber; plastic beads; brass bells; thread; string; pigment

Two types of clown participate in the Carnival of Huistán, Chiapas.  One wears white body paint and scarves over the face, and the other wears a distinctive leather mask like this one.  Both carry stalks of corn, suggesting the pre-Christian origin of the celebration in Mayan prayers for a bountiful harvest.

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TITLE: Diablo Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Totonicapán
ETHNICITY: Mayan
DESCRIPTION: Diablo (Devil) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Morality plays
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; nails; glass

Devil characters appear in several dance-dramas in Guatemala, mainly for entertainment or religious instruction.  In the San Cristobál Totonicapán, the Corrida de los Diablos (run of the devils) is a masked ceremony in which young men in body paint with devil masks charge through town to frighten the crowd.  In  the city of Totonicapán, where this mask originates, devils are used in morality plays, dealing with such Catholic Church-approved topics as the struggle between an angel and devil for the soul of a sinner.

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 (Child’s)
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Unknown
ETHNICITY: Mayan
DESCRIPTION: Convite Mask for a Child
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Baile de los Convites
AGE: 1960s-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.  This mask was made for and used by a child, and is made to resemble the mouse Jerry from the popular cartoon television series Tom & Jerry, which was broadcast from 1940 until 1967.

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

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TITLE: Cristiano Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Alta Verapaz
ETHNICITY: Mayan
DESCRIPTION: Cristiano (Christian) Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker from the area of Rabinal or Cobán
CEREMONY: Danza de la Historia de los Moros y Cristianos
AGE: ca. 1950s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint

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 Cristiano takes a form typical in the region of Alta Verapaz, with its blue chin (suggesting a shaved beard), sunburned face, and blonde eyebrows.

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Mask

TITLE: Parachico Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Chiapas
ETHNICITY: Mayan
DESCRIPTION: Parachico Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker in Chiapa de Corzo
CEREMONY: Fiesta de San Sebastián
AGE: 2012
MAIN MATERIAL: cedar wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil paint; glass eyes; lacquer

The Baile de los Parachicos is unique to Chiapas, the southernmost region of Mexico, and is most commonly performed in Chiapa de Corzo and Suchiapa.  It may have pre-Columbian origins, but its modern version is believed to originate in the myth of a wealthy Spanish noblewoman whose sick child could not be cured by doctors in Guatemala. She eventually brought him north to Chiapas, and a Mayan priest recommended she bathe in the healing waters of Cumbujuyú for nine days.  After the child recovered, the woman held a feast of thanksgiving and her servants danced for the children. Hence the name, parachico, meaning “for the little boy.”  In modern times, the parade is held during the holiday of St. Sebastian, the patron saint of Chiapa de Corzo.

The dance begins with a parade of the parachicos through the streets led by a patrón, or boss, whose mask is somewhat more elaborate than usual. All parachicos wear black pants with colorful embroidered designs, white shirt, a bright sarape, black leather boots, and they carry a tin rattle (sonaja).  As they parade, they echo phrases shouted by the leader, such as:

¡Vivan los que ya no pueden, muchachos!” (“Long live those who can’t do it any longer, boys!” or “Long live the elders!”)

¡Viva el gusto de nosotros, muchachos!” (“Long live our shared tastes, boys!” or “Long live our traditions!”)

¡Viva la mano poderosa, muchachos!” (“Long live the powerful hand, boys!” or “Long live God’s will!”)

¡Viva la pandilla rica, muchachos!” (“Long live the rich gang, boys!” or “Long live the parachicos!”)

They may also shout out more or less improvised verses, devout or comical, such as “Little mermaid, little mermaid, sea mermaid, Praise the Holy One and señor St. Sebastián” or “Passing by your window, you threw me a lemon, the lemon hit my face, and went straight to my heart.”

They then perform a group dance to the sound of drums and marimba, guitar, or other instruments. Women in brightly colored floral dresses may accompany them in less formal dances.

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TITLE: Ajitz
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Totonicapan
ETHNICITY: Mayan (K’ich’e)
DESCRIPTION: Ajitz (Priest) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Baile de la Conquista
AGE: 1950s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; glass eyes; metal hardware

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 (who is represented in 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.

This Ajitz has had numerous repairs during fifty or sixty years of use. The metal hardware was painted over to prevent rusting caused by contact with sweat from the dancer’s face.

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

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