TITLE: Monkey Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Ecuador
SUBREGION: Cotopaxi
ETHNICITY: Mestizo
DESCRIPTION: Mono (Monkey) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Fiesta de la Mama Negra
AGE: ca. 1960s-1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint

The Fiesta de la Mama Negra (Festival of the Black Mama) is a celebration held in September and again in early November in Latacunga, Ecuador. The event originates in pre-colonial indigenous practices and was adapted to honor the Virgin of Mercy (Virgen de la Merced) after Catholic conversion, in thanks for her supposed  intervention to protect the population from eruptions from the nearby Cotopaxi volcano.  The festival has become one of the most important in Latacunga, and includes a parade (comparsa) featuring the Mama Negra prominently as an African version of Mary, mother of Jesus.

Other important masks include animals such as this dog, cats, or jaguars; the Rey Moro (King Moor, showing the influence of the Conquistadors); angels; clowns (payasos abanderados); and miscellaneous other characters. This festival opens with the huacos, representing precolonial Aymara shamans who parade to cure the diseases of the crowd. This mask represents a monkey, several species of which inhabit Ecuador, including the Mangled Howler Monkey, the Ecuadorian Capuchin, the Squirrel Monkey, the Black-Headed Spider Monkey, and the Brown-Mantled Tamarin.

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TITLE: Captain (?) Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Ecuador
SUBREGION: Cotopaxi
ETHNICITY: Mestizo
DESCRIPTION: Unknown mask, probably representing the Capitán (Captain)
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Fiesta de la Mama Negra
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint

The Fiesta de la Mama Negra (Festival of the Black Mama) is a celebration held in September and again in early November in Latacunga, Ecuador. The event originates in pre-colonial indigenous practices and was adapted to honor the Virgin of Mercy (Virgen de la Merced) after Catholic conversion, in thanks for her supposed  intervention to protect the population from eruptions from the nearby Cotopaxi volcano.  The festival has become one of the most important in Latacunga, and includes a parade (comparsa) featuring the Mama Negra prominently as an African version of Mary, mother of Jesus.

Other important masks include animals such as this dog, cats, or jaguars; the Rey Moro (King Moor, showing the influence of the Conquistadors); angels; clowns (payasos abanderados); and miscellaneous other characters. This festival opens with the huacos, representing precolonial Aymara shamans who parade to cure the diseases of the crowd. This mask probably represents the Captain (capitán), the Spanish viceroy appointed by the King of Spain. He leads a parade with an unsheathed sword, dancing comically to the rhythm of a band.

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TITLE: Monkey Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Honduras
SUBREGION: Unknown
ETHNICITY: Mestizo
DESCRIPTION: Monkey (Mono) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Unknown, probably Carnival
AGE: ca. 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: painted glass eyes; adhesive; oil-based paint

Honduras has a diverse population composed primarily of persons of mixed ancestry (mestizos), but also distinct ethnic groups such as creoles, the Garifuna people, and various indigenous nations. Very little is known about masquerade in Honduras except for among the Garifuna people, who mostly use wire-mesh masks in their dances. This monkey mask bears some resemblance to similar masks from Guatemala, which suggests it might originate in western Honduras, part of which formerly belonged to the Mayan empire that ruled over Guatemala. It was likely made for use in Carnival.

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TITLE: Payaso Abanderado
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Ecuador
SUBREGION: Cotopaxi
ETHNICITY: Mestizo
DESCRIPTION: Payaso Abanderado (Flag-Bearing Clown)
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Fiesta de la Mama Negra
AGE: ca. 1960s-1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: hardwood
OTHER MATERIALS: plaster; paint

The Fiesta de la Mama Negra (Festival of the Black Mama) is a celebration held in September and again in early November in Latacunga, Ecuador. The event originates in pre-colonial indigenous practices and was adapted to honor the Virgin of Mercy (Virgen de la Merced) after Catholic conversion, in thanks for her supposed  intervention to protect the population from eruptions from the nearby Cotopaxi volcano.  The festival has become one of the most important in Latacunga, and includes a parade (comparsa) featuring the Mama Negra prominently as an African version of Mary, mother of Jesus.

Other important masks include animals, the Rey Moro (King Moor, showing the influence of the Conquistadors), angels, clowns (payasos abanderados), and miscellaneous other characters. This festival opens with the huacos, representing precolonial Aymara shamans who parade to cure the diseases of the crowd. This mask is a payaso abanderado, marked with crucifixes (as is traditional) and carrying the flag of Ecuador.

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TITLE: Dancing Devil of Yare
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Venezuela
SUBREGION: Miranda
ETHNICITY: Mestizo
DESCRIPTION: Diablo Danzante
MAKER: Manuel “El Mocho” Salvador Sanoja, San Francisco de Yare (1937-2010)
CEREMONY: Corpus Christi; other Catholic holidays
AGE: 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

The dancing devils of Yare are a fraternal order that dances on Corpus Christi and other holidays. When the tradition of dancing in devil costumes first began in San Francisco de Yare, the masks were monochromatic, made from cloth, and came in many forms.  These may date back to the 18th century.  Over time, the drab cloth masks were replaced with cheaper paper maché, and they began to be painted more colorfully to resemble animals, such as bulls, pigs, dogs, or demons. Before dancing, each devil makes a promise to the Church, but devils never enter the church building itself.  Instead, they hear mass outside the church and receive the Bishop’s blessing without entering.

The Dancing Devils Society is organized in a definite hierarchy, with the number of horns (cachos) representing the rank of the dancer.  Each wears a red suit with a crucifix or image of a saint, with a rosary on the belt, and carries rattles (maracas) or, in the case of the lead devil, one rattle looking like a devil’s head and a whip (látigo).  The First Devil (primer capataz) is the leader and has four horns.  The second and third devils (segundo and tercero capataz) have three horns.  Lesser devils (promeseros) have two horns.  All are male; females can participate, but they cannot wear masks.  Instead, they wear the red suit with a red kerchief on their heads.

This mask was made by the well-known dancer “El Mocho,” known as such for having lost four fingers on his left hand while setting off fireworks as a child.

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TITLE: Historiantes (Moro) Mask (Child’s)
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: El Salvador
SUBREGION: San Salvador
ETHNICITY: Mestizo
DESCRIPTION: Moro (Moor) Mask
MAKER: Victor Manuel Cruz (Panchimalco, 1950- )
CEREMONY: Danza de los Historiantes
AGE: 2016
MAIN MATERIAL: pito wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; animal hair; shoestrings

The Danza de los Historiantes (Dance of the Historical Persons), also known as the Danza de los Moros y Cristianos (Dance 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 several parts of El Salvador, usually on the festival in honor of the village’s patron saint. The dance group includes several Spaniards with their prince and princess or king and queen, and an equal number of Moors with their royalty. Each Spaniard and Moor has a specific role (ambassador, captain, doctor, etc.). Usually each side has its own clown (bufón). In the neighborhood of Panchimalco, where this mask originates, twelve or more dancers reenact the history with recited verses, feigned combat, and clownish antics. They are accompanied by the music of the carrizo (reed flute) and tambor indio (drum).

In the region of San Salvador, masks are inevitably red and blue, with Christians having clean-shaven faces and Moors having mustaches or beards. In other parts of El Salvador, the masks are different colors (green and pink, bright pink, etc.) or resemble natural skin. This mask was made and used in Panchimalco by a child.

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TITLE: Dog Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: El Salvador
SUBREGION: San Salvador
ETHNICITY: Mestizo
DESCRIPTION: Perro (Dog) Mask
MAKER: Celio López (San Antonio Abad, 1962- )
CEREMONY: Danza del Venadito (Dance of the Little Deer)
AGE: 2015
MAIN MATERIAL: pito wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; rubber; shoestrings

The Danza del Venadito (Dance of the Little Deer) is an ancient dance drama performed in the San Antonio Abad region of San Salvador during the Fiesta del Virgen del Trànsito (Feast of the Assumption) from August 6 to 15, with variations performed elsewhere in El Salvador at other times. The dance is accompanied by the music of pito flute, drum and slit drum (tepunahuaste). The dance tells the story of an ancient deer hunt, in which a jaguar (tigre) intervenes to chase the deer as well. The hunters and townsfolk assemble with their dogs (one represented by this mask) to reorganize the hunt and succeed in killing the jaguar. They then recite comical rhymes relating to the portioning out of the jaguar, such as: “La cabeza para la niña Teresa, las costillas para la cofradía, la cola para la niña Pola, el pellejo para los viejos,” and so forth. (“The head for the child Teresa, the ribs for the fraternal order, the tail for the child Pola, the pelt for the elders,” etc.).

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TITLE: Carnival Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: El Salvador
SUBREGION: San Salvador
ETHNICITY: Mestizo
DESCRIPTION: Dientón/Lenguón (Big Teeth/Big Tongue) Mask
MAKER: Celio López (San Antonio Abad, 1962- )
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: 2016
MAIN MATERIAL: pito wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; shoestrings

Carnival is celebrated in El Salvador with the same enthusiasm as it is in other Catholic countries.  Carnival is the celebration prior to the fasting season of Lent.  In some parts of El Salvador, such as the San Antonio Abad neighborhood of San Salvador, paraders or celebrants wear wooden masks depicting characters from popular culture, political figures, animals, or clowns. This dientón/lenguón (big teeth/big tongue) mask falls into the last category, representing a clown intended to provoke hilarity in the audience.

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TITLE: Historiantes (Moro) Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: El Salvador
SUBREGION: San Salvador
ETHNICITY: Mestizo
DESCRIPTION: Moro (Moor) Mask
MAKER: Celio López (San Antonio Abad, 1962- )
CEREMONY: Danza de los Historiantes
AGE: 1994
MAIN MATERIAL: pito wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; animal hair; shoestrings

The Danza de los Historiantes (Dance of the Historical Persons), also known as the Danza de los Moros y Cristianos (Dance 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 several parts of El Salvador, usually on the festival in honor of the village’s patron saint. The dance group includes several Spaniards with their prince and princess or king and queen, and an equal number of Moors with their royalty. Each Spaniard and Moor has a specific role (ambassador, captain, doctor, etc.). Usually each side has its own clown (bufón). In the neighborhood of San Antonio Abad (named after its patron saint), where this mask originates, twelve or more dancers reenact the history with recited verses, feigned combat, and clownish antics. They are accompanied by the music of the carrizo (reed flute) and tambor indio (drum).

In the region of San Salvador, masks are inevitably red and blue, with Christians having clean-shaven faces and Moors having mustaches or beards. In other parts of El Salvador, the masks are different colors (green and pink, bright pink, etc.) or resemble natural skin.

Click above to watch a short documentary about the Historiantes dance-drama of El Salvador.

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TITLE: Viejito de Cuchemonte
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: El Salvador
SUBREGION: San Salvador
ETHNICITY: Mestizo
DESCRIPTION: Viejito de Cuchemonte (Little Old Man of the Peccary) Mask
MAKER: Celio López (San Antonio Abad, 1962- )
CEREMONY: Baile del Cuche de Monte
AGE: 1991
MAIN MATERIAL: pito wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; shoestrings

The Baile del Cuche de Monte, also known as the Cújtan-Cuyámet, is an ancient dance performed to the music of pito flute, drum and slit drum (tepunahuaste). The dance originates in a nuptial feast offering (marconanda) from the Mayan peoples to their gods. The vieijito in this dance wears a costume designed to look as if he were riding on the back of a white-lipped peccary (javelina). He plays the role of a clown (bufón), proclaiming “Yo soy un viejo loco, y soy como es espinazo de este chuche, pelado pero sabroso” (“I am a madman, and I am like the spine of this peccary, skinned but tasty”), and persecuting the other dancers by chasing them down with his peccary, which pretends to bite them. The dancers drive him away with rods, shouting “cuuuuucheeeee.” In modern times, the dance has become a form of political theater, with the viejito sometimes representing a grasping politician. After the other dancers drive him away, they recite some rhyming doggerel about dividing up the peccary for the community. For example, “Los ojos para ese de anteojos, los chicharrones para elecciones” (The eyes for those with glasses, the fried skin for the election, etc.), ending with “la carne para los pobres y los huevos para el presidente” (the meat for the poor and the eggs for the president), considered ironical because peccaries do not even lay eggs, so nothing is left for the politicians. Finally, two masked characters appear representing the “cadejos,” mythological dog-like creatures, one black and one white, that take care of villagers (the black for men, and white for women).

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