TITLE: Viejito Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Michoacan
ETHNICITY: Purépecha
DESCRIPTION: Viejito (Little Old Man) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Danza de los Viejitos
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: plaster; maque; cotton thread; ixtle fiber; shoelaces

The Danza de los Viejitos is one of the oldest ceremonies in the Purépecha regions of Michoacán. In it, four dancers dressed as old men, with white suits, a colorful sarape, beribboned straw hat, wooden clogs, and a wooden cane, dance to the music of violins, clarinets, and guitars. The purpose of the dance is to pray for a good harvest. Normally, four dancers appear, representing the four primordial elements (earth, fire, water, and air) and the four colors of maize (yellow, red, blue, white). Masks may be made of wood, paste, or terra cotta.

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TITLE: Korkobi Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Michoacán (Charapán)
ETHNICITY: Purépecha
DESCRIPTION: Korkobi (Corcoví) Mask
MAKER: Victoriano Salgado Morales, Uruapan (1920-2012)
CEREMONY: Danza de los Viejitos
AGE: 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: maque; plaster

The Korkobi mask (also written in many variations, such as Corcoví and Corcobi) represents a nocturnal bird, which in Purépecha beliefs is considered a sign of ill omen, because its song announces death.  However, the character also represents the sun. The Korkobi dances in the Christmas Eve Danza de los Viejitos (Dance of the Little Old Men) and is primarily used in the small town of Charapán.

In this dance, a female character (Maringuía) represents the moon, the Korkobi represents the sun, the tecolote (owl) the night, and the viejitos (old men) represent the stars dancing for the amusement of the Holy Child.

All the characters in the dance try to get the attention of the Maringuía with shouts and compliments but it is the Korkobi alone who succeeds in courting her.

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TITLE: Diablo Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Michoacán
ETHNICITY: Purépecha
DESCRIPTION: Diablo (Devil) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Danza de los Rancheros
AGE: ca. 2010s
MAIN MATERIAL: terra cotta
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

In the small town of Ocumicho, Michoacán, many traditional dances are still practiced, including the Danza de los Viejitos (Dance of the Little Old Men) and Danza de los Venados (Dance of the Deer). Unlike most of Mexico, dance masks in Ocumicho are traditionally made of fired clay (barro) instead of wood, because of the abundance of clay deposits in the region. Although wood masks have become more commonly recently, clay masks are still sometimes danced. One such popular dance is the Danza de los Rancheros, in which costumed ranchers and devils dance together. The (unmasked) ranchers wearing traditional sombreros form two lines facing each other, and the masked devils dance between them to the music of trumpets, clarinets and drums. The significance of this tradition is not well understood, however.

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TITLE: Pastorela Pastor (?)
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Michoacán
ETHNICITY: Purépecha
DESCRIPTION: Unknown (possibly pastor, or shepherd) mask
MAKER: Victoriano Salgado Morales, Uruapan (1920-2012)
CEREMONY: Pastorela
AGE: ca. 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: gesso; maque

The Pastorela is the ceremonial dance drama performed in many parts of Mexico, including the state of Michoacán. Pastorelas, performed primarily at Christmas, or sometimes 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.

This mask appears to be a pastor (shepherd) mask for the Pastorela, although it could also be a ranchero (rancher), or possibly a mask for some other ceremony, such as the Danza de los Cúrpites, or possibly the Danza de los Monarcos de Naranja. It was carved by the master mask-maker of Uruapan, Victoriano Salgado.

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TITLE: Ermitaño Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Michoacán
ETHNICITY: Purépecha
DESCRIPTION: Ermitaño (Hermit) Mask
MAKER:  Juan Carlos Sierra Morales, Tocuaro (montera: Felipe de Jesus Horta Tera, Tocuaro)
CEREMONY: Pastorela
AGE: 2015
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: gesso; maque; (montera: wicker; plastic beads; mirrors; plastic ribbons and tinsel)

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.  This mask represents a hermit (ermitaño).

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TITLE: Viejito
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Michoacan
ETHNICITY: Purépecha
DESCRIPTION: Viejito (Little Old Man) Mask
MAKER: Manuel Horta Ramos, Tocuaro
CEREMONY: Danza de los Viejitos
AGE: 2015
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: plaster; maque; plant fiber

The Danza de los Viejitos is one of the oldest ceremonies in the Purépecha regions of Michoacán. In it, four dancers dressed as old men, with white suits, a colorful sarape, beribboned straw hat, wooden clogs, and a wooden cane, dance to the music of violins, clarinets, and guitars. The purpose of the dance is to pray for a good harvest. Normally, four dancers appear, representing the four primordial elements (earth, fire, water, and air) and the four colors of maize (yellow, red, blue, white). Masks may be made of wood, paste, or terra cotta.

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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: Diablo Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Michoacán
ETHNICITY: Purépecha
DESCRIPTION: Diablo (Devil) Mask
MAKER: Felipe de Jesús Horta Tera, Tocuaro
CEREMONY: Pastorela
AGE: 2009
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: maque

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, 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), like the one represented by this mask, and feos, or ugly clowns.

This mask was carved by Felipe Horta, one of a famous extended family of carvers from the town of Tocuaro, in 2009, and worn in the Pastorela celebration of 2010.

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TITLE: Diablo-Calavera
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Michoacán
ETHNICITY: Purépecha
DESCRIPTION: Diablo-Calavera (Devil-Skull) Mask
MAKER: Manuel Horta Ramos, Tocuaro
CEREMONY: Pastorela
AGE: 2015
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: plaster; maque

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, 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), like the one represented by this mask, and feos, or ugly clowns.

This mask was carved by Manuel Horta, one of a famous extended family of carvers from the town of Tocuaro, in 2015.

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TITLE: Negro Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Michoacán
ETHNICITY: Purépecha
DESCRIPTION: Negro
MAKER: María Emma Zavala Espino, Sevina
CEREMONY: Danza de la Negrada; Pastorela
AGE: 2014
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: gesso; paint; plastic eyelashes; montera (cardboard, velveteen, plastic beads, plastic flowers and leaves)

The Danza de la Negrada is performed in modern Michoacán among the Tarascan Indians (known as the Purépecha people) during the winter season to celebrate the Christmas holiday. The negros, as you see, are not necessarily “black men.” The masqueraders are actually known in the Purépecha language as turías or turíachas, who are spirits that control the air. “Black” refers not merely to color, but alludes to the idea of elegance and sophistication, and ultimately refers to anyone who is not an indigenous person.  It can therefore refer to European peoples as well, as this mask obviously does.

The best description of the dance is given by Janet Brody Esser in her excellent book, Behind the Mask in Mexico, with relation to a dance in Cherán, Michoacán:

“For the dance, the Blackmen arrange themselves in two files, leaving a clear area in between from four to twelve feet, depending on available space. The leaders, known as la letra and el segundo, recite stylized couplets recounting the birth of Jesus. . . . The leaders pace between the two files of dancers while reciting the verses, which are in Spanish. They delivered in a somewhat stilted manner with regularly recurring emphases and stylized gestures.  At intervals each Blackman joins his neighbor in the file and performs a slow waltz or sprightly polka. . . . The Blackmen begin dancing at the home of the carguero [the person charged with carrying the statue of the Holy Infant] at about nine p.m. on Christmas Eve and continue until after Midnight Mass, which they attend. They accompany the image of the Holy Child as it is carried through the streets to the church. . . . Beginning at ten or eleven on the morning of Christmas Day, the day after Christmas, and on January 1, Blackmen dance at homes of past and present cargueros. They also dance at the municipal building in honor of civic officials. Throughout the dancing, with the exception of Midnight Mass, they are accompanied by girls from ten to fourteen years of age wearing elaborately decorated sombreros. The dancers are given gifts of fruit and sugarcane by each host, which the townspeople explain are foods appropriate for children in a feast that is for the Holy Child.”

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