TITLE: Pastorela Dienton
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Michoacán
ETHNICITY: Purépecha
DESCRIPTION: Dienton Character Mask
MAKER: Jorge Horta, Tocuaro
CEREMONY: Pastorela
AGE: ca. 2011
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: maque; synthetic hair

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, carved by Jorge Horta of a famous carving family of the town of Tocuaro, represents a feo, but is not a stock character.  Horta named the unique character Dienton (“Big Tooth”).

:

TITLE: Negrito
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Michoacán
ETHNICITY: Purépecha
DESCRIPTION: Negrito (Little Black Man) Mask
MAKER: Victoriano Salgado Morales (1920-2012, Uruapan)
CEREMONY: Danza de los Negritos
AGE: early 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: maque lacquer; plaster; dyed sheep skin and wool; ribbons; metal hardware; plastic beads; brass bells; mirrors

The Danza de los Negritos centers around a religious ceremony honoring the baby Jesus around Christmas time, and is performed solely by men from special cofradiás, or fraternal orders. The “negritos” (sometimes simply negros, or blacks) themselves originally represented the black slaves imported into Michoacán to work the sugar cane and indigo plantations. They were feared by the indigenous Purépecha people, possibly because of their association between blackness and power or godhood, and historically the dance represented the negritos as abusive and lecherous.In this, the dancers resembled the moors from the Dance of the Christians and Moors performed in other parts of Mexico.

In the modern dance, strongly influenced by Christian indoctrinization, the negrito continues to honor the white master (now represented by the baby Jesus, however) and punish the indigenous people (the spectators), but the meaning has changed from rebellion to Catholic conformism. The image of the negrito has morphed into a community leader, worshiping Jesus and punishing sinners.

:

TITLE: Cúrpite Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Michoacan
ETHNICITY: Purépecha
DESCRIPTION: Cúrpite Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Danza de los Cúrpites
FUNCTION: courtship; celebration; entertainment
AGE: 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

The Danza de los Cúrpites is one of the oldest ceremonies in the Purépecha regions of Michoacán. The dance is performed primarily in the town of San Juan Parangaricutiro once annually, in January.  Participants wear masks representing handsome young men with black mustaches or beards, and wear elaborate costumes and hats with tinsel, sequins, ribbons, mirrors, and beads. The dance is performed almost entirely by young men under 20, who dance in front of the homes of their sweethearts to woo them. The other characters, an older man (called tarépiti) and older woman (Maringuilla or Maringuía), attend as chaperones.

:

TITLE: Vampiro (Diablo)
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Michoacán
ETHNICITY: Purépecha
DESCRIPTION: Vampiro (Diablo) Mask
MAKER: Federico Eduardo Sierra Morales, Tocuaro
CEREMONY: Pastorela
AGE: 2015
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

The Pastorela drama of Michoacán reenacts the the mythical journey of the three wise men to visit Jesus of Nazareth at his birth.  It is commonly performed around Christmastime and involves several masked characters, including hermits, Maringuilla (Mary), comic characters, and the Diablo (Devil). The Devil plays a key dramatic role as he attempts to impede the wise men from reaching Bethlehem.

The maker of this specific mask, master artisan Federico Sierra of Tocuaro, chose to name this mask Vampiro (vampire), but it represents the Devil character in the play.

:

TITLE: Señor de Naranja Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Michoacán
ETHNICITY: Purépecha
DESCRIPTION: Señor de Naranja
MAKER: Victoriano Salgado Morales (1920-2012, Uruapan)
CEREMONY: Danza del Señor de Naranja
AGE: 1980
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: plaster; tin; maque paint; brass bells; polyester ribbons; steel hardware

The Señor de Naranja (Lord of Naranja) is an historical figure of the country of Zacapu, Michoacán. “Naranja” means orange in Spanish, but the term in this context is actually a corruption of the Purépecha “Naranxan,” the name of a region where the town Naranja de Tapia is now located. The character apparently represents the historical cacique or chief of the region, Ziranzirancámaro, around 1200 CE, and the dance retells the history of the Purépecha settlement of Michoacán.

According to the legend, a tribe of Purépecha people called the “Eagles” arrived in the mountains and demanded that the Señor de Naranja bring them incense and wood to burn on the altar of their fire god, Curicaveri. Over the opposition of his people, the Señor sent the offerings, as well as his sister to wed the leader of the Eagles (Ireticatame) and bear him a son, Sicuirancha, who eventually conquered Naranxan and Cumachen. The dance commemorates these events.

This mask was made by the renowned Victoriano Salgado, who was awarded the Michoacán State Eréndira Prize for the Arts in 2012, the year of his death.

:

TITLE: Pastorela Asmodeo
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Michoacán
ETHNICITY: Purépecha
DESCRIPTION: Asmodeo Mask
MAKER: Victoriano Salgado Morales, Uruapan (1920-2012)
CEREMONY: Pastorela
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: gesso; maque; bull horns; sheep’s teeth

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 represents one of three chief devils, specifically Asmodeo (Asmodeus). In Christian and Jewish mythologies, Asmodeus is one of the seven princes of Hell, and represents the vice lust.  It was carved by the master mask-maker of Uruapan, Victoriano Salgado.

:

TITLE: Negro Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Michoacán
ETHNICITY: Purépecha
DESCRIPTION: Negro
MAKER: Unknown carver from Sevina, Michoacán
CEREMONY: Danza de la Negrada
AGE: ca. 2000
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: gesso; paint

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.”

: