TITLE: Xantolo Viejo Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: San Luís Potosí
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Viejo (Old Man) Mask
MAKER: Herman Chávez Guerrero (1963- , San Martín Chalchicuautla)
CEREMONY: Day of the Dead (Xantolo)
AGE: 2022
MAIN MATERIAL: paperboard
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; glue; cotton cloth; elastic straps

Day of the Dead is celebrated in many parts of Mexico. In San Luís Potosí, the celebration is called Xantolo and differs from region to region.  In the Huasteca region, some villages are primarily Nahua in ethnicity, and others are primarily Tenek. The village of San Martín Chalchicuautla is mainly Nahua. Xantolo in the Nahua language is called Miijkailjuitl, and it is celebrated with decorations of the graves of ancestors using flowers (primarily marigolds and coxcombs) and representations of the Catrina, an elaborate female skeleton figure. In San Martín, the celebration also includes masked dances to the music of guitars and violin.

The dance is fairly elaborate, with an outer ring of viejos (old men), viejas (old women), and two paired characters known as El Cole and La Mamanina. The middle ring is populated with diablos (devils) with varied appearances, but primarily having long ears, horns, and a long tongue. There is also a character called El Caminito, who resembles a horseman riding a toy wooden horse (and possibly intended to represent St. James the Apostle). The inner ring has at least one Catrina representing death, and male and female “Comanches,” meant to represent North American indigenous warriors, who carry whips. They dance in a circle, and at some point the Cole may flirt with the Mamanina or a vieja, satirizing a drunken and lecherous old man to the amusement of onlookers. The dances are repeated throughout the day, and the dancers are thought to lend their bodies to dead ancestors to participate in the celebration.

:

TITLE: Xantolo Vieja Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: San Luís Potosí
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Vieja (Old Woman) Mask
MAKER: Herman Chávez Guerrero (1963- , San Martín Chalchicuautla)
CEREMONY: Day of the Dead (Xantolo)
AGE: 2022
MAIN MATERIAL: paperboard
OTHER MATERIALS: plastic eyelashes; oil-based paint; glue; cotton cloth; elastic straps

Day of the Dead is celebrated in many parts of Mexico. In San Luís Potosí, the celebration is called Xantolo and differs from region to region.  In the Huasteca region, some villages are primarily Nahua in ethnicity, and others are primarily Tenek. The village of San Martín Chalchicuautla is mainly Nahua. Xantolo in the Nahua language is called Miijkailjuitl, and it is celebrated with decorations of the graves of ancestors using flowers (primarily marigolds and coxcombs) and representations of the Catrina, an elaborate female skeleton figure. In San Martín, the celebration also includes masked dances to the music of guitars and violin.

The dance is fairly elaborate, with an outer ring of viejos (old men), viejas (old women), and two paired characters known as El Cole and La Mamanina. The middle ring is populated with diablos (devils) with varied appearances, but primarily having long ears, horns, and a long tongue. There is also a character called El Caminito, who resembles a horseman riding a toy wooden horse (and possibly intended to represent St. James the Apostle). The inner ring has at least one Catrina representing death, and male and female “Comanches,” meant to represent North American indigenous warriors, who carry whips. They dance in a circle, and at some point the Cole may flirt with the Mamanina or a vieja, satirizing a drunken and lecherous old man to the amusement of onlookers. The dances are repeated throughout the day, and the dancers are thought to lend their bodies to dead ancestors to participate in the celebration.

:

TITLE: Xantolo Soldier Calavera Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: San Luís Potosí
ETHNICITY: Nahua; Tenek
DESCRIPTION: Mexican Soldier Calavera (Skull) Mask
MAKER: Candelario Manuel Santos (1996- , Tampamolón Corona)
CEREMONY: Day of the Dead (Xantolo)
AGE: 2022
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint

Day of the Dead is celebrated in many parts of Mexico. In San Luís Potosí, the celebration is called Xantolo and differs from region to region.  In the Huasteca region, some villages are primarily Nahua in ethnicity, and others are primarily Tenek. The population of the village of Tampamolón Corona is of mixed Tenek and Nahua ethnicity. Xantolo in the Nahua language is called Miijkailjuitl, and in Tenek is called Tsamnek ajib. It is celebrated with decorations of the graves of ancestors using flowers (primarily marigolds and coxcombs) and representations of the Catrina, an elaborate female skeleton figure. In Tampamolón, the celebration also includes masked dances (comparsas) to music.

The dance involves varied masked figures representing different aspects of life and death, including catrinas, devils, skulls (calaveras), clowns, pregnant women, prositutes, old men and women, and indigenous persons. It begins and ends as a danced parade with a period spent in the central plaza dancing as a group.

:

TITLE: Xantolo Devil Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: San Luís Potosí
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Diablo (Devil) Mask
MAKER: Hector Saúl Orta Fernández (1985- , San Martín Chalchicuautla)
CEREMONY: Day of the Dead (Xantolo)
AGE: 2021
MAIN MATERIAL: calfskin
OTHER MATERIALS: bull horns; javelina teeth; glue; cotton cloth; oi-based paint; foam rubber; polyester straps; recycled truck tire ears and tongue; twine; plastic cloth; metal hardware

Day of the Dead is celebrated in many parts of Mexico. In San Luís Potosí, the celebration is called Xantolo and differs from region to region.  In the Huasteca region, some villages are primarily Nahua in ethnicity, and others are primarily Tenek. The village of San Martín Chalchicuautla is mainly Nahua. Xantolo in the Nahua language is called Miijkailjuitl, and it is celebrated with decorations of the graves of ancestors using flowers (primarily marigolds and coxcombs) and representations of the Catrina, an elaborate female skeleton figure. In San Martín, the celebration also includes masked dances to the music of guitars and violin.

The dance is fairly elaborate, with an outer ring of viejos (old men), viejas (old women), and two paired characters known as El Cole and La Mamanina. The middle ring is populated with diablos (devils) with varied appearances, but primarily having long ears, horns, and a long tongue. There is also a character called El Caminito, who resembles a horseman riding a toy wooden horse (and possibly intended to represent St. James the Apostle). The inner ring has at least one Catrina representing death, and male and female “Comanches,” meant to represent North American indigenous warriors, who carry whips. They dance in a circle, and at some point the Cole may flirt with the Mamanina or a vieja, satirizing a drunken and lecherous old man to the amusement of onlookers. The dances are repeated throughout the day, and the dancers are thought to lend their bodies to dead ancestors to participate in the celebration.

This devil mask was danced by its maker, Hector Orta, in the Xantolo celebration of San Martín Chalchicuautla of 2021.

:

TITLE: Xantolo La Comanche Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: San Luís Potosí
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: La Comanche (Female Comanche) Mask
MAKER: José Hernández (1992- , San Martín Chalchicuautla)
CEREMONY: Day of the Dead (Xantolo)
AGE: 2022
MAIN MATERIAL: calfskin
OTHER MATERIALS: aluminum sheet; stitching; glue; foam rubber; oil-based paint; shoelaces

Day of the Dead is celebrated in many parts of Mexico. In San Luís Potosí, the celebration is called Xantolo and differs from region to region.  In the Huasteca region, some villages are primarily Nahua in ethnicity, and others are primarily Tenek. The village of San Martín Chalchicuautla is mainly Nahua. Xantolo in the Nahua language is called Miijkailjuitl, and it is celebrated with decorations of the graves of ancestors using flowers (primarily marigolds and coxcombs) and representations of the Catrina, an elaborate female skeleton figure. In San Martín, the celebration also includes masked dances to the music of guitars and violin.

The dance is fairly elaborate, with an outer ring of viejos (old men), viejas (old women), and two paired characters known as El Cole and La Mamanina. The middle ring is populated with diablos (devils) with varied appearances, but primarily having long ears, horns, and a long tongue. There is also a character called El Caminito, who resembles a horseman riding a toy wooden horse (and possibly intended to represent St. James the Apostle). The inner ring has at least one Catrina representing death, and male and female “Comanches,” meant to represent North American indigenous warriors, who carry whips. They dance in a circle, and at some point the Cole may flirt with the Mamanina or a vieja, satirizing a drunken and lecherous old man to the amusement of onlookers. The dances are repeated throughout the day, and the dancers are thought to lend their bodies to dead ancestors to participate in the celebration.

Comanches can be male or female. The metal crown is intended to represent a feathered headdress and on some masks includes actual feathers (usually of a peacock). Males tend to have painted mustaches and wear masculine clothing, while females wear dresses and have pink circles on their cheeks and bright pink or red lips.

:

TITLE: Xantolo El Cole Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: San Luís Potosí
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: El Cole (The School) Mask
MAKER: Herman Chávez Guerrero (1963- , San Martín Chalchicuautla)
CEREMONY: Day of the Dead (Xantolo)
AGE: 2022
MAIN MATERIAL: goat leather & fur
OTHER MATERIALS: stitching; cotton cloth; cow tail beard; glue; oil-based paint; elastic straps

Day of the Dead is celebrated in many parts of Mexico. In San Luís Potosí, the celebration is called Xantolo and differs from region to region.  In the Huasteca region, some villages are primarily Nahua in ethnicity, and others are primarily Tenek. The village of San Martín Chalchicuautla is mainly Nahua. Xantolo in the Nahua language is called Miijkailjuitl, and it is celebrated with decorations of the graves of ancestors using flowers (primarily marigolds and coxcombs) and representations of the Catrina, an elaborate female skeleton figure. In San Martín, the celebration also includes masked dances to the music of guitars and violin.

The dance is fairly elaborate, with an outer ring of viejos (old men), viejas (old women), and two paired characters known as El Cole and La Mamanina. The middle ring is populated with diablos (devils) with varied appearances, but primarily having long ears, horns, and a long tongue. There is also a character called El Caminito, who resembles a horseman riding a toy wooden horse (and possibly intended to represent St. James the Apostle). The inner ring has at least one Catrina representing death, and male and female “Comanches,” meant to represent North American indigenous warriors, who carry whips. They dance in a circle, and at some point the Cole may flirt with the Mamanina or a vieja, satirizing a drunken and lecherous old man to the amusement of onlookers. The dances are repeated throughout the day, and the dancers are thought to lend their bodies to dead ancestors to participate in the celebration.

:

TITLE: Xantolo Catrina Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: San Luís Potosí
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Catrina (Female Skull) Mask
MAKER: Herman Chávez Guerrero (1963- , San Martín Chalchicuautla)
CEREMONY: Day of the Dead (Xantolo)
AGE: 2022
MAIN MATERIAL: pemoches wood (Erythrina americana)
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; plastic flowers; plastic rhinestones; cotton cloth; plastic tuile screen; glue

Day of the Dead is celebrated in many parts of Mexico. In San Luís Potosí, the celebration is called Xantolo and differs from region to region.  In the Huasteca region, some villages are primarily Nahua in ethnicity, and others are primarily Tenek. The village of San Martín Chalchicuautla is mainly Nahua. Xantolo in the Nahua language is called Miijkailjuitl, and it is celebrated with decorations of the graves of ancestors using flowers (primarily marigolds and coxcombs) and representations of the Catrina, an elaborate female skeleton figure. In San Martín, the celebration also includes masked dances to the music of guitars and violin.

The dance is fairly elaborate, with an outer ring of viejos (old men), viejas (old women), and two paired characters known as El Cole and La Mamanina. The middle ring is populated with diablos (devils) with varied appearances, but primarily having long ears, horns, and a long tongue. There is also a character called El Caminito, who resembles a horseman riding a toy wooden horse (and possibly intended to represent St. James the Apostle). The inner ring has at least one Catrina representing death, and male and female “Comanches,” meant to represent North American indigenous warriors, who carry whips. They dance in a circle, and at some point the Cole may flirt with the Mamanina or a vieja, satirizing a drunken and lecherous old man to the amusement of onlookers. The dances are repeated throughout the day, and the dancers are thought to lend their bodies to dead ancestors to participate in the celebration.

:

TITLE: Toreada Devil (Cyclops) Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: San Luís Potosí
ETHNICITY: Tenek
DESCRIPTION: Devil mask in the form of a cyclops
MAKER: Carlos Victor Larrage Gómez (1969- , Tanlajás)
CEREMONY: Toreada de los Diablos (Holy Week)
AGE: 2019
MAIN MATERIAL: pemoches wood (Erythrina americana)
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint

The Toreada de los Diablos (Bullfight of the Devils) of Tanlajás, San Luís Potosí, is a ritual performed that has been performed by the male inhabitants of the town during the Semana Santa (Holy Week) since at least the 1880s in its modern incarnation. The diablos wear a variety of Xantolo-type masks that, although they are supposed to represent “devils,” may also appear as skulls, monkeys, clowns, old men or women, or in any other form of (preferably ugly) character. The idea underlying the diversity of appearances is that the Devil, personification of evil, can take any form, and so a Christian must be constantly on guard. Historically, the devils policed the church to ensure nobody was drinking or otherwise violating social rules. During the ritual today, the devils attempt to whip the legs of the “toreador” (bullfighter) with rawhide whips called chirriones. The toreador defends himself with a short stick (about 60 cm) and his own agility. The toreador tries constantly to approach the devil to reduce the force of the whip and to tap the devil’s face with his stick. In the past, the ritual was even more violent, with the toreador attempting to break the mask with his stick, until he succeeded or was disabled by whip wounds. The purpose of breaking the mask was twofold, both to punish the devil and to reveal who was wearing the mask (with the result that the other devils would rally around him to hide his identity). Today, the stick blow to the mask is only symbolic, but the wounds sustained by the toreador in the course of the ritual are quite real and often severe. They are intended for the participant to share in Jesus’s suffering. In consequence, there is much beer drinking among them to help dull the pain.

On Easter Sunday, the final day of the Toreada, all the devils parade around the village with the Mono (monkey) astride a donkey. The Mono is not a monkey at all, but an anthropomorphic figure dressed as a devil (with mask, boots, a jumpsuit, overalls, boots, hat, and a whip), filled with gunpowder, fireworks, and sawdust. The devils parade with the monkey to announce the culmination of the Toreada in the evening. The Mono is symbolically hung before the final Toreada performance, and the devils read a “will” that was prepared beforehand with satiric, humorous content, poking fun of the pecadillos of the villagers. The Mono is then burned to signal the end of the ritual, with explosions and rockets, to symbolize the triumph of good over evil.

It is possible that the Toreada de los Diablos is a syncretic tradition coopted by the Catholic church, which may have begun as a war ritual of the Tenek people as they prepared to defend themselves against the neighboring Nahua. The imperialistic Catholic missionaries, as they often did in the New World, re-formulated the tradition into the mold of the Catholic world view, which simplifies the universe into a Manichean struggle of good (the toreadores) versus evil (the diablos).

:

TITLE: Toreada Devil (Cyclops) Mask
TYPE: face mask; accessory
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: San Luís Potosí
ETHNICITY: Tenek
DESCRIPTION: Devil mask in the form of a cyclops
MAKER: Carlos Victor Larrage Gómez (1969- , Tanlajás)
CEREMONY: Toreada de los Diablos (Holy Week)
AGE: 2022
MAIN MATERIAL: pemoches wood (Erythrina americana)
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint

The Toreada de los Diablos (Bullfight of the Devils) of Tanlajás, San Luís Potosí, is a ritual performed that has been performed by the male inhabitants of the town during the Semana Santa (Holy Week) since at least the 1880s in its modern incarnation. The diablos wear a variety of Xantolo-type masks that, although they are supposed to represent “devils,” may also appear as skulls, monkeys, clowns, old men or women, or in any other form of (preferably ugly) character. The idea underlying the diversity of appearances is that the Devil, personification of evil, can take any form, and so a Christian must be constantly on guard. Historically, the devils policed the church to ensure nobody was drinking or otherwise violating social rules. During the ritual today, the devils attempt to whip the legs of the “toreador” (bullfighter) with rawhide whips called chirriones. The toreador defends himself with a short stick (about 60 cm) and his own agility. The stick here is made from wood of the Brazilian orchid tree (Bauhinia forficata). The toreador tries constantly to approach the devil to reduce the force of the whip and to tap the devil’s face with his stick. In the past, the ritual was even more violent, with the toreador attempting to break the mask with his stick, until he succeeded or was disabled by whip wounds. The purpose of breaking the mask was twofold, both to punish the devil and to reveal who was wearing the mask (with the result that the other devils would rally around him to hide his identity). Today, the stick blow to the mask is only symbolic, but the wounds sustained by the toreador in the course of the ritual are quite real and often severe. They are intended for the participant to share in Jesus’s suffering. In consequence, there is much beer drinking among them to help dull the pain.

On Easter Sunday, the final day of the Toreada, all the devils parade around the village with the Mono (monkey) astride a donkey. The Mono is not a monkey at all, but an anthropomorphic figure dressed as a devil (with mask, boots, a jumpsuit, overalls, boots, hat, and a whip), filled with gunpowder, fireworks, and sawdust. The devils parade with the monkey to announce the culmination of the Toreada in the evening. The Mono is symbolically hung before the final Toreada performance, and the devils read a “will” that was prepared beforehand with satiric, humorous content, poking fun of the pecadillos of the villagers. The Mono is then burned to signal the end of the ritual, with explosions and rockets, to symbolize the triumph of good over evil.

It is possible that the Toreada de los Diablos is a syncretic tradition coopted by the Catholic church, which may have begun as a war ritual of the Tenek people as they prepared to defend themselves against the neighboring Nahua. The imperialistic Catholic missionaries, as they often did in the New World, re-formulated the tradition into the mold of the Catholic world view, which simplifies the universe into a Manichean struggle of good (the toreadores) versus evil (the diablos).

:

TITLE: Halloween Incredible Hulk Mask & Costume
TYPE: face mask; costume
GENERAL REGION: North America
COUNTRY: United States of America
ETHNICITY: Mixed
DESCRIPTION: Vacuform Batman Mask
MAKER: Ben Cooper Inc. (Brooklyn, New York)
CEREMONY: Halloween
AGE: 1973
MAIN MATERIAL (mask): styrene plastic
OTHER MATERIALS (mask): paint; steel staples; elastic band
MATERIALS (costume): plastic sheeting; transfer paint; plastic stitching

Halloween is one of the major secular festivals in the United States, celebrated on October 31st each year.  It originated in pre-Christian times, possibly among the ancient Celts, who practiced Samhain in late fall by wearing frightening costumes and lighting bonfires in mid-autumn to scare away ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III declared November 1st as a day to honor all the saints collectively. The celebration prior to this All Saints Day became known as All Hallows’ Eve (hence the shortened name, All Hallowe’en, eventually elided to Halloween), and involved many of the same traditions practiced by the Celts.

Halloween formerly had many traditions that varied by region.  In modern and relatively homogenized practice, Halloween generally has three main components: costumed parties, “trick-or-treating,” and haunted houses.  Costumed parties are the modern descendant of social activities designed to honor the saints and create solidarity in the community. Children’s parties typically involved games with prizes, such as bobbing for apples and carving pumpkins and other relatively dry squash into frightening “jack-o-lanterns” with candles inside for illumination.  Adult parties commonly involve less innocent games and elaborate decorations to create a scary mood.

Trick-or-treating is the children’s practice of wearing scary costumes to extort candy and other sweets from neighbors. Like roaming goblins, the monsters visiting the house would demand a treat or threaten to play a nasty trick on the neighbor. The threat is of course a formality, as sharing candy with trick-or-treaters is considered a mandatory practice for friendly and community-spirited neighbors. In modern practice, many children have abandoned the tradition of wearing frightening costumes and have leaned toward fantasy characters such as superheroes, princesses, and fairies.

Haunted houses are a relatively modern innovation.  They may be designed and staffed by volunteers or for profit, and generally take the form of a decrepit mansion haunted by ghosts, mad scientists, monsters, the walking dead, etc. The idea is to inspire terror and wonder in a factually safe environment.

In addition, many Americans celebrate by watching horror movies (the release of which Hollywood times to coincide with the Halloween season), and in some regions, most notably Greenwich Village, Manhattan in New York and Salem, Massachusetts, major costumed parades are organized each year.  In many cities, “zombie walks” composed of masses of costumed zombies have been organized as well.

Popular masks and costumes include devils, zombies, skeletons, vampires, werewolves, mummies, witches, pirates, political figures, and characters from popular culture, such as Frankenstein’s monster. However, Halloween costumes can include almost anything, including inanimate objects and abstractions.  The choice is limited only by the imagination of the masquerader.  Masks and costumes depicting offensive racial stereotypes, popular prior to the 1980s, are no longer widely used.

This specific mask was mass produced by a process known as vacuform molding. Sheets of heated styrene plastic are placed over a three-dimensional mold and a vacuum sucks out the air, forming the plastic to the mold. The mask is then cut out, machine painted, and an elastic band is stapled to the mask. The process is exceedingly fast and inexpensive, making the mask very popular with the overwhelming majority of Americans from the late 1950s to today.

For more on 20th century American Halloween costumes, see Phyllis Galembo, Dressed for Thrills: 100 Years of Halloween Costumes and Masquerade (New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc., 2002).

Click above to watch a documentary about Halloween in the United States.

: