TITLE: Angel Mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Guatemala
SUBREGION: Cobán
ETHNICITY: Mayan
DESCRIPTION: Angel (or Archangel Michael) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Baile de los Animalitos
AGE: early 20th century
MAIN MATERIAL: hardwood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

The Baile de los Animalitos (Dance of the Little Animals), also called the Baile de los Animales, 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 involves an angel, a hunter, and many different kinds of animals.  The dance probably predates the Spanish conquest, and involves many speeches by the animals relating to their characteristics, their role in the ecosystem, and (since colonization) their anomalous praise of the Virgin Mary. The hunter no longer hunts the animals in the modern rendition. After the speeches, they all dance to a marimba band.

This mask represents an angel and has been repainted several times due to wear to the paint. A similar mask is also used in the Rabinal area for the Baile de la Serpiente (Dance of the Serpent), retelling a version of the battle of St. George and the dragon.

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