TITLE: Güegüense Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
DESCRIPTION: Güegüense (Viejo) Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker in Masaya
CEREMONY: El Güegüense Dance Drama
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint
El Güegüense is a culturally important Nicaraguan play originating in seventeenth century Diriamba and written by an anonymous author. It was originally called Baile del Güegüence, ó Macho-Raton, translated literally as “The Dance of the Old Man, or Male Mouse.” The play, which is considered the first classic of Nicaraguan literature, ridicules greed, moral corruption, and the troubled relations between Spanish colonists, mestizos, and indigenous people. It is performed annually in Diriamba during the Feast of St. Sebastian, from January 17th to 27th.
As performed today, most characters wear masks and dance to the music of the native flute (pito), violin, guitar, and drum during the performance. Among the characters are several machos, or mules, sometimes numbering twelve or more. This mask represents the Güegüense (old man, or viejo) who is the protagonist of the story.
For more on the Güegüense, see The Güegüence; A Comedy Ballet in the Nahua-Spanish Dialect of Nicaragua (Daniel G. Briton ed., 1883).