TITLE: Quiché Achí Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
SUBREGION: Baja Verapaz
ETHNICITY: Mayan (Achí)
DESCRIPTION: Quiché Achí Mask
CATALOG #: LAGT001
MAKER: Ezequiel Chen Zarpéc (Rabinal, 1950- )
CEREMONY: Xajoj Tun (Rabinal Achí)
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; elastic straps
The Xajoj Tun (Dance of the Drum), also called the Rabinal Achí, is a dance-drama exclusive to Rabinal, Baja Verapaz. It is performed on January 17-26 every year during the patron saint holiday, and represents a story from pre-Catholic Mayan culture. It begins with a blessing on the dancers, masks, and musical instruments, followed by prayer to the ancestors and characters represented to ask for permission to perform the play. Prayers are also made at local churches. The drama is set in the Mayan Kaiyub’ fortress and relates the tale of a K’iché warrior captured and sentenced to death by the royal court. The play begins with the capture of a K’iché warrior (the Quiché Achí, represented by this mask), whose army has invaded Rabinaleb, by the Rabinal Achí. He is taken to the royal court, where he is sentenced to die as a sacrifice to the gods. The Rabinal Achí tells the prisoner he will be spared death if he prostrates himself, but the Quiché Achí refuses. He makes many requests, all of which are granted, but he also asks for 260 days and nights to say farewell to his K’iché homeland. He receives no response, but leaves anyway. When he returns, the Rabinal Achí ties him to a tree, and eagle and jaguar warriors dance around him and throw spears at him until he dies.
The drama is accompanied by music from two trumpets, a flute, and a wooden drum. In addition, three copper plates are struck at the end of each dialogue. Nine days after the conclusion of the performance, another ceremony is performed at the house of the director, to give thanks.
For more on Guatemalan masks, see Jim Pieper, Guatemala’s Masks and Drama (University of New Mexico Press, 2006).
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