TITLE: Negrito Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Puebla
ETHNICITY: Nahua & Mixtec
DESCRIPTION: Español Mask
MAKER: Teodoro Tacuepian Galván, Zacapoaxtla (1911-2013)
CEREMONY: Danza de los Negritos
AGE: 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

The Danza de los Negritos (Dance of the Little Black Men) is a common theme in Mexico. Such dances are found in states as distinct as Hidalgo, Michoacán, Oaxaca, Puebla and Veracruz. In most versions of the dance, the negrito characters represent African slaves brought to Mexico to work in the fields and mines. In the version common in Puebla, where this mask originates, the negritos dance to help revive the snake-bitten son of a woman known as the Maringuilla (played by a man). The snake (carved of wood) is imprisoned during the dance and, at the end, symbolically killed to cure the invalid.

For more on masks from Puebla, see Bryan J. Stevens, Mexican Masks and Puppets: Master Carvers of the Sierra de Puebla (Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Pub’g, 2012).