TITLE: Yaqui Pasko’ola Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Sonora
ETHNICITY: Yaqui
DESCRIPTION: Mañor Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Pasko’ola
FUNCTION: celebration; entertainment; funeral; protection
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; string; horse hair; shoe string

The Yaqui and related Mayo people inhabit the desert in the Mexican state of Sonora and southern Arizona. Their religious beliefs are a syncretic version of traditional animist practices and Jesuitical Catholicism. The pasko’olas (in the Spanish, pascolas) were malignant spirits, or children of the Devil, whom God won in a game. For that reason, their masks frequently have crucifixes and they wear a belt with twelve bells, each representing an apostle. To symbolize their evil origins, the masks have ugly expressions and vermin such as lizards, snakes and scorpions painted on them. In addition, dancers wear cords and butterfly cocoons on their legs, representing snakes and their rattles. They also wear a flower on their head, to symbolize rebirth and spring. They frequently play the role of clowns, provoking laughter in the audience by mimicking animals, reversing gender roles, organizing mock hunts, and making jokes.

Pasko’olas are danced at every major religious festival, as well as at birthdays, weddings, and funeral celebrations. For example, in Vicam, pasko’olas have traditionally danced on Día de San Juan Bautista (June 24). Sometimes a group of pasko’olas will be accompanied by a deer dancer, who dances with a taxidermy deer head as a crest. Generally, only men are pasko’ola dancers, but women have sometimes been allowed to dance with the permission of the male dancers.

This mask was culturally used in pasko’ola ceremonies for many years.

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TITLE: Pecado Mayor Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Spain
SUBREGION: Castile-La Mancha
ETHNICITY: Spanish (Iberian)
DESCRIPTION: Pecado Mayor (Elder Sin) Mask
MAKER: Julio Naranjo Palomo (Camuñas, Spain, 1941- )
CEREMONY: Corpus Christi
FUNCTION: Adult Initiation; Celebration; Secret Society
AGE: 2022
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: goat horns; adhesive; paint; satin ribbons; elastic strap

The Corpus Christi celebration of Camuñas, Spain, embodies a tradition hundreds of years old. The celebration is organized by fraternities (hermandades) of “Dancers” (Danzantes) and “Sins” (Pecados). In its broadest sense, the tradition represents a drama of redemption, the triumph of divine grace over sin. The celebration begins with the Danzantes parading through the streets of Camuñas with masks off, jingling tambourines and playing a drum and a unique percussion wood block called la porra. Leading the group is a Capitán carrying a short spear decorated with ribbons. Accompanying them are a standard-bearer with the fraternity’s symbols and a (male) dancer wearing women’s clothes, playing castanets, and wearing a unique mask called the Madama. The Danzantes follow a predetermined, decorated path through town, stopping periodically for refreshments at the homes of the group’s leaders. The leaders after the capitán, in order of seniority, are the Mayor (Alcalde), Elder Jew (Judío Mayor), and the Twine (Cordel).

The Danzantes finally make their way to the headquarters of the Pecados, who greet them in a double file wearing their horned masks. The Pecados carry a decorated staff (la vara) and are organized hierarchically into the senior authority, the Little Sin (Pecailla, or Pecadilla), the Belt (Correa), the Elder Sin (Pecado Mayor), and the Alternate Belt (Suplente Correa). Also included are initiates (novicios).  The Pecailla and Pecado Mayor each have a unique mask, which, together with the common Danzantes, Pecados, and Madama, makes five types of mask used in the celebration.

After enjoying refreshments again, the Danzantes and Pecados parade together across town toward the curate’s house, where they are joined by women in traditional Spanish dress who, with the standard-bearer and a cross-bearer, accompany the curate. The Danzantes form a double line down the street, and the pecados one by one run up the street toward the curate with their masks on, jumping at the end and kneeling before him. They then remove their masks and receive a blessing from the curate.

On the day of Corpus Christi, the same procedure is followed, but afterward the Danzantes and Pecados parade to the church. The Danzantes alone enter the church and parade through the nave, after which they form a double line in the church plaza outside, between the town clock tower and an altar and reliquary at the rear of the church. They all kneel before the altar, then the Danzantes dance, during which the Pecados individually charge toward the altar, leaping and kneeling before the reliquary and removing their mask. The group then continues to parade together through town, performing one last series of charges toward the curate and returning to their fraternity headquarters.

On the day after Corpus Christi, the initiates are dressed in rags and taken to the town windmill in a straw-covered cart, which is symbolically burned while the initiates are symbolically hung using a safety harness in a ritual called La Horca (The Gallows). La Horca is a form of initiation into the fraternities. The townspeople celebrate the intiation with water fights, and traditionally the hung initiate is thoroughly doused with water, somewhat reminiscent of the way Catholic priests convey blessings or baptism by spraying holy water with an aspergillum.

This mask was donated to the Museum through the generosity of the City of Camuñas and its Centro de Interpretación Danzantes y Pecados.


Click here to watch a short documentary on the Corpus Christi celebration of Camuñas, Spain.

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TITLE: Pecado Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Spain
SUBREGION: Castile-La Mancha
ETHNICITY: Spanish (Iberian)
DESCRIPTION: Pecado (Sin) Mask
MAKER: Julio Naranjo Palomo (Camuñas, Spain, 1941- )
CEREMONY: Corpus Christi
FUNCTION: Adult Initiation; Celebration; Secret Society
AGE: 2022
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: goat horns; adhesive; paint; satin ribbons; elastic strap

The Corpus Christi celebration of Camuñas, Spain, embodies a tradition hundreds of years old. The celebration is organized by fraternities (hermandades) of “Dancers” (Danzantes) and “Sins” (Pecados). In its broadest sense, the tradition represents a drama of redemption, the triumph of divine grace over sin. The celebration begins with the Danzantes parading through the streets of Camuñas with masks off, jingling tambourines and playing a drum and a unique percussion wood block called la porra. Lead the group is a Capitán carrying a short spear decorated with ribbons. Accompanying them are a standard-bearer with the fraternity’s symbols and a (male) dancer wearing women’s clothes, playing castanets, and wearing a unique mask called the Madama. The Danzantes follow a predetermined, decorated path through town, stopping periodically for refreshments at the homes of the group’s leaders. The leaders after the capitán, in order of seniority, are the Mayor (Alcalde), Elder Jew (Judío Mayor), and the Twine (Cordel).

The Danzantes finally make their way to the headquarters of the Pecados, who greet them in a double file wearing their horned masks. The Pecados carry a decorated staff (la vara) and are organized hierarchically into the senior authority, the Little Sin (Pecailla, or Pecadilla), the Belt (Correa), the Elder Sin (Pecado Mayor), and the Alternate Belt (Suplente Correa). Also included are initiates (novicios).  The Pecailla and Pecado Mayor each have a unique mask, which, together with the common Danzantes, Pecados, and Madama, makes five types of mask used in the celebration.

After enjoying refreshments again, the Danzantes and Pecados parade together across town toward the curate’s house, where they are joined by women in traditional Spanish dress who, with the standard-bearer and a cross-bearer, accompany the curate. The Danzantes form a double line down the street, and the pecados one by one run up the street toward the curate with their masks on, jumping at the end and kneeling before him. They then remove their masks and receive a blessing from the curate.

On the day of Corpus Christi, the same procedure is followed, but afterward the Danzantes and Pecados parade to the church. The Danzantes alone enter the church and parade through the nave, after which they form a double line in the church plaza outside, between the town clock tower and an altar and reliquary at the rear of the church. They all kneel before the altar, then the Danzantes dance, during which the Pecados individually charge toward the altar, leaping and kneeling before the reliquary and removing their mask. The group then continues to parade together through town, performing one last series of charges toward the curate and returning to their fraternity headquarters.

On the day after Corpus Christi, the initiates are dressed in rags and taken to the town windmill in a straw-covered cart, which is symbolically burned while the initiates are symbolically hung using a safety harness in a ritual called La Horca (The Gallows). La Horca is a form of initiation into the fraternities. The townspeople celebrate the intiation with water fights, and traditionally the hung initiate is thoroughly doused with water, somewhat reminiscent of the way Catholic priests convey blessings or baptism by spraying holy water with an aspergillum.

This mask was donated to the Museum through the generosity of the City of Camuñas and its Centro de Interpretación Danzantes y Pecados.


Click here to watch a short documentary on the Corpus Christi celebration of Camuñas, Spain.

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TITLE: Danzante Mask and Tambourine
TYPE: face mask; accessory
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Spain
SUBREGION: Castile-La Mancha
ETHNICITY: Spanish (Iberian)
DESCRIPTION: Danzante Mask and Tambourine
MAKER (Mask): Julio Naranjo Palomo (Camuñas, Spain, 1941- )
MAKER (Tambourine): Ángel Cano Santa Cruz (Camuñas, Spain, 1945- )
CEREMONY: Corpus Christi
FUNCTION: Adult Initiation; Celebration; Secret Society
AGE: 2022
MAIN MATERIAL (Mask): paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS (Mask): cork nose; adhesive; paint; elastic strap
MATERIALS (Tambourine): Alla wood; brass cymbals; leather; brass wire; adhesive; brass hardware; dyed cloth

The Corpus Christi celebration of Camuñas, Spain, embodies a tradition hundreds of years old. The celebration is organized by fraternities (hermandades) of “Dancers” (Danzantes) and “Sins” (Pecados). In its broadest sense, the tradition represents a drama of redemption, the triumph of divine grace over sin. The celebration begins with the Danzantes parading through the streets of Camuñas with masks off, jingling tambourines and playing a drum and a unique percussion wood block called la porra. Leading the group is a Capitán carrying a short spear decorated with ribbons. Accompanying them are a standard-bearer with the fraternity’s symbols and a (male) dancer wearing women’s clothes, playing castanets, and wearing a unique mask called the Madama. The Danzantes follow a predetermined, decorated path through town, stopping periodically for refreshments at the homes of the group’s leaders. The leaders after the capitán, in order of seniority, are the Mayor (Alcalde), Elder Jew (Judío Mayor), and the Twine (Cordel).

The Danzantes finally make their way to the headquarters of the Pecados, who greet them in a double file wearing their horned masks. The Pecados carry a decorated staff (la vara) and are organized hierarchically into the senior authority, the Little Sin (Pecailla, or Pecadilla), the Belt (Correa), the Elder Sin (Pecado Mayor), and the Alternate Belt (Suplente Correa). Also included are initiates (novicios).  The Pecailla and Pecado Mayor each have a unique mask, which, together with the common Danzantes, Pecados, and Madama, makes five types of mask used in the celebration.

After enjoying refreshments again, the Danzantes and Pecados parade together across town toward the curate’s house, where they are joined by women in traditional Spanish dress who, with the standard-bearer and a cross-bearer, accompany the curate. The Danzantes form a double line down the street, and the pecados one by one run up the street toward the curate with their masks on, jumping at the end and kneeling before him. They then remove their masks and receive a blessing from the curate.

On the day of Corpus Christi, the same procedure is followed, but afterward the Danzantes and Pecados parade to the church. The Danzantes alone enter the church and parade through the nave, after which they form a double line in the church plaza outside, between the town clock tower and an altar and reliquary at the rear of the church. They all kneel before the altar, then the Danzantes dance, during which the Pecados individually charge toward the altar, leaping and kneeling before the reliquary and removing their mask. The group then continues to parade together through town, performing one last series of charges toward the curate and returning to their fraternity headquarters.

On the day after Corpus Christi, the initiates are dressed in rags and taken to the town windmill in a straw-covered cart, which is symbolically burned while the initiates are symbolically hung using a safety harness in a ritual called La Horca (The Gallows). La Horca is a form of initiation into the fraternities. The townspeople celebrate the intiation with water fights, and traditionally the hung initiate is thoroughly doused with water, somewhat reminiscent of the way Catholic priests convey blessings or baptism by spraying holy water with an aspergillum.

This mask was donated to the Museum through the generosity of the City of Camuñas and its Centro de Interpretación Danzantes y Pecados.


Click here to watch a short documentary on the Corpus Christi celebration of Camuñas, Spain.

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TITLE: Nazarene (Penitent) Mask and Robes
TYPE: face mask; costume
GENERAL REGION: Europe
COUNTRY: Spain
SUBREGION: Andalusia
ETHNICITY: Spanish (Iberian)
DESCRIPTION: Mask and Costume of Córdoban Nazareno (Penitente)
MAKER: Juan Carlo Vizcaíno Peralbo (Córdoba, 1979- )
CEREMONY: Holy Week
FUNCTION: Celebration; Secret Society
AGE: 2022
MAIN MATERIAL: “sarga de targál” (cotton-polyester blend cloth)
OTHER MATERIALS: velvet; stitching; rayon belt; cardboard and cotton cloth cone

The Nazarenos (Nazarenes), also called Penitentes (Penitents) are members of fraternities (cofradías) who participate in processions during the Catholic holiday period known as Holy Week in various parts of Spain, especially Andalusia. The robes are designed to preserve the anonymity of the penitent, and the cone-shaped hood, called a capirote, suggests a rising of the penitent toward heaven, or it may be used to redirect attention from the penitent upward, where Catholics believe their god is located. On the chest is a symbol of the cofradía. During Holy Week, the Nazarenos parade daily from the local cathedral or church around a designated route, preceding a paso (a table carried by costaleros and displaying a scene from the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth or an image of his mother Mary). The Nazarenos may carry large candles, a scepter, or an item of religious significance.

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TITLE: Temne Bundu Mask
TYPE: crest mask
GENERAL REGION: Africa
COUNTRY: Sierra Leone
ETHNICITY: Temne
DESCRIPTION: Bundu Society Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Bundu Society
AGE: ca. 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

The Temne people of Sierra Leone is unusual in having a female secret society with a masking tradition exclusively its own.  The Bundu Society uses a-Nowo crest masks during girls’ initiation rituals involving adulthood and genital mutilation. The mask represents the Temne conception of an ideal woman. The a-Nowo dancer wears the mask atop the head with a full body costume of dark raffia fiber attached, so that no part of the dancer is visible. A-Nowo masked dancers may also appear at important social events, such as visits of foreign dignitaries and funerals of important members of society. Men carve the mask but cannot participate in the ritual.

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TITLE: Cuchillo Mask and Hat
TYPE: face mask; accessory
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Tlaxcala
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Cuchillo (Knife) Mask with Hat
MAKER: Isaac Salóm (1949-2021, Huejotzingo, Puebla)
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE (Mask): 1971
AGE (Hat): 2022
MAIN MATERIAL: leather (calfskin)
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; goat leather and fur; cotton thread; elastic straps

The state of Tlaxcala, Mexico, has a variety of traditions and masks used during Carnival. In the town of Tloluca, the main dance is the Danza de los Cuchillos (Dance of the Knives). The cuchillo mask is made of calfskin and worn by dancers who strap knives to their calves and dance by clicking them together. Around them dance several characters dressed in cowboy (charro) costumes. These include one wearing a black mask, who represents a demon, and several wearing masks composed of goat fur. In some dances, a witch appears who represents the cruel foreman of the plantation whom the dancers (the cuchillos and charros) ultimately are said to have hung. They dance a variety of dances, including the Knives Dance and a circular dance in which the dancers take turns carrying each other.

This mask was danced by Ruperto Olivares Hernández (1969- , Toluca de Guadalupe, Tlaxcala) of the Pandilla Cuchillos y Charros for fifty-one years (1971-2022), although it was made in the town of Huejotzingo in the neighboring state of Puebla, where similar leather masks are used to celebrate the Mexican victory over the French on May 5, 1862. The elaborate hat features two crossed knives decorating the front, to designate the Carnival dancer as a Cuchillo.



A brief documentary about Carnival in the state of Tlaxcala, Mexico.

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TITLE: Charro Mask and Cape
TYPE: face mask; costume
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Tlaxcala
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Charro (Cowboy) Mask with Cape
MAKER (Mask): Constantino Torres Pérez (1956- , Papalotla, Tlaxcala)
MAKER (Cape): Francisca Lara Guerrero (1936- , Papalotla, Tlaxcala)
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE (Mask): 2017
AGE (Cape): 2015
MAIN MATERIAL (Mask): wood
OTHER MATERIALS (Mask): resin; oil-based paint; glass eyes; cattle hair eyelashes; gold foil; cotton string; plastic beads; cotton straps
MATERIALS (Cape): cotton granité cloth; cotton skein yarn; cotton thread; sequins

Carnival in Tlaxcala, Mexico has traditions quite different from those in other parts of the country.  In the town of Papalotla, Tlaxcala, men dress in elaborate costumes with broad feathered hats and detailed capes to perform a dance called El Pedimento del Agua (The Petition for Water). The costume for the dance, probably originating as a Chichimeca rain dance, is elaborately symbolic. The feathers symbolize clouds, the band around the head the sky, a beribboned mirror behind the head (the rocetón) symbolizes the moon and stars with a rainbow, and the leg coverings symbolize the home, or protection. On the cape, the sequins symbolize rain and the cotton braids symbolize snow. The design includes roses, which evoke nature, and the Mexican eagle. In addition, the charro dancers carry a braided whip called a cuarta, traditionally made of ixtle fiber, which symbolizes both thunder (noise of the whip cracking) and the chirrionera, a coachwhip snake, which according to local myths represents a woman converted into a serpent by a curse.

The mask of the charro is similar to the catrín mask used in other parts of Tlaxcala and, like them, ridicules the gentrified Spanish colonizers, with beauty marks and a gold tooth.

In the dance, dancers are orgnized into two structures, an exterior and an interior. The exterior is composed entirely of charros. The inner structure revolves around a female figure, the Nana (a man dressed as a women, with a female mask), who is surrounded by young female dancers (doncellas) and male dancers in simpler suits known as vasarios.

This mask was danced by its maker from 2017 until 2020. The cape was hand sewn in 2015 and rented out by the Taller Silver Star to be danced in the Carnival of Papalotla until 2020.



A brief documentary about Carnival in the state of Tlaxcala, Mexico.

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TITLE: Moor (Devil) Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Veracruz
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Moro (Moor) Mask in the form of a Diablo (Devil)
MAKER: Rafael Mesa Oliva (1978- , Naolinco de Victoria)
CEREMONY: Fiesta de San Mateo (Danza de los Pilatos)
AGE: 2022
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; lacquer; plastic; silicon glue; string

The Danza de los Pilatos, also called La Danza de los Moros y Cristianos (Dance of the Moors and Christians), is an important celebration in the Mexican state of Veracruz. The dance reenacts the reconquest Spain from the Saracens by the European Christians. The dance arose from the teachings of missionaries as part of an effort to instill respect for and fear of the Spaniards in the indigenous peoples, and to convince them that the victory of Christianity over other faiths—by violence whenever necessary—was inevitable.

The dance is still performed widely in Mexico, including in Mexico State, Michoacán, Puebla, and Veracruz. Characters vary depending on locality, although they always include “Christians” or “Spaniards” and Moors. In Naolinco, Veracruz, the dance is performed on the holiday of the town patron saint, St. Matthew (Fiesta de San Mateo), celebrated on Sept. 20-21 every year.  There, Moors take many forms, including devils, pirates, clowns, or, as here, skeletons. This mask represents a Moor in the form of a devil chewing on a sinner. It was carved by the master craftsman, Rafael Mesa Oliva.

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


A brief video with highlights of the Danza de los Moros y Cristianos from Naolinco’s 2018 Fiesta de San Mateo.

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TITLE: Moor (Calavera) Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Veracruz
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Moro (Moor) Mask in the form of a Calavera con Serpientes (Skull with Snakes)
MAKER: Rafael Mesa Oliva (1978- , Naolinco de Victoria)
CEREMONY: Fiesta de San Mateo (Danza de los Pilatos)
AGE: 2022
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; lacquer; plastic; silicon glue; string

The Danza de los Pilatos, also called La Danza de los Moros y Cristianos (Dance of the Moors and Christians), is an important celebration in the Mexican state of Veracruz. The dance reenacts the reconquest Spain from the Saracens by the European Christians. The dance arose from the teachings of missionaries as part of an effort to instill respect for and fear of the Spaniards in the indigenous peoples, and to convince them that the victory of Christianity over other faiths—by violence whenever necessary—was inevitable.

The dance is still performed widely in Mexico, including in Mexico State, Michoacán, Puebla, and Veracruz. Characters vary depending on locality, although they always include “Christians” or “Spaniards” and Moors. In Naolinco, Veracruz, the dance is performed on the holiday of the town patron saint, St. Matthew (Fiesta de San Mateo), celebrated on Sept. 20-21 every year.  There, Moors take many forms, including devils, pirates, clowns, or, as here, skeletons. This mask represents a Moor in the form of a skeleton (calavera), with frightful decorations on its face. It was carved by the master craftsman, Rafael Mesa Oliva.

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


A brief video with highlights of the Danza de los Moros y Cristianos from Naolinco’s 2018 Fiesta de San Mateo.

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