TITLE: Lechón Mask and Costume
TYPE: face mask; costume; accessory
COUNTRY: Dominican Republic
SUBREGION: Santiago de los Caballeros
ETHNICITY: Afro-Latino
DESCRIPTION: Flores-type Lechón Carnival Mask and Costume with Whip
MAKER (Mask and Costume): José “Chevy” Luís Almanzar (Santo Domingo, 1981- )
MAKER (Whip): Fernando Mattheo (Cabral, unknown date of birth)
CEREMONY: Carnival; Dominican Independence Day
AGE: 2022
MAIN MATERIAL (Mask): paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS (Mask): yucca sap; colored paper; silicone adhesive; paint; clear spray enamel; foam rubber; elastic straps; metal snaps
COSTUME MATERIALS: synthetic fabric; stitching; silicone adhesive; metal zipper; Velcro®; plastic rhinestones; mirrors; synthetic fabric and rubber shoes; synthetic gloves
WHIP MATERIALS: wood handle; braided and dyed cayuga fiber

During the Carnival of the Dominican Republic, which actually falls on the Dominican Independence Day rather than the Catholic Mardi Gras, paraders don elaborate masks and costumes to represent devils, monsters, clowns, and other characters.  Different towns have different traditional masks.  In Santiago de los Caballeros, a very large parade involving hundreds of masked marchers takes place every year, prominently featuring characters known as the lechón, or “piglet.”  Notwithstanding their name, they nearly always look like a cross between a duck and a bull. The lechón comes in various forms. The traditional mask is the pepinera, with smooth horns or horns covered in spikes. Other masks include jolla masks, whose horns are covered in spikes; flores masks covered in flowers; and fantasía masks, which can take almost any form. This mask is a flores-type mask.

Lechones carry rope whips and inflated bladders on a rope (formerly goat bladders, but today mostly rubber) that they use to strike audience members, preferably young women, on the buttocks.  The ritual thereby serves the dual function of providing a release for young male testosterone and reminding the audience of the torments awaiting in Hell.


TITLE: Boruca King Vulture Warrior
TYPE: face mask; accessory
COUNTRY: Costa Rica
SUBREGION: Reserva Rey Curré, Puntarenas
DESCRIPTION: Warrior Mask with a Rey Zopilote (King Vulture)
MAKER: José Emilio Granda Obanda (Boruca, 1985- )
CEREMONY: Cagrúv Rójc (Fiesta de los Diablitos)
AGE: 2022
MAIN MATERIAL: balsa wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint; metal hardware; rubber straps

The Boruca people mostly inhabit two reservations in the Puntarenas Province of Costa Rica. Technically, many persons classified as Boruca are members of neighboring indigenous peoples, such as the Coto and Quepo people, who have banded with the Boruca to preserve their traditions and relative independence. Their best known holiday is the Fiesta de los Diablitos (Festival of the Little Devils), properly called Cagrúv Rójc in the Boruca langauge, and held from December 30th to January 2nd each year. The ceremony represents a major community event and a retelling of the Spanish conquest of the Boruca people (represented by masked forest spirits known as diablos, but actually representing indigenous warriors).  All masqueraders are men. The diablos begin parading in the morning at the direction of an elder devil, el Diablo Mayor, representing the glory of the Boruca culture before the conquest.  On January 1st, a masquerader in a toro (bull) mask enters the festivities to represent the invading Spanish. The toro chases the diablos about the village. Although the diablos resist, the toro ultimately knocks down all the diablos, representing the Spanish victory.  Afterward, the diablos return to life, sending the toro into hiding while they hunt him with the help of a masquerader posing as a dog. Ultimately they find, capture, and symbolically burn the toro, signifying the end of the festival. The toro mask is not burned, but saved for the subsequent year’s ritual.

This mask, representing the diablo as a king vulture (rey zopilote), was used by the maker in the 2022 festival for 15 days.

Click above to watch a short documentary film about the Cagrúv Rócj ceremony of Boruca, Costa Rica.


TITLE: Toreada Devil (Cyclops) Mask
TYPE: face mask; accessory
SUBREGION: San Luís Potosí
DESCRIPTION: Devil mask in the form of a cyclops
MAKER: Carlos Victor Larrage Gómez (1969- , Tanlajás)
CEREMONY: Toreada de los Diablos (Holy Week)
AGE: 2022
MAIN MATERIAL: pemoches wood (Erythrina americana)
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint

The Toreada de los Diablos (Bullfight of the Devils) of Tanlajás, San Luís Potosí, is a ritual performed that has been performed by the male inhabitants of the town during the Semana Santa (Holy Week) since at least the 1880s in its modern incarnation. The diablos wear a variety of Xantolo-type masks that, although they are supposed to represent “devils,” may also appear as skulls, monkeys, clowns, old men or women, or in any other form of (preferably ugly) character. The idea underlying the diversity of appearances is that the Devil, personification of evil, can take any form, and so a Christian must be constantly on guard. Historically, the devils policed the church to ensure nobody was drinking or otherwise violating social rules. During the ritual today, the devils attempt to whip the legs of the “toreador” (bullfighter) with rawhide whips called chirriones. The toreador defends himself with a short stick (about 60 cm) and his own agility. The stick here is made from wood of the Brazilian orchid tree (Bauhinia forficata). The toreador tries constantly to approach the devil to reduce the force of the whip and to tap the devil’s face with his stick. In the past, the ritual was even more violent, with the toreador attempting to break the mask with his stick, until he succeeded or was disabled by whip wounds. The purpose of breaking the mask was twofold, both to punish the devil and to reveal who was wearing the mask (with the result that the other devils would rally around him to hide his identity). Today, the stick blow to the mask is only symbolic, but the wounds sustained by the toreador in the course of the ritual are quite real and often severe. They are intended for the participant to share in Jesus’s suffering. In consequence, there is much beer drinking among them to help dull the pain.

On Easter Sunday, the final day of the Toreada, all the devils parade around the village with the Mono (monkey) astride a donkey. The Mono is not a monkey at all, but an anthropomorphic figure dressed as a devil (with mask, boots, a jumpsuit, overalls, boots, hat, and a whip), filled with gunpowder, fireworks, and sawdust. The devils parade with the monkey to announce the culmination of the Toreada in the evening. The Mono is symbolically hung before the final Toreada performance, and the devils read a “will” that was prepared beforehand with satiric, humorous content, poking fun of the pecadillos of the villagers. The Mono is then burned to signal the end of the ritual, with explosions and rockets, to symbolize the triumph of good over evil.

It is possible that the Toreada de los Diablos is a syncretic tradition coopted by the Catholic church, which may have begun as a war ritual of the Tenek people as they prepared to defend themselves against the neighboring Nahua. The imperialistic Catholic missionaries, as they often did in the New World, re-formulated the tradition into the mold of the Catholic world view, which simplifies the universe into a Manichean struggle of good (the toreadores) versus evil (the diablos).

Click above to watch a short documentary about the Toreada de los Diablos of Tanlajás, Mexico.


TITLE: Danzante Mask and Tambourine
TYPE: face mask; accessory
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.


TITLE: Cuchillo Mask and Hat
TYPE: face mask; accessory
DESCRIPTION: Cuchillo (Knife) Mask with Hat
MAKER: Isaac Salóm (Huejotzingo, Puebla, 1949-2021)
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.


TITLE: Guaimíe Cucuá Devil Mask (Child’s)
TYPE: face mask with pañoleta; costume; whip
ETHNICITY: Guaimíe (Ngobe-Buglé)
DESCRIPTION: Cucuá Devil Mask and Costume for Child
MAKER: María José Rodríguez (San Miguel Centro, 1955- ); Gabriel Morán (San Miguel Centro, 1966- ); Julio Ovalle (San Miguel Centro, 1990- )
CEREMONY: Danza de los Diablos (Dance of the Devils)
FUNCTION: Celebration; Entertainment
AGE: 2018
MAIN MATERIAL (mask): tapa cloth from white Cucuá tree bark
OTHER MATERIALS (mask): tapa cloth from red Cucuá tree bark; Vejuco Verde stick frame; Pita palm string; wild boar jaw; white-tailed deer antlers; vegetable dyes
MAIN MATERIAL (costume): tapa cloth from white Cucuá tree bark
OTHER MATERIALS (costume): Pita palm string; vegetable dyes; cacique seed buttons, leather sandals; cacique wood stick with leather strap; mounted on a balsa wood figure with vegetable dyes and hardware

The Guaimíe (today called Ngobe-Buglé) people inhabit the north-central region of Panama.  Although they have largely become mixed in race and ethnicity, those living in the Coclé region have recently revived their traditional dance, today known as the Danza de los Diablos (Dance of the Devils). The dance actually is a form of worship of traditional animist gods; the reference to “devils” was bestowed by Catholic missionaries, who equated all indigenous religions in Latin America as “devil worship.”

The dance is held every March and is performed in large groups of both adults and children, to the music of violin, drum, rattle, and guitar. Dancers wear full suits made of cloth made from pounded bark of the Cucuá tree, decorated with symbols and a triangular motif that represents the scales of the snake-god formerly worshiped by the indigenous people.  They carry a whip made of a sturdy cacique wood pole and leather straps, and as they dance they shout out invocations of the nature spirit they represent.  The masks and costumes are made entirely from natural materials found locally.  Even the paints are made from vegetable dyes, with guaymi leaves providing the red tint, turmeric the yellow, mucuna vine seeds (“deer-eye beans”) the black, and chile pepper leaves the green.  Buttons are made from seeds from the cacique tree.

This mask and full costume were made for a child dancer. A Guaimíe wood carver created the life-sized model for the Museum’s display.

Click above to watch a short documentary film about the Cucuá devils of Panama.


TITLE: King of the Moors Mask
TYPE: face mask; accessory
DESCRIPTION: Rey de Moros (King of the Moors) Mask
MAKER: Lino Mora Rivera, Naolinco (1956- )
CEREMONY: Fiesta de San Mateo (Danza de los Pilatos)
AGE: 2017
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint

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. The mask represents the King of the Moors, who wears a leather crown and leads the Moors into battle carrying a wooden sword and small shield. It was carved by the master craftsman, Lino Mora Rivera.

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.


TITLE: Indian Warrior Mask
TYPE: face mask; accessory
DESCRIPTION: Indian Warrior (Indio) Mask
MAKER: Unknown maker in Huejotzingo
CEREMONY: Carnival (Battle of Puebla)
AGE: ca. 1940s (repainted in 2015)
OTHER MATERIALS: wire; goat leather and fur; string; paint

The Carnival in Huejotzingo, Puebla is both impressive and unique. In its modern incarnation, it has continued a tradition of mock battles since 1869 or earlier. The Carnival begins with a parade, dancing, music, and fireworks and continues with reenactments of putative historical events. The first is the kidnapping of the daughter of Huejotzingo’s corregidor (mayor) by the bandit Augustín Lorenzo, followed by their wedding. The second is a reenactment of the first marriage of Nahuas by Catholic rituals.

The third and most elaborate reenacts the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862 between French and Mexican armed forces. Participants of the four principal neighborhoods of the city are divided into five battalions, each headed by a general.  Over four days, these battalions participate in mock battles, firing wooden muskets with real gunpowder at each other, and visit the cemeteries to pay homage to former members. Some participants are women dressed and masked as men. The five battalions represent various factions in both sides of the conflict.

The Zapadores represent the Mexican nobility who are the imperial guard of Maximilian I or Agustín de Iturbide. They wear clothes mixing Mexican and European elements, with a tall cylindrical hat (penacho) and a large, wide beard. On their side are the Zacapoaxtlas and Indios Serranos. The Zacapoaxtlas represent Mexican cowboys (charros) who fought with General Zaragoza. Their masks have two blond beards, a Mariachi sombrero, and an elaborate costume with a black cape and tones of the Mexican flag (red, white and green). The Indios Serranos represent the indigenous warriors and wear a mask with a long, light-colored beard and a wide palm-leaf hat with a Virgin Mary and elaborate decorations. Their costume includes a water gourd, a leather satchel, and a plant fiber backpack that holds their food (mostly chile peppers).

The Franceses (sometimes called Zuoavos, from the French word Zouaves) wear a blue, fez-like cap (gorro) and a mask with two blond beards like the Zacapoaxtla, with the small difference that the Frances mask is painted slightly lighter in color. They wear a blue cape with both the French and Mexican flags on it and sometimes carry a baguette. Their allies, the Turcos (Turks) represent mercenaries (probably in reality Egyptian) whom the Pueblans associated with Islam and, therefore, hostility to Catholic Mexico. The Turcos wear a turban and a mask with a black, pointed beard.  Their costume includes silk clothes, peacock feathers, and scimitars. All participants on both sides carry mock muskets.

This mask was danced for approximately 80 years by the family of Alejandro Ramírez of Huejotzingo. It was repainted at the family’s request by local caretero José Ciro Pérez in 2015.

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).


TITLE: Vellarón Mask & Costume
TYPE: helmet mask; costume; accessory
DESCRIPTION: Vellarón (Old Man) Mask and Costume with Zamarra (Whip)
MAKER (MASK): Adelino Martínez (Riós, 1964- )
MAKER (COSTUME): Jaime Pérez Rodríguez (Riós, d.o.b. unknown)
CEREMONY: Entroido (Carnival)
AGE: 2010
OTHER MATERIALS (MASK): paper maché; paper; metal wire; synthetic ribbons; polyester beard; adhesive; paint
COSTUME MATERIALS: polyester cloth and ribbons; leather belt; brass bells; brass hardware; synthetic leather leggings
ACCESSORY MATERIALS: wood; paint; leather straps; cotton wadding; burlap; metal hardware

The Entroido (Carnival) of Spain’s Galicia province has a tremendous diversity of celebration styles that vary from town to town. In the region of Riós, the celebration begins with a parade of brightly dressed vellaróns, who travel around towns such as Castrelo de Cima and neighboring villages, requesting food or money for the Carnival feast. They may accompany other characters, such as A Madama, an elegant lady, O Farrangón, a man in old rags, or even costumed dogs.

The vellarón mask and costume are ancient in origin, but they were lost around 1977, only to be recovered in 2007 and restored to use. In the Galician dialect, a vellarón is an old man, as the mask and costume suggest.

This mask and costume were graciously donated to the Museum by the Township of Riós in 2018.


TITLE: Peliqueiro
TYPE: face mask; accessory
DESCRIPTION: Peliqueiro (Hairdresser) Mask
MAKER: Mask: Francisco “Paco” Diéguez (Matamá, Laza, 1950- ); Painting: Olalla Diéguez Boo (Matamá, Laza, 1980- )
CEREMONY: Entroido (Carnival)
AGE: 2018
MAIN MATERIAL (mask): wood; aluminum sheet
OTHER MATERIALS (mask): leather; oil-based paint; dyed cotton yarn; waxed thread; foam rubber; rabbit pelt; synthetic fur; denim; hardware; horsehair
MATERIALS (whip): wood; leather

The Entroido (Carnival) of Spain’s Galicia province has a tremendous diversity of celebration styles that vary from town to town. In the region of Laza, main characters are very similar to the Cigarrones of the nearby, larger town of Verín. These characters, called Peliqueiros (hairdressers), wear fancy and intricate costumes of velvet jackets, tasseled short pants, laced hose, an embroidered scarf (pañoleta), and a belt with large brass or copper cowbells (chocas). The mask is made of wood, padded with leather and lined with rabbit fur. Attached to the top is a metal screen in the shape of a bishop’s miter (mitra), painted with a totemic animal or scene, decorated with tassels (pondones) and lined in the back with leather, animal fur, and hair from a horse’s tail. Like the Cigarrón, the Peliqueiro carries a leather whip (zamarra) with a long, carved wood handle to lash any member of the crowd who fails to move out of the way of the parade, or sometimes anyone who does not show sufficient respect to the Peliqueiros. Although Entroido in Laza includes crowds of celebrants throwing rags soaked in clay mud (Farropada) at each other, or shaking branches full of stinging ants onto each other during the Morena, the Cigarrón is considered untouchable and must be avoided and treated with respect throughout the Entroido.