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.

:

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.

:

TITLE: Catrín (Huehue) Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Tlaxcala
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Catrín (Dandy) or Huehue (Elder) Mask
MAKER: Unknown
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: 1960s-1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; glass eyes; cattle hair eyelashes; metal hardware; cotton string

Carnival in Tlaxcala, Mexico has traditions quite different from those in other parts of the country.  The men dress in formal suits, gloves, and top hats, with extremely realistic and handsome Caucasian-type masks, and in some towns carry umbrellas through the streets as parasols.  The catrín, or dandy, is a figure of ridicule dating back to colonization, when elaborately dressed Spaniards flaunted their wealth to the oppressed indigenous peoples. When wearing a beard, they are sometimes called huehues, meaning “village elders.” The catrín is the indigenous revenge, possible because the masks and costumes made it difficult to identify the culprits.  Frequently the masks have gold teeth and beauty marks, like this one, and include an ingenious spring mechanism attached to a string, which allows the masquerader to blink the dandy’s eyes by pulling on the string.  Glass eyes were imported into Tlaxcala for mask-making around 1960. They may dance with men dressed as girls, real girls, or together in a parade format.

This catrín may also have served as a huehue del torito, one of several bullfighters who wear the outfit of a cowboy (charro) and mock battle a leather or paper maché bull fitted with fireworks and carried on the “bull’s” shoulders. Recently, the tradition of wearing such masks has given way to the wearing of mass-produced lucha libre (Mexican wrestler) masks in San Miguel Tenancingo and elsewhere.

Hand-made masks of this age were delicately carved and hand-painted by master craftsmen in multiple layers.  Today’s masks are airbrushed and rarely include mechanical eyelids.



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

:

TITLE: Catrín Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Tlaxcala
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Catrín (Dandy) Mask
MAKER: Pedro Amador Reyes Juárez (1939-1999, Tlatempán, Tlaxcala)
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: 1960s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; glass eyes; cattle hair eyelashes; gold foil; metal hardware; cotton string; leather straps

Carnival in Tlaxcala, Mexico has traditions quite different from those in other parts of the country.  In the city of Tlaxcala, men dress in formal suits, gloves, and top hats, with extremely realistic and handsome Spanish-type masks, and in some towns carry umbrellas through the streets as parasols.  The catrín, or dandy, is a figure of ridicule dating back to colonization, when elaborately dressed Spaniards flaunted their wealth to the oppressed indigenous peoples. The catrín is the indigenous revenge, possible because the masks and costumes made it difficult to identify the culprits.  Frequently the masks have gold teeth and beauty marks, like this one, and include an ingenious spring mechanism attached to a string, which allows the masquerader to blink the dandy’s eyes by pulling on the string.  The masks of Tlaxcala are some of the only known mechnical masks in Latin America. Glass eyes were imported into Tlaxcala for mask-making around 1960.

In the past, the catrínes paired up with dancers known as nanas, who were male dancers dressed as elegant Spanish ladies and wearing a delicately-carved female mask.

Masks of this type are frequently delicately carved and hand-painted by master craftsmen in multiple layers.



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

: