TITLE: Moor (Jaguar Warrior) Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Veracruz
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Moro (Moor) Mask in the form of an Ocelotecuintli (Jaguar Warrior)
MAKER: Rafael Mesa Oliva (1978- , Naolinco de Victoria)
CEREMONY: Fiesta de San Mateo (Danza de los Pilatos)
AGE: 2018
MAIN MATERIAL: equimite wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; lacquer

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 skeletons. Although most characters are evil, others, such as Apaches (representing indigenous Americans), are portrayed as Moors because indigenous peoples opposed the Catholic invasion of Mexico. This mask represents an Aztec ocelotecuintli, or jaguar warrior.

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: Moor (Calavera) Mask
MAKER: Lino Mora Rivera, Naolinco (1956- )
CEREMONY: Fiesta de San Mateo (Danza de los Pilatos)
AGE: 1983
MAIN MATERIAL: equimite wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; lacquer; 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). It was carved by the master craftsman, Lino Mora Rivera and was danced between 1983 and 2018 by the family of Ramón Martínez of Naolinco.

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 (Apache) Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Veracruz
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Moor Mask in the form of an Apache Warrior
MAKER: Lino Mora Rivera, Naolinco (1956- )
CEREMONY: Fiesta de San Mateo (Danza de los Pilatos)
AGE: 2017
MAIN MATERIAL: equimite wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; earrings; wild turkey feathers; 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 skeletons. This mask represents a Moor in the form of an Apache Indian. Although Moors are usually portrayed as evil in Naolinco, some, such as this Apache warrior, are represented as Moors to reflect their opposition to the Catholic Spanish invasion of Mexico. 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.

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TITLE: King of the Moors Mask
TYPE: face mask; accessory
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Veracruz
ETHNICITY: Nahua
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
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
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.

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TITLE: Clown Mask (Child’s)
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Veracruz
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Child’s Mask of a Payasita (Female Clown) or Novia (Girlfriend)
MAKER: Rafael Mesa Oliva (1978- , Naolinco de Victoria)
CEREMONY: Carnival; Fiesta de San Mateo (Danza de los Pilatos)
AGE: 2013
MAIN MATERIAL: equimite wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; string

The novia or girlfriend and payasita (little female clown) are popular Carnival characters in Mexico, almost always danced by a man wearing a female clown costume or some other feminine attire. In Naolinco, Veracruz, she may also be danced in the Danza de los Pilatos, also called La Danza de los Moros y Cristianos (Dance of the Moors and Christians), which 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 skeletons. Some of the characters are not obviously evil, such as Apaches (representing indigenous Americans) or this payasita, but they are portrayed as Moors nonetheless. This specific mask is slightly smaller than the adult size and was danced by older children.

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: Rooster Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Hidalgo and Veracruz
ETHNICITY: Otomí
DESCRIPTION: Gallo (Rooster) Mask
MAKER: Ciriaco González (?), Carpinteros
CEREMONY: Carnival
AGE: 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

The village of Carpinteros is technically in the Mexican state of Hidalgo, but the town has spread into neighboring Veracruz.  It is inhabited by both mestizos and the indigenous Otomí people.  During Carnival, villagers dance a variety of masks with few limitations, including clowns, devils, viejos (old men), and animals of every kind.

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TITLE: Viejo Mask
TYPE: mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Hidalgo and Veracruz
ETHNICITY: Otomí
DESCRIPTION: Viejo (Old Man) Mask
MAKER: Ciriaco González, Carpinteros
CEREMONY: Carnival; Danza de la Conquista
AGE: 1993
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: paint

The village of Carpinteros is technically in the Mexican state of Hidalgo, but the town has spread into neighboring Veracruz.  It is inhabited by both mestizos and the indigenous Otomí people.  Like other areas of Mexico, Carpinteros has a tradition of dancing viejo masks representing old men during Carnival and other celebrations. This mask would also be used to represent a Spaniard in the Danza de la Conquista (Dance of the Conquest), portraying the Spanish reconquest of Spain from the Moors.

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TITLE: Moor Mask
TYPE: face mask; accessory
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Veracruz
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Moro (Moor) Mask
MAKER: Antonio Vázquez Tepo (Xico, 1933-2017)
CEREMONY: Danza de los Moros y Cristianos
AGE: 2016
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint

The Danza de los Moros y Cristianos (Dance of the Moors and Christians), also known as the Danza de la Conquista, 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. This mask represents a Moor and is made in the style common in the region of Xalapa and Coatepec.

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TITLE: Tourist Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Veracruz
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Tourist (Turista) Mask
MAKER: Antonio Vázquez Tepo (Xico, 1933-2017)
CEREMONY: Carnival; Santo Entierro de Cristo
AGE: 2016
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint

Santo Entierro de Cristo (“Sacred Burial of Christ”) is an important festival in parts of Veracruz, particularly in the region of Teocelo, and is celebrated on the last Sunday in January. During the festival, clowns wearing red-nosed masks, animals, devils, and other characters dance to drum and trumpet music along a parade route, clicking castanets, and accompanying an image of the burial of Jesus of Nazareth. The route proceeds from the local church to a large floral arch dubbed El Calvario, where mass is held. The procession is accompanied by drums and trumpets. Sometimes other masked characters, such as animals, tourists, and cartoon characters accompany the parade.  Such masks are also worn at other celebrations, most prominently Carnival and the Asunción (“Assumption,” referring to Jesus’ mother Mary passing into Heaven), held on August 15th.

This mask pokes good-natured fun at tourists who visit Teocelo to watch the celebration.

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TITLE: Pilato Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
COUNTRY: Mexico
SUBREGION: Veracruz
ETHNICITY: Nahua
DESCRIPTION: Pilato (Moor) Mask
MAKER: Lino Mora Rivera, Naolinco (1956- )
CEREMONY: Fiesta de San Mateo (Danza de los Pilatos)
AGE: 2013
MAIN MATERIAL: equimite wood
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; 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 his original form but no longer popular, with a human face. It was carved by the master craftsman, Lino Mora Rivera and used by him and his family for several years.  The scratches result from blows by wooden swords, inflicted by the santiagos during mock battles between the Christians and Moors.

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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