Moro Masks From the State of Mexico V

Today I will continue to present Moro masks from the State of Mexico. We will look at four different examples, all variations on a traditional generic design. The first of these has an articulated jaw, while the other three lack this feature.

I purchased the first mask from René Bustamante in 1994.  Its town was not identified, but it was from the State of Mexico. A very similar Moro mask from the collection of the International Folklore Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is illustrated in Barbara Mauldin’s  valuable book—Tigers, Devils, and the Dance of Life: Masks of Mexico (p. 70). That old  mask, which had been obtained from the Cordry collection, was said to date to the early 20th century, from an undocumented town in the State of Mexico. I would think that this one is from the middle of the 20th century.

I particularly like the cross-hatching of the beard below the articulated jaw.

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Moro Masks From the State of Mexico IV

Today we will continue to look at Moro masks from the State of Mexico, two with red faces while the third has a flesh colored complexion. I bought this first one from René Bustamante in 1994. It was said to be a Moro Pasion mask from Tlatepec, in the State of Mexico, but I could not find such a place, except for an imposing mountain of that name. Maybe it is actually from Santiago Tlacotepec? It reminds me of red Moro masks from Guerrero.

This is a wonderful mask. I particularly like the figure eight shaped mouth (or beaked mouth), which suggests the emotion of terror. This is another example of the observation that Moor masks are sometimes depicted with expressions of fear, as if they view their Christian opponents as particularly powerful. After all, the Moros y Cristianos Dance was brought to the new world as an educational device, to assist the missionaries as they preached the power of the Christian God.

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Moro Masks from the State of Mexico III

Two weeks ago I began a series of posts about Moro masks from the State of Mexico with a pair from the 1970s. To my surprise and pleasure, current Youtube™ videos demonstrated the persistence of those masks  in contemporary fiestas, complete with their lunar headdresses. However, in last week’s blog I showed a trio of mid-century Moor masks of a design that had apparently been eclipsed by more modern and elaborate models. Earlier local mask designs seem to have had two possible fates—either they persisted and became more popular due to their strengths or they contributed traits and details in varying degrees towards a patchwork regional design. The lunar headdresses, for example, seem to have spread widely to other towns and inspired other novel headdresses. Today I will show another group of older Moro masks that are probably no longer in popular use. These three do not look at all alike, except that they all have white faces, and I have added on another white mask that is certainly rare, a Calavera (skull) mask that was also found in the Estado de Mexico.

The first Moro, which I purchased from Robin and Barbara Cleaver in 1988, came with its original tin crown. Instead of an ordinary articulated jaw it had something far more interesting—an articulated goatee. It was found in Amatepac, Municipio of Tempilco, State of Mexico, and it was said to represent the Roman emperor Tiberio in the Moors and Christians dance. There is a nearly identical mask illustrated in Mauldin’s book, Tigers, Devils, and the Dance of life (1999, page 71); the Museum of International Folklore had bought that mask from René Bustamante, and it was said to have been collected in San Pablo de las Salinas, also in the State of Mexico.

In Amatepec videos, the Moro dancers have pink faced masks and some wear gigantic lunar headdresses. I did see one white mask that appeared to resemble our first mask, except that it had a beard made from animal hair instead of an articulated wooden goatee (at 3:45). I did not find a relevant video from Salinas.

Here is the Emperor Tiberius/ Tiberio, with his tin crown. He would have been one of the Moorish leaders in the dance.

Here also is his flapping goatee.

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More Masks of Moros (Moors)from the State of Mexico

Last week I began a series of posts about Moro masks from the State of Mexico, the state that surrounds Mexico City. I had a pair of masks from about 1970, and miraculously, I found a Youtube™ video demonstrating that such masks were still in use in their traditional setting, nearly 50 years later. Today we will examine other Moro masks from that era.

Today’s trio of Moro masks all appear to be by the same hand. They are of three different sizes and the middle sized one seems less worn, while the other two could easily date to the 1940s. Despite their differences in size, they confirm one another as representatives of a type. I bought all three from René Bustamante, two, in August of 1993, which were found in Atlacomulco, and the third, from Agua Fria, in April of 1994. Such masks do not appear in recent video performances from either town. I discovered a fourth example in this style in a valuable reference book—Museo Nacional de la Máscara: Catálogo— a catalogue of the masks in the collection of Victor Moya Rubio (no date, page 108, plate 371). This near duplicate was said to be from San Pedro del Limón, State of Mexico. That town is about 150 miles south of Atlacomulco; these masks really travel! A Youtube video of the Moros y Cristianos of Limón in 2015 shows a variety of Moro dancers, some withe Lunar headdresses, some with conical headdresses, and others with crowns. Their masks are larger than today’s trio, with very large noses.

And here is yet another example of this type, from Pinterest™.

Here is the largest, complete with a helmet made of galvanized tin that René Bustamante supplied as appropriate for this mask; I believe that the mask was collected without any headdress.

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Masks of Moros (Moors)from the State of Mexico

La Danza de Los Moros y Cristianos (the Moors and Christians dance) is popular in Mexico, having been introduced there by the Spanish shortly after their conquest of this region. There is a variation of this dance drama that is called La Danza de Los Santiagueros, and it can sometimes be difficult to tell them apart. The introduction of the Moors and Christians dance by the missionaries was clearly meant to impress the Indians of New Spain with the power of the Spanish conquerors, which was said to be based on their close relationship with the Christian God. In my view, the Indians of Mexico subtly transformed the Moors and Christians dance and the Santiagueros dance to serve their rather different purpose, which was apparently to covertly appeal to God for rescue from the Spanish, who abused them. I wrote about this in detail in my book—Mexican Masks and Puppets: Master Carvers of the Sierra de Puebla. Briefly, in the Indian version of these dances the Moors (the “bad” guys) secretly represent the Spanish, the Christians secretly represent the Indians, and a third group pretend to be allied with the Moors but are secretly allied with the Indians. I tell you this because in a video that follows the first photo, there is evidence of such an arrangement in San Pablo Tejalpa,

In el Estado de Mexico (the State of Mexico, the state with Mexico City at its center), the Christians are often led by a Santiago figure wearing a wooden horse or part of one at waist level, similar to what we find in the Santiagueros dance. A notable difference is that the Santiaguero  dancers often wear masks, while their Christian counterparts often wear costumes without masks. Santiago himself seldom wears a mask in either dance.

Today we will begin with Moro masks used in the Moros y Cristianos dance from San Pablo Tejalpa, a town in the Municipio of Zumpahuacán, in el Estado de Mexico. There is a good dance photo of these dancers in Moya Rubio’s book, Máscaras: la otra cara de méxico/ Masks: The Other Face of Mexico, third (bilingual) edition (1986, p. 105) and another of the mask and headdress worn by the Moro dancers, this one with an articulated jaw (p.106). That author took those undated photos in San Felipe Tejalpa, which is evidently a very small town near San Pablo; I can’t find it on a map. However in the text (p.121), Moya Rubio stated that these masks were from San Pablo Tejalpa.

I bought this first mask and headdress from René Bustamante in 1994. It was said to be from San Augustin, Estado de Mexico, but I believe it was actually made in San Pablo Tejalpa. It probably dates to the 1970s.

The “lunar” headdress, made of paper mache over a reed frame, is a symbolic representation of the new moon, a Moorish image.

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Catrin Masks From Tlaxcala, Mexico

In Donald Cordry’s book—Mexican Masks (1980, page 26, figure 29)—we see nine Carnival masks from the Mexican State of Tlaxcala, three of leather, while the other six were finely carved from wood. The dance figure who wears such a mask is often referred to as a Catrin, a word that means  “dandy.” The wearer(s) can also be called a Paragüero (umbrella holder) or a Cuadrilla (gang or crew). Under such names the wearers of these masks dance during Carnaval.

Three of the wooden masks in Figure 29 had eyelids that could be opened or shut by the dancer pulling a string. On page 104, plate 147 of Cordry’s book, we find a photo of Carlos Reyes Acoltzi, of Tlatempan, Tlaxcala, with two of his sons, taken in 1971. The caption for that image states that Carlos was a santero, a carver of saints, and a mascarero as well (mask carver). Carlos had carved four of the wooden masks shown in figure 29, including the three with mechanical eyelids.

The religious orders in Mexico, such as the Dominicans, the Augustinians, and the Jesuits, trained Indians in their congregations to be the artisans and craftsmen. Thus Indians were taught to create the wooden statues portraying God, Angels, Devils, and the European Christian saints for display in their churches. It was natural for these santeros to become the makers of dance masks used in religious fiestas, and for those carvers to create masks with the beautiful faces of the saints or the dreadful faces of the Diablos. This practice continues to the present day, and I provided several examples of Santeros who were also mask makers in my book—Mexican Masks and Puppets: Master Carvers of the Sierra de Puebla.

Today we will look at six of these beautiful Catrin masks. I will begin with a pair that appeared in my post of August 18, 2014, to illustrate the level of quality of the traditional masks in Cordry’s book (in contrast to other masks there that were invented, falsely labeled, and therefor “decorative”). I had purchased these masks from Robin and Barbara Cleaver in 2000. They believed that the two were carved in the 1930s or 1940s, and that their doll’s eye movements had been imported from Germany in the 1930s.

These Catrin masks have the beautiful faces of saints. The paint on the face of this mask is obviously worn. If the string that hangs under the beard is pulled, then the eyelids will close.

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Chivo Masks From Guerrero

In The Eye of the Sun:Mexican fiestas, published in 1997, there is a nice photo of masked dancers performing the Danza de los Chivos (goats) in Zitlala, Guerrero. Such photos are otherwise uncommon in mask books, but increasingly available on the Internet. Today I will show two Chivo masks. Each is unusual for having horns painted or carved in relief on the mask plus a long sisal headress with an attached pair of goat horns—two sets of horns.

A YouTube™ video of Chivos from Quechultenango, a town near Tixtla and Mochitlán, reveals a variety of characters, including Chivos with horned headdresses but also Diablas or Diablitas (female devils) wearing the same headdresses with horns (see discussion of Diablas in my post of December 4, 2017). So, dances which I had regarded as centering on Diablas are at least sometimes actually named for the Chivos, who may be Diablos called by another name?

Here is another video, apparently also from Quechultenago. Several of these dancers are wearing Chivo masks with horns along with a sisal headdress with a second set of horns.

This third link is from Zitlala. These Chivos have prominent horns on their headdresses while they lack representations of horns on their masks.

Here is the first of these mask/headdress combinations. (231). I bought this mask from John Kania and Joe Ferrin of Santa Fe in 1994. It was said to be from Tlapehuala, Guerrero.

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Pescador Masks From Guerrero

In the area of Guerrero that lies along the Pacific coast we find the Danza de los Pescadores (fisherman). Today I will show five Pescador masks from my collection.

The first of these illustrates some common features of these masks. They are usually painted black, and their faces have what appear to be bloody wounds. There is usually a cigarette hanging from one corner of the mouth. I bought this mask from Jaled Muyaes and Estela Ogazón in 1998. My mask collector friend John Levin observes that most Pescador masks have painted rather than carved wounds.

Pescador masks don’t commonly bear an image of a skull and crossbones. In this case that design was painted before some of the bloodstains, so it may be an original feature. Then again, there seem to be earlier layers of paint under the surface layer, betrayed by flashes of turquoise or green.

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Tlacololero or Pescador Mask?

Just when I thought that I had shown you all of my Tlacololero masks from Guerrero, I found one that could be another Tlacololero or possibly a Pescador. It seems important to show you this one, as it is the only Tlacololero-style mask in my collection that still has its sheepskin wig. In my post of January 8, 2018, I had shown three Tlacololero masks that had formerly had sheepskin wigs, but these wigs were destroyed by moths. I have been kicking myself for not at least measuring those ruined pieces of hide so that replacements could be made in the future, and here is one that I can actually measure.

I bought this mask from Kelly Mecheling, of New Orleans, in 1995. It was simply labeled  as a “Negrito.”

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Tlacololero Masks With Unusually Shaped Noses

Once again this week I will examine a pair of Tlacololero masks with unusual, but somewhat related designs; they blend nose and mustache elements in an unexpected manner. I call these noses “geometric,” for want of a better term. Probably the best label for the first of these masks would be “surreal.” In a search of the Internet I found only one photo of another mask like the first. That one was said to be from Tixtla, Guerrero.

I purchased this first mask from René Bustamante in 1994. He reported that it was found in la Palmita, Guerrero, a place that is very small, and far away from the area where Tlacaloleros usually dance. I obtained the second mask in the same year from the Cavin-Morris gallery in New York City; it was said to be a Tlacololero from Zitlala, Guerrero. Here is the first.

Obviously this is a rather primitive mask, with its relief carved nose that twists around to one side as if it becomes a one-sided mustache. The paint is also unusual, with multicolored spots. The carving of this mask is somewhat crude. However, the overall design is powerful and striking, and reminds me of images of god impersonators in the Codex documents, such as Codex Nutall. So, although this is a very unusual mask, it continues a theme from recent weeks, of god imagery.

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