Recently there have been a number of Juanegro style masks offered on EBay™, but most of them strike me as decorative or reproduction masks. I was pleasantly surprised to find one Juanegro mask that did seem traditional and authentic. It looks to be by the same hand as a number of Juanegros from Tantoyuca or Tepecintca, Veracruz in my collection that were originally collected there by Jaled Muyaes and Estela Ogazón, probably in the 1970s. Here is the recent arrival.
This mask of Juanegro, the African foreman who challenges the Caucasian Hacienda Owner for the hand of a female of the household, is only slightly different in design details from several other Juanegros masks in my collection.
In the last month or so a number of interesting masks were offered for sale on EBay™, and I saw some that I could not resist. One of these was another Moro Chino mask from Guerrero. I had shown two of those in my post of May 14, 2018.
There I had referred you to an excellent series of photos of Moros Chinos masks in Changing Faces: Mexican Masks in Transition (1985, edited by Lori Jacobson and Donald E. Fritz). The new arrival from EBay is identical in design to one of those masks (plate 5 on page 23) and almost exactly the same size. They are in the style used in Mochitlán, Guerrero, and surely by the same hand.
Then, as I was sorting out other masks from the Moros y Cristianos dance, I discovered four more of this style that I had forgotten that I had. So this week I have five more Moro Chino style masks to show you, beginning with the one from EBay.
This mask, like many, is a little crooked. The eyebrows and mustache elements are not only rectangular in shape, but also they are additionally stylized, with vertical grooves (a feature favored in Mochitlán).
Today we will look at two pairs of masks from San Bartolo Coyotepec, Oaxaca—masks of Kings and Queens. These were danced in Los Jardineros, a local variant of the Moros y Cristianos dance drama. There is a dance photo taken by Ruth Lechuga in 1977, along with another pair of these masks, in Barbara Mauldin’s book—Masks of Mexico: Tigers, Devils, and the Dance of Life (page 65). There is another dance photo on the cover of Danzas y Bailes Populares: Arte Mexicano, authored by Electra L. Mompradé and Tonatiúh Guttiérrez and published by Editorial Hermes (Barcelona, 1976). On p. 126 those authors explain that there is a Christian King and Queen, a Moorish King and Queen, and their respective courts. In Mexican Masks, Donald Cordry also described these Jardineros masks (pp. 120-123, Plates 169 and 170). He illustrates that stilt dancers in Santa María Roala, Oaxaca wear similar masks, but with straw hats rather than crowns (Plate 137, page 97). Cordry translated Jardineros as “gardeners,” but it is probably more accurate to recall the persistent importance of the Jardin (or Zocolo) as the elegant town square in Mexican cities such as Cuidad Oaxaca, where prominent citizens would promenade in the evening, to see and be seen. The Jardineros portray those who occupy royal gardens. In the present era, musicians play in the evening for those in the Zocolo as couples still promenade.
Here is a Youtube™ video of a children’s performance of the Jardineros from San Bartolo Coyotepec, Oaxaca.
I obtained these Jardineros masks from the Gary Collison estate in 2008. Gary had gotten them from Bob Ibold. They were made from cloth that was pressed into shape over molds. Then the masks were coated with beeswax in order to make them more durable, and they were fitted with metal grommets for the secure attachment of cords or straps. The first pair were coated heavily with wax, front and back, while the second pair has no more than a light wax coating on the face, but the same heavy reinforcement of the back. I don’t have an explanation for this variation. Here is one of the heavily waxed masks, with a male face to portray a King.
The heavy wax coating gives the mask a smooth appearance.
After digging through my collection of masks, I am nearly finished with those from the Moros y Cristianos dance and related dances. In this post I bring together a variety of unusual but interesting masks from these dances, which did not fit so neatly with others from their respective states. Almost all of them are special gems in terms of artistry and rarity, but no two are alike.
The first, a gift from Robin and Barbara Cleaver in 1988, was reportedly a Moro mask from the Mexican State of Puebla. Moors with green faces are uncommon in Mexico. In my view, as you may recall from my posts about Xantolo masks from Hidalgo and Veracruz, masks with unrealistic colors such as yellow, blue and green, are frequently worn by dancers who depict the bodies or souls of the dead.
One could suppose that this mask might represent a Moor or Santiaguero that has been recycled for some other dance such as Xantolos or Carnaval (Mardi Gras).
I have long admired the jolly mouth on this mask.
Today we will look at three white faced masks from the Moros y Cristianos and related Santiagueros performances in Puebla. Evidently these represented Christians or Spaniards (Pilatos).
I purchased the first of these from Spencer Throckmorton, in Manhatten, in 1996. This dramatic mask had previously been in the collection of Raoul Kampfer, a well known Mexican mid-20th century antiquarian and collector. It was said to be a Moro, but I suppose that it was a Pilato (Spaniard) from the Santiagueros dance, and it could easily have been one of the leaders, such as Pilate himself or the Emperor Tiberius.
This mask seems more like a caricature than a portrait. Spencer had commissioned a metal stand, which remains.
Last week I began with a Moro mask from the Mexican State of Puebla that had a black face, followed by other Moros y Cristianos masks that were not black, and apparently depicted Christian figures. All four had similar features. One of those was apparently worn by a Christian figure in a variant of the Danza de Moros y Cristianos, called “El Misterio de los Negros.” The black-faced mask was not explicitly identified with that dance, although it could easily have been used with the other one. In the course of my writing about these masks, I realized that I owned a group of three Black Moor masks from neighboring states that also appeared to have been used in El Misterio de los Negros. None of these are from Puebla, but from Veracruz, Guerrero, and the State of Mexico. I must confess that my information about the existence of this dance drama is limited. The first of today’s masks is specifically labeled on the back as being from this dance, and Jaled Muyaes told me of others, although he said nothing about this dance in his published writings about masks.
I bought this one in 2008 from the estate of my friend, Gary Collison. Although the tag said it was from Guerrero, this is the mask with writing on the back that identifies it as a mask from El Mysterio de los Negros, Veracruz. It is a handsome elegant mask.
The face has a very simple design.
Today I will present four Moro masks from the State of Puebla that share similar features, as if all were by the same hand or from the same local tradition.
I don’t believe that I have ever shown you the first of these. I did show you the second in my post of September 15, 2014, along with the third mask, and I featured the fourth in my post of May 18, 2015. The point of today’s post is to put the four side by side. Unfortunately I still do not know the name of the carver(s).
I purchased the first from John Kania and Joe Ferrin of Santa Fe, in 1996. It was said to be from Chichiquila, Puebla. A nearly identical mask in the Museo National de la Máscara:Catálogo (p. 80) is said to be from San Pablito, Municipio Pahuatlán, Puebla.
As we have already seen in earlier posts, sometimes Moors are depicted with black faces—”Blackamoors.” The literal meaning of Blackamoor is “Black African,” but this word would appear to reflect the confusion experienced by Europeans from their early contacts with Africa and its peoples. In contrast, two weeks ago I showed characters from the “Negritos” dance who all had Caucasian faces. As I have repeatedly noted, a common reason for such confusing labels in Mexican dance dramas is that Mexican Indian dancers seldom portray themselves, instead they generally disguise themselves as others; from this place of anonymity and obfuscation the dancers feel free to address otherwise dangerous or forbidden social commentary.
Last week we looked at what were essentially Santiagueros masks from Puebla, and today I have some Moro style masks from the Mexican state of Puebla to show you, all from somewhere in the Moros y Cristianos/Santiagueros/ Conquista spectrum. They are old, attractive, well-carved, and red-faced.
I bought the first of these from René Bustamante in 1995. It was said to be a “Moro for la danza de la Conquista in Petlaya, Puebla.” I have not been able to locate Petlaya. Furthermore, I don’t believe that there are Moors in the Conquest dance. So what is it? The Santiagueros dance is very popular in Puebla, and the Santiaguero dancers in Puebla usually wear red masks, so maybe this is a Santiaguero. On the other hand, if this mask is from the Conquest dance, and with such a fancy haircut, maybe it is a Spaniard, but it is certainly not an Indian. Confusing choices! I like it because the hair is so stylized.
There is a tiny recessed mouth.
Today we will look at a trio of masks from a variant of the Santiagueros dance, which in some areas of Puebla has the local name of La Danza de Negros. It would seem in this case that the Negros dancers do NOT represent Afro-mestizos or Black people, but rather “dark ones.” In this instance, the Santiagueros have golden beards and the Negros have dark beards, analogous to the white hat/black duality that was once common in American Westerns. Probably the bad guys represent the Spanish conquerors. As I labored to clarify my understanding of these three masks, I was pleased and surprised to recognize that two of them were apparently by the same hand and all three were possibly from the same dance, although I had purchased them as unrelated. They came with limited information, and then a very recent YouTube™ video had revealed identical or similar masks performing in modern and well documented dances (see link that follows the first photo of the female mask). Here is the first mask, which I purchased from Robin and Barbara Cleaver in June of 1988. It was described then as a Santiaguero mask from the Santiagueros dance in Agua de la Mina, in the municipio of Guadalupe Victoria, Puebla. Agua de la Mina is about 25 miles to the northwest of Chichiquila, Puebla, which will serve today as a central reference point.
This Santiaguero is a beautiful old mask with worn paint.
Here is a YouTube™ video of the Danza de Negros in Agua de la Mina, municipio de Saltillo la Fragua, Puebla. It turns out that this is the same Agua de la Mina, but apparently the county seat (municipio) has changed since the time the mask was collected. This (optional) video is poorly focused, so that one cannot see that the dancers are not wearing masks, while another imperfect video (shot sideways) reveals that the dancers wear kerchiefs over their faces in lieu of masks. I offer the blurry one to document their costumes, which are those of Santiagueros in this area of Puebla, and to establish that this dance is still performed in Agua de la Mina, with kerchiefs for masks.
A video from El Carmen in the municipio of Chilcotla, Puebla is in sharp focus and reveals the “Danza de Negritos” in that town, also with kerchiefs instead of masks. El Carmen is about 10 miles south of Agua de la Mina. Masks may have gone out of fashion in Agua de la Mina, although later we will observe that they are still in fashion a little further south in Chichiquila, and that the masks there look just like those in today’s post.
In Changing Faces: Mexican Masks in Transition, an important reference from 1985 that was edited by Lori Jacobson and Donald E. Fritz, I saw my first Moros Chinos (Chinese Moors or Curly Headed Moors) masks on pages 21-24 (plates 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7). There was great variety among these six masks, but just one of them (#4) was seen by the editors and their panel of experts as possibly decorative: the rest appeared to be authentic. There was also a dance photo with two Moros Chinos dancers wearing such masks in Mochitlán, Guerrero, on page 10. I was immediately fascinated by these masks, because some had eyebrows, mustaches, and beards that were rectangular in shape, as if geometric or cubist. I had obtained the book in the fall of 1987 and I immediately spotted certain masks, such as the Moros Chinos, that I hoped to find someday. In fact it took me 10 years to even find one of this type that I liked.
Here is a good dance photo from Mochitlán, Guerrero. I didn’t find a corresponding video.
I purchased this rather diminutive Moro Chino mask from Jaled Muyaes and Estela Ogazón in July of 1997. The town of origin was not documented. The six masks in the Changing Faces book were all about 8 to 10 inches tall and about 5 or 6 inches wide while this one is just 6¾ inches in height, 5¼ inches wide, and 3½ inches in overall depth, as if it was made to be worn by a child. In sharp contrast to these dimensions, there are two Moros Chinos masks in Donald Cordry’s book (page 37, plate 42) that are 38 cm tall (about 15 inches). I have always regarded those as decorative, not only because of the size, but also because they don’t even appear to have vision openings that would allow the wearer to see.
This is a classic Moros Chinos mask in the geometric style, and it is obviously old and worn. I really like this mask!