A New Era For The Mexican Dance Masks Blog

Last week I shared images of a Fariseo mask from Queretero. With that post, I completed my review of the masks and related material in my collection. After a little more than five years of weekly posts, I have almost no more material to introduce you to.

As it happens, I recently bought another Rio Mayo mask that is worth sharing today.

After this post I will only have more to tell about Mexican masks if I buy another, or if you send in your questions, comments, or photos, so I welcome any correspondence like that. In the absence of such new material (provided by either you or me), I will maintain this page as a Mexican Dance Masks information resource center, an encyclopedia of sorts.

Here is my latest  arrival.

I bought this mask on the basis of a frontal photo like the one just above. I was most impressed by the triangular tubular mouth, which reminded me of mid-century Yaqui masks I had seen, and so I thought this was probably a Yaqui Pascola mask. To my surprise, when I held the mask in my hands I realized that this was a mask from the Rio Mayo area. It has the typical shape of masks from that region. Of course I wondered who might have carved this mask.

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The Rescue of an Omitted Mask

On March 2, 2015, I discussed masks used during Semana Santa (Holy Week) in the Mexican States of Guanajuato, Jalisco, and Queretero. There I explained that  the characters who threaten Christ in these passion plays can go by a number of different names, including Fariseos, Judios, Judas dancers, Centurions, Robenos (Romans), and Soldados. In Queretero they are called Fariseos. Here is the link to that blog entry.

https://mexicandancemasks.com/?p=2398

Years later I realized that I had overlooked a remarkable Fariseo mask from San Bartolomé Aguas Calientes (or San Bartolo de los Baños), Queretero, a small town near the Queretero/Ganajuato border  (in this case, baños refers to natural hot springs—baths). I will feature the omitted mask in this week’s post. I bought this one from Jaled Muyaes and Estela Ogazón in August, 2007; I believe that it was probably made in the 1970s and that they collected it in the 1980s. In the United States, we would call this a ghoul mask. I will remind you again, given the extreme drama of this mask, that the wearers of the Fariseo masks are devout Christians. who portray grotesque evil doers to dramatize Christ’s triumphal ascent.

On a scale for grotesque and repulsive, this mask is over the top. For example, one eyeball is dangling from its socket.

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Mayo Drums

Some of the Fariseos (or Pariseros) in Sonora and Sinaloa carry drums, and these are often decorated. Sometimes the drums carry Christian images, but at other times there are cartoon or even erotic images instead. This practice is in sharp contrast to the drums of the Yaqui Pascolas and Chapayecas, which are usually undecorated. In 1988 there was a show—Behind The Mask In Mexico—that was held at the International Museum of Folklore in Santa Fe, New Mexico, before going on to other sites. A book of the same name mirrored the show in many aspects, and this was edited by Janet Esser. In the show, but not in the book, there was a Mayo Judio drum with a risque image of a female, which interested me because it seemed related to the emerging trend of Sinaloa Judios portraying themselves as women. Although an image of that drum did not appear in the book, Ross Crumrine did mention such a drum in his essay in the book—”Ritual Mediation of the Life-Death Opposition: The Meaning of Mayo Parisero Lenten Masks”—describing a drum with “a nude pin-up girl wearing high heels  (p.86).” I hasten to add that such an image would be abnormal, even offensive, within normal Mayo experience, but tolerated as an expression of otherness by the Fariseos or Judios.

In my collection I have two decorated Mayo drums, and these will be the focus of today’s post. I’ll start with the most impressive example, which was made by Rolando Castillo of La Colonia Union in Sonora, so this is a Rio Mayo drum. Tom Kolaz had collected it from a Judio (or Parisero) in April, 2011, and I obtained it from Tom a year later. It is 14½ inches in diameter and 3 inches in thickness.

“He shall reign FOREVER (Handel’s Messiah).” This drum reminds us that the men who portray the evil deeds of the Judios are devout Christians who serve in this performance role in order to glorify God. Crumrine states, “The image of Christ crucified is the patron saint or supernatural guardian of the parisero sodality  (p 86).”

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Sinaloa Judios Masks III

Today we will examine three Sinaloa Judio masks that demonstrate the evolution of these masks to ones that have larger wooden faces than the traditional masks and with more graphic and dramatic features. Large mask-like faces have replaced the much smaller face plates that were an earlier innovation, sixty years ago. When my friend Tom Kolaz first sent me photos of this mask in 2007,  I felt very skeptical about the whole concept, and I suspected that Sinaloa Mayo performers were importing masks from other states in Mexico to enhance their Judio masks. At that time there were not yet YouTube™ videos available of these dances. But then Tom sent me a photo of a Mayo man who claimed to be the carver, and he was holding this mask before it had been combined with a fur cowl to form a Judio mask. That carver’s name was Cesar Velasquez. He sold the mask to Tom after it had been danced, and I purchased it in September 2008.

This mask appears to represent an American Plains Indian, perhaps an Apache. In the recently available YouTube™ videos included in my last two posts, you may have noticed that such Apache type Judio masks have become popular during Semana Santa performances, along with many other formerly unusual types such as Diablos.

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Sinaloa Judios Masks II

Today we will examine three Judio masks that were collected by a Tucson tourist/collector at the conclusion of the Easter 1995 fiesta in Jahaura, Sinaloa,  a Mayo village that is about 10 miles east of the Rio Fuerte,   I obtained them 10 years later.

The first  of these masks is another that seems transitional (like the final mask in last week’s post), a face plate mask that has the vision slits of a traditional Mexican mask, rather than the screen covered vision openings that are more traditional, but yet another example of the female face plate masks that we saw in last week’s post; we have them to compare to this one.

This would seem to be a Caucasian face.

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Judios Used During Semana Santa in Sinaloa

During Semana Santa (Holy week, the week ending on Easter Sunday), the Yoeme (Yaqui), Yoreme (Mayo), and Cora Indians perform dance dramas that depict the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ. In Sinaloa Mayo towns, there are masked Judios who portray “Soldiers of Rome;” in such portrayals, they persecute Jesus and then repent after his resurrection. The Yaquis believe that the masks of these dance figures collect the evil that has accumulated in the village over the past year, and so their masks are most definitely burned on Holy Saturday to dissipate this evil. The Mayo Indians usually burn these masks, but sometimes they sell them to collectors instead, and the Cora performers routinely sell their masks to attending collectors. Traditionally the Mayo Judio masks were made entirely of goat-skin, but by the 1960s  the Mayo Indians of Sinaloa had begun to construct their Judio masks with wooden face plates that are attached to goatskin cowls. James Griffith wrote about this innovation in a KIVA article—”Mochicahui Judio Masks: A Type of Mayo Fariseo Mask From Northern Sinaloa, Mexico” (Kiva, Vol. 32, No. 4, April 1967, pp. 143-149).  Here is one of those face plates. I bought this one and the next from Jaled Muyaes and Estela Ogazon of Mexico City, in 2001.

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Two Anonymous Sinaloa Pascola Masks

In 2007 I bought two Pascola masks from Sinaloa that lacked an identified carver, and they did not seem to have been carved by the same hand. I believe that both have been danced.

The first one is a Goat Pascola mask. The face was left unpainted, the features were painted black (with a red mouth), and a rim design was added with a transparent coating, a strange innovation in my experience. The brown area on the forehead  appears to be a natural stain in the wood.

As you may recall, Goat Pascola masks are very commonly used in Sinaloa; goats may be the favorite mask style. I certainly find them charming, and on this mask I particularly like how the mouth and muzzle have been integrated by the paint.

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Three Sinaloan Masks with Tags

This week I am grouping masks by three different Sinaloa carvers, all of which came to me with some identifying information.

I bought the first of these in about 1994, another mask from my friend, Tom Kolaz. I immediately dubbed this Dog faced mask “Snoopy,”™ after the famous George Schulz cartoon character. It was originally collected in the field by Barney Burns and Mahina Drees. Their notation on the back of the mask indicates that the carver was Anacleto Garcia Valenzuela, apparently from San Blas, Sinaloa. I have never seen another mask that was carved by Anacleto, but I have long enjoyed having this mask on my wall.

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Tirso Buitimea

In October 2007 I purchased a pair of Pascola masks from Tom Kolaz, who stated that they had actually been danced together. The carver was Tirso Buitimea, of Capomos, Sinaloa. In contrast to the masks in the last two posts, these are neither basic nor raw in design, but rather they are inventive and sophisticated.

This one was said to represent the face of a bat. In the absence of this information, I would have thought it had the face of a dog.

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