Recently I purchased a green Bull Diablo from Guanajuato on EBay™. This was an unusual mask, because the former owner had “permanently attached” a brass pipe to the back of the mask with glue, for the purpose of suspending it from an oak board, apparently because the back edge seemed too fragile to hang it from the old strap mounting holes. He died, his wife was moving to another house, and she was uncertain how to deal with this mask. She offered it for sale with the pipe, the oak board, and a plastic case included. Although it was encumbered by the pipe et al, nevertheless I liked the color and the snakes, so I bought it, hoping that I could manage this problem. Here is the mask.
In the 1990s a Texas couple purchased some Mexican masks from René Bustamante. René had a Mexican mask store back then in Santa Fe, New Mexico that was named Zitlala. Now the couple are reducing their collection, and they have asked me to show masks that they would like to sell. I agreed, with the understanding that I would describe the masks carefully and honestly. If you are interested in buying any of these masks, then you are invited to contact Chris Hedrick, to pursue this interest. His email address is
I am announcing the availability of these masks, but I am leaving all of the transactional details to you and the seller. I am not an expert re current mask values and prices, although I have a warped view from my observation of undervaluation and bargain hunting on the Internet, so I would prefer to not comment on the price or value of these masks. On the other hand, I will share my concerns regarding authenticity, when this is relevant.
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.
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.
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.
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).”
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.
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.
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.
Today I have just four more Pascola masks from Sinaloa to show you. Three of them have prominent teeth. The first of these appears to be worn, and most of the hair has been lost. I bought this mask from Tom Kolaz in 2007, It lacked provenance.
I doubt that this mask was ever painted.
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.