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.”

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

Tlacololero Masks With Exaggerated Noses, Like Those Of Ehecatl

Today we will again begin with two masks of similar appearance. What these two have in common is a dramatically oversized nose, reminiscent of pre-Columbian images of Tlaloc or Ehecatl, the god of wind and rain, who was often depicted with a large bird’s beak in place of his mouth. Each also has a small blowing mouth. A third mask may be another example of this type, although a broken nose has made this less obvious. A fourth mask of similar layout in terms of the eyes and vision openings is distinguished by oversized ears and a remarkable mouth, not obviously blowing  but wrinkled instead; it reminds me of the rueful expression often depicted on a well-known cartoon figure, Charlie Brown™.

As I noted in an earlier post, scholars have suggested a connection between the Tlacololeros performance and other regional jaguar hunting dances with long standing regional indigenous beliefs and ceremonial practices about the weather. Briefly, these dances seem to reflect a tradition of petitioning for rain. If you are fluent in Spanish, then you may read more about this in a recent book by Rosalba Diaz Vázquez—El ritual de la lluvia en la tierra se los hombres-tigre [The Rain Petitioning Ceremony in the Region of Jaguar-Men], published by Conaculta in 2003.

I obtained the first of these from Robin and Barbara Cleaver in 1987. The rim at the top is recessed to support a sheepskin wig, but this was long gone when I bought the mask.

Continue Reading

Tlacololero Masks With Blowing Mouths

Today we will look at an unusual pair of Tlacololero masks that have blowing mouths—mouths shaped like funnels. Then we will examine another wonderful mask that is only somewhat similar. Next week we will see other Tlacololero masks that have smaller blowing mouths, but along with prominent noses that remind one of the those oversized bird’s beaks on Mesoamerican carved images of Tlaloc, the god of wind and rain. It is possible that all of these “wind” masks are related to weather shamanism. Here is the first one with a blowing mouth. I bought this mask from Robin and Barbara Cleaver in June of 1988, when they held a remarkable show and sale in their Santa Fe gallery—Folklorico. It came with a limited provenance, a Tlacololero from the Mexican state of Guerrero.

There is no mistaking the blowing expression of this mask.

Continue Reading

Rastreros And Another Red Faced Tlacololero

In recent weeks I have shared typical older masks from the Tlacaloleros dance; I imagine that they date to the 1960s or 70s. Today I will introduce other Tlacololero masks that are more unusual in their designs or styles, although they may have been commonly used in the past. I will present these treasured examples in small groups, to savor them. In my experience, masks like the first two are said to be “Rastreros” (trackers). These two have faces that are painted red and black. The third, which would have been worn by some other dance character, has a vivid red face.

I purchased the first of these Rastreros from Spencer Throckmorton of New York City in 1995.

The hair is attached to the face with some kind of glue.

Continue Reading

Los Tlacololeros II

Last week I introduced Tlaololero masks that are typical of this dance, and this week I will show a few more of those.

On page 243 of his book—Mexican Masks—Donald Cordy included a typical Tlacololero mask that had been collected in Ayutla, Guerrero. It was 29 cm. tall (about 11 inches). On page 103 of that book Cordry shared a photo that was taken in 1972 of Ruperto Abrahán, a maskmaker in Tixtla, with two Tlacololero masks in this style that he had carved, and on page 101 there is a photo of carver Cruz Teodoro (Guerrero, 1931) with another of these. In the Agenda 1998 datebook that was published by Estela Ogazón we find a stained rather than painted example from Chichihualco that measured just over 13 inches in height.

On the other hand, on page 173 Cordry also included photos of six Tlacololero masks from Almolonga, Guerrero that he described as more finely carved and in his opinion older. These masks are remarkable in appearance because their faces are divided into zones that are painted in contrasting colors. Also they are larger than expected—about 14 or 15 inches tall. Jaled Muyaes told me that he regarded those masks as decorative and inauthentic (see posts of August 2014—

Here is a mask in this style that I purchased from Jaled Muyaes and Estela Ogazón in 2001. Like most of the masks in today’s post, this one came with little provenance, just the name of the dance and the state of Guerrero. However the style of painting, with the three red lines over the nose and flanking the eyes, suggests that this is a mask from Tixtla, and probably from one of the Abrahán family of carvers. This one is 12 inches tall.

This mask was carefully carved but with a simple design.

Continue Reading

Los Tlacololeros

In the Mexican state of Guerrero, there is a dance drama—los Tlacololeros—in which a group of farmers hunt a dangerous jaguar. Such dances are apparently ancient. We find an area of jaguar hunting performances along the Costa Chica, the “little coast” where Guerrero and Oaxaca meet the Pacific ocean, and extending to Chiapas and Guatemala. These dances occur in a series of contiguous Native American cultures, such as the Nahua, the Amuzgos, the Mixtecs, and a variety of Mayan cultures. The Tlacololeros dance survives in an area known as the Tlapaneca, which was traditionally occupied by the Tlapanec Indians. According to Danzas y bailes traditionales del estado de Guerrero (Mexico, 2005, pages 66-84), this dance presently persists in the following towns—Chilpancingo, Chichihuaco, Tixtla, Apango, Mochitlán, Zumpango, Tecoanapa, Ayutla, Zitlala, Chilapa, and others. You may already be aware of the considerable variation in mask styles between these many towns, and Tlacalolero masks, large and small, will illustrate this. Over the next few weeks I will show you some real beauties. Some nearby towns dance the Tecuanes dance instead; there is considerable overlap in terms of mask designs.

Here is a YouTube™video from Petaquillas, Guerrero, a town that is in the municipio of Chilpancingo; the two towns are just 6 miles apart. Some of the Tlacololeros have black human faced masks while others have red, white, or gray faces along with a standardized costume. There is a magnificent Tigre(jaguar) and a dog that looks like a very mean wolf. The human faced dancers portray a number of roles such as farmer-hunters and a Rastrero, or “tracker.”

In this next video, from Chichihualco, all of the masks are black. I include this one to share the accompanying text, which is interesting in its explanation that this dance appears to be a surviving form of an ancient supplication for rain.

Now here are some Tigre masks from these towns to get us started. I originally showed you these in October, 2014. The Tlacololeros pretend to hunt such jaguars. The first, carved from wood, is in the style of Tixtla.

Continue Reading

La Danza del Torito in Guanajuato

In recent weeks I presented Feo masks from Paso Ancho, Michoacán whose wearers spar with bulls. Then I introduced you to what is probably a similar dance in Charo, Michoacán. The Torito dances of Guanajuato are perhaps the most dramatic example of this genre of dances in which a bull interacts with provocatively behaving actors (Feos). In today’s post I will show some older masks from this Guanajuato version, even including a body mask worn by the Torito dancer.

Here is a Youtube ™ video of the Torito dance in San Juan de los Lagos that was performed by a dance group from Silao, Michoacán. This is a balanced performance, featuring excellent music combined with highly coordinated dancing. It is a pleasure to watch.

One of the characters in the dance is the wife of the Hacendado (the hacienda owner). She can be called Maringuía or La Bonita. In this instance (in the Silao video), she is apparently the relatively dignified female wearing a long white skirt. I have in my collection an older Maringuía mask that I purchased, along with a Hacendado mask, from Robin and Barbara Cleaver in 1989. This pair had originally been collected by Jaled Muyaes and Estela Ogazón in the 1960s or 70s. Here they are—El Hacendado and La Bonita from the Romita/Silao area of Guanajuato. Later I will show them in greater detail.

I feel like digressing briefly about my admired friends, Robin and Barbara Cleaver, who bought and sold ethnographic material from Mexico and Guatemala, kept some things for a time that they greatly liked, and then they would sell even these treasures for reasonable prices to raise money for other projects. When I occasionally had the opportunity to buy such material, I felt truly blessed. Such was the case when I purchased the Hacendado and La Bonita masks. Barbara had such admiration and fondness for the artistry of this pair that she had given them a special name- “the Picassos.” They have been on my bedroom wall for the last 28 years, because I like them too

Continue Reading

Perro Masks From Cuanajo, Michoacan

Today, in my continuing series of posts about dance masks from the Mexican state of Michoacán, I will present Perro (dog) masks from Cuanajo, a Purépecha town near Patzcuaro, Michoacán. In that town there was a local tradition in the mid-20th century of dancers wearing dog masks during Carnaval (Mardi Gras). This was apparently a custom that later died out, because contemporary YouTube™ videos of Carnaval there don’t seem to reveal any dancers portraying dogs. In her book, Tigers, Devils, and the Dance of Life: Masks of Mexico (1999, page 88), Barbara Mauldin included a photo of two of these Perro masks from Cuanajo that date to about 1965. I will show you three more from my collection.

I purchased this mask and the next from Robin and Barbara Cleaver, of Santa Fe, in 1987. Indeed, these were among my very first Mexican masks.

A distinctive design aspect of the Cuanajo dogs is their ears. These three also have virtually the same dimensions.

Continue Reading

More Feos from the Toritos Dance

In last week’s post I showed a group of Feo masks from a Toritos dance in Paso Ancho, Michoacán, including one with an outrageously oversized nose that I purchased in 1987. I included a recent video of Paso Ancho Feos misbehaving, to demonstrate that one of those dancers wore a mask with just such a nose. Today I will show three more masks from Paso Ancho with oversized phallic noses—a trio of Feos. I consider these masks to be fabulous, so I was overjoyed to be able to buy them from Kelly Mechling (in New Orleans), back in 1994. He had obtained them from Jaled Muyaes and Estela Ogazón. Jaled actually had a photo hanging in his living room that was taken by some famous photographer, which showed him (Jaled) looking at one of these phallic masks that was displayed on a wall.

Then I will follow with two clown masks from nearby Charo, Michoacán that were used in a similar dance in that town—El Viejo y El Toro (the Old Man and the Bull). Estela Ogazón had included a photo of such a Viejo mask in her book, Máscaras (1981, plate 34), and documented the name of the dance. Although one does find contemporary videos on YouTube™ of elaborate straw mat bulls in Charo, one does not find videos that show these latter masks in current use. They are apparently no longer in fashion.

Here is the first of the trio of phallic Feos.

The nose has the form of a snake.

Continue Reading