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.
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.
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.
In 2010 I purchased 14 masks from Tom Kolaz, 7 by Guadalupe Vadon Ochoa, which we saw last week, and 7 more by “Art G” (Aturo Garcia Gariola), which I will show you today. Both carvers worked in Sinaloa, but the later masks of Guadalupe are plain and utilitarian in their design, while those of Arturo are alarmingly vivid, as you will see, actually shocking when viewed within the Sinaloa Mayo context that we have been surveying. They are also more elaborately carved.
These masks were probably collected directly from the artist by Barney Burns and Mahina Drees in September of 1990, which was 20 years before I bought them from Tom. It was his impression that Arturo and Guadalupe had long since died. The masks by Arturo are mildly soiled on their backs, as if there might have been limited ceremonial use, but all have monofilament hanging lines, which don’t seem appropriate for dance use. Most of the hair bundles were destroyed by insects after the masks were collected by Barney and Mahina.
I was initially put off by the garish nature of this group of masks. Then, when I made the effort to focus on them, one by one and from various angles, I was surprised to discover how much I liked them. I will begin with one of the most vivid masks, although you may well have other nominations for this title.
Last week I displayed some masks by Guadalupe Vadon Ochoa. Today we will examine a few more.
At some time after I had received last week’s masks, I purchased others that seem less refined. I don’t know the reason for this change in his style. It could be that last week’s masks were carved to an individual dancer’s order while this week’s were made for sale, and perhaps to a lower price point.
I do not recall anything about the first of these. Maybe I found it on Ebay™? I believe that this mask represents a monkey. It is slightly more carefully carved than the group of documented masks that follow, so it might seem like a bridge between last week’s masks and these others.
One is impressed by the simplicity of this functional design.
In 1994 I purchased a trio of Sinaloa Pascola masks from my friend Tom Kolaz. They had been collected together, but none had an identified carver. Two had the faces of goats, and the third, with a feline face, was said to represent a Leon (Mountain Lion). Looking at them now, I believe that the Lion and one of the Goats were carved by Guadalupe Vadon Ochoa, this week’s featured carver, while the third was the work of another highly familiar hand, that of Pablo Pacheco. I was very pleased to obtain these three then anonymous masks, not only because masks from Sinaloa are not commonly available on the market, but also because the Mountain Lion is an unusual subject for a Pascola mask, and the goat by Guadalupe is particularly charming. The Mountain Lion does explicitly appear in Yaqui Deer songs and is then portrayed in dance performance by Yaqui Pascola dancers. I assume that mountain lions also appear in Mayo Pascola dancing, although I have not found a specific reference for this in the Mayo dance literature. In the Unites States we call the Mountain Lion by various additional names—such as Cougar, Panther, Puma, and Catamount.
Here is the Mountain Lion Pascola mask.
The ears on this mask are very similar in style to the horns on an identified mask that appears later in this post.
In 1989, Barney Burns and Mahina Drees collected approximately 20 Mayo Pascola masks that had been carved by Francisco “Poncho” Acacia Estrella, who was living at la Divisa, a small town in the Municipio of El Fuerte in Sinaloa. I have no evidence that they bought any other masks by this carver, either in earlier years or later. At any rate, when I photographed their collection in 2016, they still had 16 of Francisco’s masks that they had collected in 1989. All of those masks had been danced. Evidently Tom Kolaz had earlier purchased two of the masks from this group, for when he sold them to me in 1998, those masks still had tags and labels that had been written by Mahina in 1989. In 2001 I bought a third mask by Pancho from the shop at the Arizona State Museum, and it too had a tag and notations in Mahina’s hand. All three of my masks had been danced. Today I will show my trio by this carver, and then I will throw in five more from those that remained in the collection of Barney and Mahina in 2016. Hopefully there are a few more masks by this carver in other hands.
This is one of the pair that I purchased from Tom Kolaz in 1998. It appears to be a Perro (dog) mask. Poncho’s animal Pascola masks are mysterious, as the labels do not identify the animal represented, and one is left to speculate—dog, pig, or mystery animal?
In the collection of Barney Burns and Mahina Drees there are two Sinaloa Mayo masks that are said to have been carved by Justiano Bacasequa. I have no masks by that carver in my collection, but I do like the classic Rio Fuerte style of this pair.
Here is the first mask by Justiniano. The date of collection was not recorded. We do know that it was danced for 14 years, and at the time of collection Justiniano was 70 years old.