Last week we examined two sets of highly traditional Juanegro or Cuanegros masks, along with two unusual masks that might have been worn by the Viejo and the Malinche. Today I will show three more pairs of masks. As you will see, these demonstrate modest variations from the traditional style. All three sets have the “box” form; these masks are unusually deep.
What you may notice already is that this mask has the usual features, but they are carved in low relief, such that the edges almost disappear after several coats of paint. These masks came from Tantoyuca, Veracruz.
According to the brief description that was provided by Jaled Muyaes and Estela Ogazón in Máscaras (1981, pages 90 and 92), the Danza de Juanegro (or Cuanegros) was derived from an earlier, precontact dance, Coatl Negro (Black Snake). In the Juanegro dance, Pañol (el Español, the Spaniard) or el Patrón (the hacienda owner) competes with Juan Negro, his black foreman, for the love of a woman. She flirts with each of them. The point of the dance is that the although the Spaniard should inevitably win such a power struggle, things don’t always turn out as one might expect. In Tigers, Devils, and the Dance of Life: Masks of Mexico (1999, pages 30 and 32), Barbara Mauldin reports that the desired female avoids marrying the Spaniard, waits for Juanegro to be emancipated, and then elopes with him. She also notes that this dancer usually wears a kerchief over her face in lieu of a more formal mask. Here is a traditional mask of Juan Negro.
I bought this Juan Negro mask, paired with a very similar mask of Pañol, in 1987, at the insistence of my friend, Barbara Cleaver. She underscored the remarkable patina, despite the reality that these masks were only danced during one fiesta each year—Todos Santos (All Souls or the Day of the Dead).
This is the last in a series of ten posts about dance masks from Guatemala; this week I will show some terrific Diablo masks. Next week I will return to Mexico with an assortment of Juanegro masks from the Mexican state of Veracruz.
According to Brown and Rossilli (2008 Volume 1, Pages 551 and 552), Diablos appear in dances in several areas of Guatemala, and these dances exhibit considerable variety. Those authors showed many attractive and interesting Diablo masks. I have four Diablo masks from Guatemala in my collection, and I also have photos of some excellent additional masks from private collections, so I will present a representative sample.
Robin and Barbara Cleaver sold me this mask in 1995; it had previously been in the personal collection of Spencer Throckmorton. This is another of those “Moro” masks, much like the old red one in an earlier post, but this one has been converted to a Diablo by the addition of goat horns. This is one of my favorite Guatemalan masks. This style of Diablo mask is found in Totonicapán.
Like the red Moro and and the Pedro Portocarrero masks, this one has no mustache or beard. As previously noted, such masks can represent male or female figures, but this one does have a male hairline. It is finely carved.
This week I will discuss Xacalcojes and some other masks, next week will focus on Diablo masks from Guatemala, and that will complete this series of posts about Guatemalan masks. On September 21 I will initiate a series of posts about Juanegros masks and then Xantolos masks, both used during the celebration of Day of the Dead in the Huasteca area of Mexico.
The Xacalcojes dance features masks that are very different from those you have seen in the preceding posts. They seem mysterious and exotic. Here is a very old one from my collection. I bought this mask from Spencer Throckmorton in August 1995.
The upper lip of this mask is curved and beveled, in sharp contrast to the rectangular shape of the sides and floor of the mouth. This results in an ambiguous expression, which is desirable because the mask is meant to express sadness and then happiness. The tip of the nose was broken and patched.