This is the second in a series of posts that are based on interesting and important masks from the James and Jane Urmston collection of Mexican dance masks. I am using this collection as a springboard for exploration of Mexican mask traditions. Today’s masks led me to the town of Xico, Veracruz.
The Urmstons are in the process of selling their collection. Because the collection is actively for sale, I can not guarantee that a particular mask will remain unsold by the time it appears on this site, although many in today’s post are available at this writing.You are advised to act promptly to pursue any mask that does interest you. Note that I have no commercial interest in these sales; I am simply relishing the opportunity to share this collection with interested collectors, whether to purchase or simply to learn from. You may contact the Urmstons at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For many years I have been aware of masks from Veracruz that are painted with distinctive red and white designs, in many variations. Little seemed available in published books to explain these masks, but recent You Tube™ videos provide a great deal of information. Here is one of these red and white masks, from the Urmston collection.
I confess that I always imagined that such masks were worn by Payasos (clowns), but the Urmstons informed me that these are Santiago masks, and this was confirmed by recent videos.
As you may know, I welcome mask photos from viewers, and periodically I have featured these submissions on this site. Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to a collection of masks that were gathered by James and Jane Urmston in the 1970s, when they were living in Mexico. The Urmstons have been selling their collection, mask by mask, and I will include masks that are for sale along with others that have already been sold. Because the collection is actively for sale, I can not guarantee that a particular mask will remain unsold by the time it appears on this site, and you are advised to act promptly to pursue any mask that does interest you. Note that I have no commercial interest in these sales; I am simply relishing the opportunity to share this collection with interested collectors, whether to purchase or simply to learn from. You may contact the Urmstons at email@example.com.
Today’s subject is “body masks,” sculptures that were made to be worn around the waist of a dancer. We will examine several Santiago horses from the Sierra de Puebla, the mountainous area of Puebla and Veracruz that was the subject of my book (Mexican Masks and Puppets), and two dance Caiman sculptures plus a Mermaid from the Mexican state of Guerrero. As of this writing, all five body masks are for sale.
I will begin with a smaller dance horse that was collected in the Mexican state of Puebla in 1978. As I explained in my book, such a horse was worn by the Santiago dancer in either the dance of the Santiagueros or in a variation called the Hormegas.
This style is tied to the dancer’s waist with ropes. One can see the holes in the rear section where ropes would have extended to corresponding holes in the front section; the lower hole in the front section is broken.
Today I will present three masks from San Luis Potosí that were worn for the Xantolos dances. I might remind you that there are Judío or Fariseo masks from this Mexican state that are primarily intended for use during Semana Santa (Holy Week); these tend to be larger and more dramatic than today’s trio. You can find many of those masks in my posts of 3/23, 3/30, 4/6, 4/13, 4/20, and 4/27/2015. As will be apparent from three contemporary videos that follow, the division between these two groups of masks may be breaking down, so that both styles now appear during the Xantolos fiesta, just as we saw in the Xantolos videos from Hidalgo.
Unfortunately I can only write about these SLP Xantolos masks based on a sample of four, the three in my collection and a fourth that was originally collected with the first two; it is now in the collection of the Museum of International Folk Art, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and you can see it in Masks of Mexico: Tigers, Devils, and the Dance of Life (Barbara Mauldin 1999, page 40).
The first of these Xantolo masks was said to be from Tiliche, San Luis Potosí, but I have been unable to locate that place. The design is traditional for that region, with a white face and black facial hair. I bought this mask from René Bustamante in 1992.
Here is a YouTube™ video from 2013, recorded in Tanquián, San Luis Potosí, that includes Xantolo dancers wearing such masks.
In the last two posts we have examined animal masks that were apparently used interchangeably during Todos Santos (All Saints/ All Souls) and Carnaval. Today I will show one more group of such masks. The first is a pink dog from Hidalgo that I got from Jaled Muyaes and Estela Ogazón in 1999.
He has the appearance of wearing goggles.