Moro Masks From the State of Mexico V

Today I will continue to present Moro masks from the State of Mexico. We will look at four different examples, all variations on a traditional generic design. The first of these has an articulated jaw, while the other three lack this feature.

I purchased the first mask from René Bustamante in 1994.  Its town was not identified, but it was from the State of Mexico. A very similar Moro mask from the collection of the International Folklore Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is illustrated in Barbara Mauldin’s  valuable book—Tigers, Devils, and the Dance of Life: Masks of Mexico (p. 70). That old  mask, which had been obtained from the Cordry collection, was said to date to the early 20th century, from an undocumented town in the State of Mexico. I would think that this one is from the middle of the 20th century.

I particularly like the cross-hatching of the beard below the articulated jaw.

Continue Reading

Moro Masks From the State of Mexico IV

Today we will continue to look at Moro masks from the State of Mexico, two with red faces while the third has a flesh colored complexion. I bought this first one from René Bustamante in 1994. It was said to be a Moro Pasion mask from Tlatepec, in the State of Mexico, but I could not find such a place, except for an imposing mountain of that name. Maybe it is actually from Santiago Tlacotepec? It reminds me of red Moro masks from Guerrero.

This is a wonderful mask. I particularly like the figure eight shaped mouth (or beaked mouth), which suggests the emotion of terror. This is another example of the observation that Moor masks are sometimes depicted with expressions of fear, as if they view their Christian opponents as particularly powerful. After all, the Moros y Cristianos Dance was brought to the new world as an educational device, to assist the missionaries as they preached the power of the Christian God.

Continue Reading

Moro Masks from the State of Mexico III

Two weeks ago I began a series of posts about Moro masks from the State of Mexico with a pair from the 1970s. To my surprise and pleasure, current Youtube™ videos demonstrated the persistence of those masks  in contemporary fiestas, complete with their lunar headdresses. However, in last week’s blog I showed a trio of mid-century Moor masks of a design that had apparently been eclipsed by more modern and elaborate models. Earlier local mask designs seem to have had two possible fates—either they persisted and became more popular due to their strengths or they contributed traits and details in varying degrees towards a patchwork regional design. The lunar headdresses, for example, seem to have spread widely to other towns and inspired other novel headdresses. Today I will show another group of older Moro masks that are probably no longer in popular use. These three do not look at all alike, except that they all have white faces, and I have added on another white mask that is certainly rare, a Calavera (skull) mask that was also found in the Estado de Mexico.

The first Moro, which I purchased from Robin and Barbara Cleaver in 1988, came with its original tin crown. Instead of an ordinary articulated jaw it had something far more interesting—an articulated goatee. It was found in Amatepac, Municipio of Tempilco, State of Mexico, and it was said to represent the Roman emperor Tiberio in the Moors and Christians dance. There is a nearly identical mask illustrated in Mauldin’s book, Tigers, Devils, and the Dance of life (1999, page 71); the Museum of International Folklore had bought that mask from René Bustamante, and it was said to have been collected in San Pablo de las Salinas, also in the State of Mexico.

In Amatepec videos, the Moro dancers have pink faced masks and some wear gigantic lunar headdresses. I did see one white mask that appeared to resemble our first mask, except that it had a beard made from animal hair instead of an articulated wooden goatee (at 3:45). I did not find a relevant video from Salinas.

Here is the Emperor Tiberius/ Tiberio, with his tin crown. He would have been one of the Moorish leaders in the dance.

Here also is his flapping goatee.

Continue Reading