Héctor Francisco “Paco” Gámez 3

This week we will examine five more masks from the collection of Barney Burns and Mahina Drees Burns that were carved by Héctor Francisco “Paco” Gámez, or perhaps by his father, Serapio Gámez. Of these, the first is traditional in design, and has been heavily danced, the three that follow are experimental in their use of colors and were mildly danced, and the fifth is a copy of a much older mask. Only the last of the five still has its hair; insects ate the hair on the other four.

I really like the first of these, because it has such a jolly appearance. It was made in 1984, heavily danced, and collected in the late 1980s by Roberto Ruiz.

The rim design of dotted triangles is familiar to us by now.

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Héctor Francisco “Paco” Gámez 2

Last week we looked at four Rio Mayo Pascola masks that were carved by Héctor Francisco “Paco” Gámez in the 1980s and 90s, and then they were danced in Mayo fiestas for ten or twenty years, each possibly by just one dancer. This week we will examine five Rio Mayo masks from a parallel tradition, that of made-for sale masks. These too were made by Francisco Gámez, but most of them in a more colorful and less traditional style. They were briefly danced, perhaps for several fiestas, by Pascola dancers in the Sinaloa Mayo towns. This set of five and five more in next week’s post were all collected during the late 1980s by Barney Burns and Mahina Drees, and I traveled west to Tucson to photograph their collection in 2016. Here is a link to an earlier post where I told a little more about Barney and Mahina, in the context of discussion of Yoeme (Yaqui) Pascola masks.


I should note that all ten of these masks originally had attached hair bundles to form the brows and beard, but insects have destroyed the hair on many of these masks. On the positive side, the absence of hair makes the details of these masks much easier to see. I didn’t measure any of these masks.

Also I should repeat an observation expressed by Mahina Drees, that some of these masks could have been carved by Serapio Gámez , the father of Francisco Gámez, and she was often uncertain whether a mask was carved by one or the other.

Here is the first of today’s group, a mask with the face of a bird, and with smaller birds flanking the forehead cross. Bird-faced masks are actually very uncommon in the Rio Mayo villages, as human faced masks are the preferred style. Apparently this mask was actually danced by a Mayo Pascola dancer in Sinaloa, where goat-faced masks are the most common style and bird faced masks are slightly less rare. The rest of today’s masks have human faces.

This is quite playful, attractive, and very well carved, isn’t it, although absolutely non-traditional.

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Héctor Francisco “Paco” Gámez

There is one more important 20th century Rio Mayo carver that we have not yet mentioned—Héctor Francisco “Paco” Gámez of Masiaca, Sonora. Paco has been a prolific carver for decades, supplying many of the Mayo Pascola dancers. His masks have generally reflected and maintained design details familiar to us from the masks of earlier mid-20th century carvers. However, as a wave of innovation swept Mayo masks in recent decades, Francisco also participated in this trend. Today I will begin with some of his most traditional masks, examples that proved to be “keepers,” valued and used by Pascolas over a span of ten or twenty years. The first of these was probably made in the 1980s, and then collected from its 60 year old dancer, Locadio Yarimea Bacacehua from El Guayparín Bajio in 2008, by Tom Kolaz. I bought it from Tom in 2010. The simplicity of this mask has been ennobled by the deep patina that resulted from such long use, so that the lengthy ritual work of the dancer has been made manifest. How glad I was to be able to acquire such cultural objects.

The mouth of this mask glows.

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An Anonymous Rio Mayo Mask with Spots

In February 2005 I purchased an attractive and heavily danced Rio Mayo Pascola mask from Karima Muyaes, one of the daughters of Jaled Muyaes and Estela Ogazón. She had recently purchased the mask in Navojoa, Sonora. It came without the name of the carver, nor do I recognize this hand. In contrast to the made-for-sale masks that we had examined last week, this one is nicely carved and heavily danced.

The extended tongue on this mask was carved from a separate piece of wood and fastened in place between the teeth.

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