Last week I showed you an old mask that I recently found on Etsy™. Actually I found two masks there, and today’s post will feature the second from the same dealer. This one is essentially a duplicate of an unusual female mask that I included last year in my post of May 21, 2018. They only differ in their paint or patina, but since they are so old and rare, it gives me great pleasure to look at them side by side.
Here is a link to the May 21, 2018 post: https://mexicandancemasks.com/?p=12143
And here, to refresh your memory, are the three masks featured in that post, all from the Danza de los Negros in towns within or near the Municipio of Chichiquila, Puebla. This dance. “Los Negros,” is a local variation of La Danza de los Santiagueros, itself an offshoot of the Moros y Cristianos Dance that was imported from Spain by the Conquistadors. As I have explained at length in my book—Masks and Puppets: Master Carvers of the Sierra de Puebla—the Santiagueros Dance is fascinating because it pretends to depict conflict between Christians and the Pilatos, the enemies of Christ, when it seems to covertly function as a prayer for the “true Christians (the Indians of the Americas) to defeat the Spanish conquerors, who are accused of being false Christians. Such a hidden script is usually hinted at by some inconsistency, and we will find such evidence in this Negros dance.
The first mask was worn by Santiago or a Santiaguero.
I am including the back views of all these masks to remind you that the backs are nearly identical to one another in design. This suggests that all four of today’s masks were carved by the same carver.
Recently I purchased this old mask from the “HowOriginalStore” of Austin Texas, an Etsy™ vendor. An old tag on the mask simply stated that it was from the Mexican State of Puebla. To my eye it looked very similar to a mask in a special issue of the journal Masterkey—Mexican Masks From the Southwest Museum Collection (Volume 62, Numbers 2 & 3, Summer / Fall 1988, page 23, figure 31), which was from Tuxpan in the Mexican state of Jalisco, and appeared in La Danza del Chayacate. The mask illustrated has a male face with a painted mustache and carved ears. To my eye this mask was carved by the same hand as the one in the Masterkey issue, however it has a woman’s face.
During a series of posts about older Rio Mayo Pascola masks in my collection, I overlooked the one I will show you today. I bought this mask from Tom Kolaz in 2014. It had been recently collected from its elderly dancer , Don Moises of Tetanchopo, Sonora, who reported that he had been given the mask in the 1950s, and it was already 10 or 20 years old when he received it. So it might date to the 1930s or 1940s. Here it is.
Over the years the relief carved lips of this mask have been painted black, which causes them to seem less impressive than they actually are.
In recent posts we have examined the work of contemprary Rio Mayo carvers. I think of these artists as members of a school, a group of individuals, like the French Impressionists, each with his own style, but working within the same general framework, and perhaps influencing one another. What the Mayo artists appear to share is a new-found freedom to experiment, whereas earlier carvers may have felt more bound by tradition and less free to differentiate their individual craftsmanship from the primary task of providing a necessary product, a dance instrument.
My friend Tom Kolaz has become very interested in this group of younger artists, and in recent decades he has been collecting examples of their work. I appreciate his willingness to pass some of their masks along to me. This week I will share four of these that I purchased from Tom, over the years.
I obtained the first of these during a visit to Tucson in December of 2011. The carver is Juan Alfonso Soto López, whose nickname is “Salo.” He is a highly regarded mask maker in his community. This mask was carved in 2000, and danced for ten years.
This mask has long hair in the Sinaloa style.