A New Era For The Mexican Dance Masks Blog

Last week I shared images of a Fariseo mask from Queretero. With that post, I completed my review of the masks and related material in my collection. After a little more than five years of weekly posts, I have almost no more material to introduce you to.

As it happens, I recently bought another Rio Mayo mask that is worth sharing today.

After this post I will only have more to tell about Mexican masks if I buy another, or if you send in your questions, comments, or photos, so I welcome any correspondence like that. In the absence of such new material (provided by either you or me), I will maintain this page as a Mexican Dance Masks information resource center, an encyclopedia of sorts.

Here is my latest  arrival.

I bought this mask on the basis of a frontal photo like the one just above. I was most impressed by the triangular tubular mouth, which reminded me of mid-century Yaqui masks I had seen, and so I thought this was probably a Yaqui Pascola mask. To my surprise, when I held the mask in my hands I realized that this was a mask from the Rio Mayo area. It has the typical shape of masks from that region. Of course I wondered who might have carved this mask.

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The Rescue of an Omitted Mask

On March 2, 2015, I discussed masks used during Semana Santa (Holy Week) in the Mexican States of Guanajuato, Jalisco, and Queretero. There I explained that  the characters who threaten Christ in these passion plays can go by a number of different names, including Fariseos, Judios, Judas dancers, Centurions, Robenos (Romans), and Soldados. In Queretero they are called Fariseos. Here is the link to that blog entry.

https://mexicandancemasks.com/?p=2398

Years later I realized that I had overlooked a remarkable Fariseo mask from San Bartolomé Aguas Calientes (or San Bartolo de los Baños), Queretero, a small town near the Queretero/Ganajuato border  (in this case, baños refers to natural hot springs—baths). I will feature the omitted mask in this week’s post. I bought this one from Jaled Muyaes and Estela Ogazón in August, 2007; I believe that it was probably made in the 1970s and that they collected it in the 1980s. In the United States, we would call this a ghoul mask. I will remind you again, given the extreme drama of this mask, that the wearers of the Fariseo masks are devout Christians. who portray grotesque evil doers to dramatize Christ’s triumphal ascent.

On a scale for grotesque and repulsive, this mask is over the top. For example, one eyeball is dangling from its socket.

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Mayo Drums

Some of the Fariseos (or Pariseros) in Sonora and Sinaloa carry drums, and these are often decorated. Sometimes the drums carry Christian images, but at other times there are cartoon or even erotic images instead. This practice is in sharp contrast to the drums of the Yaqui Pascolas and Chapayecas, which are usually undecorated. In 1988 there was a show—Behind The Mask In Mexico—that was held at the International Museum of Folklore in Santa Fe, New Mexico, before going on to other sites. A book of the same name mirrored the show in many aspects, and this was edited by Janet Esser. In the show, but not in the book, there was a Mayo Judio drum with a risque image of a female, which interested me because it seemed related to the emerging trend of Sinaloa Judios portraying themselves as women. Although an image of that drum did not appear in the book, Ross Crumrine did mention such a drum in his essay in the book—”Ritual Mediation of the Life-Death Opposition: The Meaning of Mayo Parisero Lenten Masks”—describing a drum with “a nude pin-up girl wearing high heels  (p.86).” I hasten to add that such an image would be abnormal, even offensive, within normal Mayo experience, but tolerated as an expression of otherness by the Fariseos or Judios.

In my collection I have two decorated Mayo drums, and these will be the focus of today’s post. I’ll start with the most impressive example, which was made by Rolando Castillo of La Colonia Union in Sonora, so this is a Rio Mayo drum. Tom Kolaz had collected it from a Judio (or Parisero) in April, 2011, and I obtained it from Tom a year later. It is 14½ inches in diameter and 3 inches in thickness.

“He shall reign FOREVER (Handel’s Messiah).” This drum reminds us that the men who portray the evil deeds of the Judios are devout Christians who serve in this performance role in order to glorify God. Crumrine states, “The image of Christ crucified is the patron saint or supernatural guardian of the parisero sodality  (p 86).”

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