Moro Masks From the Mexican State of Guerrero 1

This week I shift my attention to Moro masks from Guerrero. Once again I will begin with a trio of masks that appear to be by the same hand, and collected from the same town, in this case Altamirano, Guerrero. I purchased the first two from René Bustamante in April, 1994, and the third one on EBay eleven years later, in November, 2005. This mask came with a name—Mahoma (Muhammad), who would have served as the leader of the Moros in the Altamirano version of the Dance of the Moros y Cristianos.

In a YouTube™ video from Altamirano in 2017 we find Mahoma wearing a mask just like this one, along with a black lunar headdress like those seen in the State of Mexico and a black cape that is covered with stars. He is accompanied by a similarly dressed small boy who is wearing a mask like the third one in today’s post. The boy evidently represents Mahoma’s son ( seen for instance at 11:30). Later Mahoma clashes swords with Santiago, the leader of the Christians, who is wearing his usual horse on his waist (17:30).

This mask has the typical Moor’s frown. Of the three masks, only this one has ears, which are very well carved. The mask is 9 inches tall, 8 inches wide, and 4 inches deep.

The back demonstrates heavy staining from use on the sides and chin. There is an old strap.

This second mask also was reported to represent a named character—Fierabras (a fictional Muslim hero from the time of the Crusades).

In this next video we meet Fierabras, dressed in scarlet (at 53 seconds).

This very well carved mask is 8 inches tall, 6 inches wide, and 3½ inches deep.

This mask too has prominent staining from use.

This final mask was apparently worn by a boy portraying Mahoma’s son in the dance.

This mask is slightly smaller than the other two. I don’t know why it has a black dot on the chin, and not a red one.

This mask is 7½ inches tall, 5¾ inches wide, and 3½ inches deep.

The back of this mask is heavily stained. Also note the penciled cross on the back, just above the hollow for the dancer’s nose. When a dancer is portraying an evil character, such as one of the Moros, he may mark the inside of his mask with a cross to remind God that he is a Christian who is playing a negative character.

Next week we will examine three Archareo masks from Guerrero.

Bryan Stevens

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