The Santiagueros Dance Part 3

This is the third post of an ongoing series about La Danza de los Santiagueros. In the first post I discussed Santiago and his son, Callintsin. Last week I wrote about the Santiaguero dancers, their masks, and other costume elements. Today I will describe the masks and related equipment of the Pilato dancers and that of their leader, Pilato el Presidente, using the work of one carver. Next week I will look at masks of Santigueros and Pilatos by another carver.

To very briefly review and then elaborate on some points that I have made in the last two posts, this is a dance that writers tend to describe as an alternate form of the dance of the Moros y Cristianos, a dance that is about events from the past. However this dance is not about historic events, instead it portrays a patched together and largely invented history that is meant to camouflage its apparent hidden purpose, which in my view is to complain to God about the exploitation and injustice that the Indians of Mexico have experienced at the hands of the Spanish and to ask God for relief. It is the Pilatos and their leader who are demonized in this dance, but the dancers used such labels to disguise their intention to criticize the Spanish.

Here is a mask of Pilato El Presidente, the leader of the Pilatos, that was carved by Manuel Antonio Castañeda of San Antonio Rayón, Puebla. In my book I speculated that this mask represented the Pilato character in the Negritos dance, but now I realize that I have seen about ten masks carved by Manuel to be worn by Pilato dancers in the Danza de los Santiagueros, along with one Santiaguero mask, and this scowling mask; apparently Manuel only carved masks for the Santiagueros dance. This Pilato is depicted as an extremely menacing figure. He can be presented as either menacing or with a serene smile.


This carver has such a dramatic style. This face seems inflated and yet sagging.


This mask demonstrates Manuel’s characteristic ear design. This mask is 10 inches tall, 8½ inches wide, and 7 inches deep.


Staining from heavy use is obvious. Each of the masks in today’s post is signed A C on the back, for Antonio Castañeda.

Now I will show a series of Pilato masks, the ones worn by the Pilato dancers. All of them were carved by Manuel Antonio Castañeda, the carver of the first mask in this post. This one looks even more puffed up than the first.


This mask is 8 inches tall, 8 inches wide, and 6 inches deep.




This mask also demonstrates significant staining from use.

Here is another Pilato mask by Manuel Antonio Castañeda; it greatly resemble the last example.


This mask is 7½ inches tall, 8 inches wide, and 5½ inches deep.


We see Manuel Antonio’s characteristic ear design.



The patina is obvious.

Here is Manuel Antonio Castañeda holding a similar mask, in January 2010.


This next mask has been worn by the grandson of Manuel Antonio Castañeda . Apparently he was the one who informally decorated this mask. The lack of paint has a deceptive effect, in that this mask is very well carved despite its informal appearance. I believe that it was sanded in anticipation of more formal painting, but never repainted. The remaining patina on the chin, goatee, and ears suggest that the mask was initially stained or varnished and not painted.


This mask is 8 inches tall, 6½ inches wide, and 5 inches deep.


Note how the mustache is carved like a hood over the upper lip.


This mask has had mild use.

Here is another “diamond in the rough” by  Manuel Antonio Castañeda. I really like this one too. Look at the vaulted openings over the eyes.


This mask is 8 inches tall, 6½ inches wide, and 4 inches deep.


This mask was never completed, yet it is an excellent carving.


In next week’s post I will present Santiaguero and Pilato masks by Antonio’s late friend and neighbor, Narciso Iturbide Charo, of San Antonio Rayón, Puebla.









Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *