Semana Santa (Holy Week) in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosí—Fariseo Masks of Devils and Related Characters

In the Mexican state of San Luis Potosí, there are dancers who are variously called los Diablos, los Judíos, or los Fariseos. These dancers may wear many many different masks—devils, other menacing or evil characters, skulls, animals, and human faces. As noted in previous posts, they  imitate the persecutors of Christ. Today’s post will introduce the devil masks, along with a few that seem closely related to diablos. You can see photos of such characters and masks in action in Tancanhuitz, San Luis Potosí (circa 1960s), on pages 576 and 577 of the extraordinary book—Lo Efímero y Eterno del Arte Popular Mexicano, Tomo II or The Ephemeral and the Eternal of Mexican Folk Art, Volume 2 (there is a Spanish edition and an English edition).

This is a mask of Luzbel (Lucifer), from Tancanhuitz, San Luis Potosí (SLP) that I obtained from René Bustamante in the 1990s.


This mask is 18 inches tall, 8 inches wide between the tips of the horns, and 5 inches deep.


Of all my masks I have a number of favorites; this is one of them.


I believe that the back of this mask was scrubbed by the previous owner, leaving the staining from use more prominent in the crevices.

Here is a link to a documentary film about the Diablos that dance during Semana Santa in Tamápatz, in the municipio of Aquismón, in la Huasteca de San Luis Potosí. This film was made in 2010. The entire film is interesting, not so much for vivid masks, but to learn about the context. In this case, an extremely poor community carries on a masking tradition.

Here is another version of Luzbel, also from Tancanhuitz, SLP, that I got from René Bustamante in the 1990s.


This mask is 9½ inches tall, 7½ inches wide, and 5 inches deep.


The devil has fangs.


As with the last mask, the signs of wear are absent, because the inside of the mask has been scrubbed after use. Sometimes the seller will scrub the back prior to selling, due to concern that a buyer might be offended by the staining that occurs from use.

The next is a dog demon from La Concepcion, SLP. My late friend Gary Collison bought this from a dealer in Mexico.


This is obviously a mask of a diabolical creature. Is that a cross, painted on the left cheek? If so, that would provide additional confirmation of the evil nature of this mask; the Christian wearer would prefer a cross for protection, when portraying a character so malignant. The narrator in the earlier video alluded to this concern.


This mask is 11 inches tall, 8 inches wide, and 5 inches deep.



The last mask is a fallen Obispo (Abbott), another from Tancanhuitz, SLP (and from René Bustamante in the 1990s).


This mask is 9 inches tall, 6¾ inches wide, and 4 inches deep.


His loss of holiness is apparently indicated by his wounds.



Next week I will show Fariseo masks from San Luis Potosí that have skull faces. In the weeks to follow you will also see masks from that state with animal and human faces.

One comment on “Semana Santa (Holy Week) in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosí—Fariseo Masks of Devils and Related Characters

  1. I love the abbot! Unique mask. I have never seen that figure before. The demon dog is also remarkable. I think the marking on the side looks like a combo cross-swastika.

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