Having discussed Alta Lucero Bull and sheep masks from the Urmston collection in an earlier post, I will present additional examples from my collection. These masks dance during Carnaval (Carnival or Mardi Gras).
I had purchased my first Alta Lucero Torito mask from Robin and Barbara Cleaver in June, 1988. Like a number of the Urmston masks, this one was decorated with painted words—”El Demonio”—El on one horn and Demonio on the other. Here is that mask.
I was drawn by the use of such vivid colors, yellow and purple. Also I like the recessed star on the forehead.
I believe that the ears are made from recycled shoe leather. There are bloody wounds, suggesting ferocity and violence. In Carnival, each dancer decorates his mask to suit some desired image. This mask is 9½ inches long, 7 inches wide, and 5½ inches deep excluding the horns. The span of the horns is 10 inches.
The back was stained and then one can measure use by the polished edges compared to the dull interior surfaces. I don’t know the cause of the speckled staining , but I suspect this was the result of insects nesting in the mask.
Here is a YouTube™ video of Toritos dancing during Carnival in the Afro Mestizo village of Coyolillo, Veracruz. I was unable to find a video of these masks in Alta Lucero, Veracruz.
In 1992 I bought a second Bull from Robin and Barbara that also had written words on the horns—”Nunca Te Olvidaré” (I will never forget you). It is painted with wonderful colors and on the center of the forehead is a vivid painting of a helicopter. With such an artistic although mysterious presentation, this is my favorite Torito mask from Alta Lucero.
This mask is 8 inches long, 6½ inches wide, and 3½ inches deep excluding the horns. The span of the horns is 15 inches.
The ears are leather.
This mask was only briefly danced before some visitor purchased it.
In contrast to the dramatic personalization of the first two masks, the next one is more realistic, yet whimsical. It came from René Bustamante in 1993. René estimated that it was made in the 1940s.
The extended tongue has been carved in relief. Old nails that held an earlier set of horns were apparently left in place rather than removed.
This mask is 8 inches long, 6 inches wide, and 5 inches deep excluding the horns. The span of the horns is 14 inches.
The back of this mask is quite worn.
The next is a child’s Torito mask that I bought from Robin and Barbara in 1989.
It has a simple but satisfying design.
This child’s mask is 7½ inches long, 5¾ inches wide, but just 3 inches deep excluding the horns. The span of the horns is 11 inches.
This mask has seen a lot of use.
Like the Urmstons, I too have a single example of a sheep or ram mask that danced during Carnival in Alta Lucero. I found this beautiful mask on EBay™ in 2007.
This mask has a very sweet expression, consistent with the pierced heart on the forehead.
The ram is 9½ inches long, 7 inches wide, and 4 inches deep excluding the horns. The span of the horns is just 10 inches, because they curl to follow the contour of the face. The top of the rim has the same stylized shape as that of the “I will never forget you” bull. Furthermore the eyes are hollowed on the back in the same way, as if these two masks are by the same hand.
This mask has had moderate wear.
I’ll end with a wonderful pair of Torito masks from Julia Zagar of the Eyes Gallery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I purchased these in 1996. They both appear to be by the same hand, particularly if you compare the two backs. They had been collected by Jaled Muyaes and Estela Ogazón. The first has vivid colors. Here is a link to that gallery.
I like the bulbous muzzle of this mask. The rubber ears were cut from old automobile inner tubes.
This mask is 9 inches long, 6 inches wide, and 5½ inches deep excluding the horns. The span of the horns is 18 inches.
The back is both stained and heavily worn.
This last Torito is identical in design to the logo for the Chicago Bulls™ basketball team, except it is white instead of red, as this link will illustrate.
There is that bulbous nose again. The nose ring is made from wire. The ears are rubber.
This mask is 10 inches long, 7½ inches wide, and 5 inches deep excluding the horns. The span of the horns is a mighty 21½ inches.
This bull was heavily used.
I hope that you have enjoyed seeing this second group of Torito masks from Alta Lucero, Veracruz. Next week I will discuss Azteca Masks from my collection.